economics, education, Thought Provoking

A 3000 Word Argument For a New Way to Pay For Education

The boat that is keeping higher education afloat is sinking. College has never been more expensive and never have degrees been so irrelevant in the workplace. The dramatic climb in price for college has led to an enormous amount of student loan debt. According to the Wall Street Journal, students in the graduating class of 2016 were burdened with an average of $37,000 in student loans. Altogether, the number for total student loan debt in the U.S. looms over one and a quarter trillion dollars (Federal Reserve Data). Sadly, those graduates are released into a market with a low demand for college diplomas – the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that only 27% of jobs in the United States require a college degree (associates degree or higher). They estimate that by 2022, 50.6 million new jobs will be created, with only 27.1% requiring a four-year degree (Bureau of Labor Statistics). The marketplace is already over-saturated with graduates; currently, we sit with 43% of the population (ages 25-34) with a bachelor’s degrees or higher (Ryan). The long-term effects of too many graduates is controversial, but it isn’t outlandish to claim that it all ends badly. In a previous paper of mine, I made a prediction that within 100 years from now the purpose of college will either change, dissolve, or collapse unless a new hull is used. This paper is about that “new hull” – a possible solution to all the problems listed above for higher education.

Before I get into what this life boat is, I want to ease my reader into the subject with some questions to guide the mood. I don’t think it has been asked, but if it has, I have not found the answers on the internet.  My question is: Why, when colleges offer a variety of degrees, are they all priced the same? Why is the cost of an engineering degree the same as an arts degree? We all know that a student pursuing engineering will come out of college making much more money than let’s say, a teacher. So, why is the cost of tuition the same? This subject alone is up for debate – which is my purpose here.

The underlying motivation for the birth of this paper is to prod uncomfortably deep into college’s pudgy sides. There is this idea that has permeated into our culture that says “In order to get a nice paying job, a four-year degree is required”. Because of this thinking, credential inflation has hit hard. As explained by New York Times, “The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s”, a degree is now needed to stay competitive in the workforce and has even become the new requirement on resumes (Pappano). But, does this idea really hold up? Is college really serving its purpose? If College was a person, I would want to ask them, “If you do produce qualified graduates, then why don’t you stand by your words and invest in your students? You literally boast of producing the best! So, why wouldn’t you? Is the investment too ‘high risk’?” This question to College is an attack at its foundation. Think about it: if the numbers held up, and it were sustainable, and profitable, for a college to directly invest in its students, then the only reason that colleges would not pull the trigger is because they really aren’t producing “qualified graduates”. That is to say, it would reveal that the entire purpose for the institution is without legs. This is a big problem. This is where we stand today.

The goal here is to offer a solution that eliminates student loan debt and at the same time create a culture in education that aligned with helping students reach their highest ambitions. A student graduating college should have the skill, knowledge and ability to add value with whomever they work with. That is not asking much. Yet we have articles like Time Magazine’s, “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired” explaining that employer’s biggest complaints are that the new grads can’t think critically and creatively, solve problems or write well (White). I don’t entirely fault College for struggling with this, it’s a problem baked into what has been called “formal education” for 150 years. Well, time to wake up, its 2017. Technology is developing at incredible speeds; as seen in a paper by the Economist, “routine jobs” are becoming automated and the “non-routine”, high skill and low skill jobs, are expanding (Morgenstern). A formal education does not prepare students for any type of skilled work and therefore does not prepare anyone for the new job landscape. The primary drivers of that landscape are college dropouts like Gates and Jobs – neither were inspired by their formal education. While I don’t claim to have the key for inspiration, I do claim to have something to get the ball rolling in that direction.

Introducing a venture capital solution (VCS) –> Let’s pay for college by pledging a percentage of a student’s net worth after graduation.

Here is a visual of the base model: VCS

No, this is not Shark Tank. This is a version of college that is just terribly picky of who they let in.

There are hard numbers for this but I want to address something first.

A thought might be there in the back of your mind: This idea isn’t original. This has been done before, in fact, doesn’t the government offer something similar right now?

This is what the Federal Government offers:

  • Income Based Repayment (IBR plan) – Only for borrowers on or after July 1st, 2014
  • Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE Plan)
  • Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE Plan) –  Only on or after Oct, 1st 2007
  • Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan)

To qualify for any of these, generally your debt needs to exceed your annual salary. Debtors in this scenario are required to pay 10% or more of their total income each year for any of these repayment programs. All of this can be found on the federal student aid website.

Let’s draw a quick compare and contrast here:

Government Repayment Plans Similar/Dissimilar Venture Capital Solution
Form of debt Similar Form of debt
Amount due in repayment has some flexibility. Not Similar Amount due in repayment is a fixed rate. (Flat Tax)
Doesn’t work without knowledge of income Similar Doesn’t work without knowledge of income
Only works if student’s monetary wealth is low Opposite Only works well if student is monetarily successful

This is not at all the same as VCS. With VCS, the student does not repay the government for helping pay for school, the student repays the school directly. The school takes the risk. There is no government aide necessary, government is cut out entirely. It’s not a “Graduate Tax”, it’s not some other alternative, it’s a student paying for their education with the capital they create.

Got it. So how does this work? These are the major problems to address:

  1. How are the costs of educating getting covered while waiting for the return on the investment?
  2. How are we going to ensure the student repays their debt?

Answering number one gets right down to reimagining the entire purpose for college. Who is going to fund it? There are only two options. We could either have the private market fund it, or government tax dollars fund it.

  • Reasoning for private market: If the whole point of college today is to produce a highly qualified workforce, then why not have the employers fund it?
  • Reasoning for Government/Tax Dollars: Preserves academic culture that is vital for scholarly work.

Which gets the job done? Unfortunately, those are topics for entire papers by themselves. I am torn myself, but as of now, I lean with the private market solution because it forces an overhaul.

Answering number two is a little trickier. According to the N.Y. Fed, “11.2% of aggregate student loan debt was 90+ days delinquent or in default in 2016” (Federal Reserve Data). Meaning, even with coercion, getting people to pay back their loans is not a small task. Probably, a more invasive method would be created to reduce delinquency. An interesting idea might include the college building bank just for those that sign the contract. There would be a bank-wire tap apart of the contract. To encourage students to use the schools bank, the school might lower their percentage rate so going to a private bank would be costlier. There are many ways to go about less delinquency, and not all can be covered here. The good news is people seem to care less and less each year with just checking all the boxes, “yes, you have my permission to use my information”, as long as its convenient.

Now for the brass tax. The numbers. VCS model goal is to create a revenue stream with positive net income after 10 years. For this work, students can pledge no less than 1.5% of their net worth (even if they are millionaires or billionaires). But, realistically, it will probably cost somewhere between 4.5-5.5% the students net worth. Here is an image of a little excel spread sheet using real numbers from ASU’s MBA alumni. Spreadsheet courtesy of ASU’s Senior Director of Planning and Budging, Rebecca Barber.

VCS excel

In the graph, we started with the mean salary of an MBA grad at ASU and found that the student would be able to generate revenue after 9 years in repayment. This is a positive example of this program working if it was used alongside what is in place today.

But we want to be more accurate! We want to isolate the numbers to see if it would work by itself. To do this, we are going to scale down to just one department within the college, the Masters in Business Administration program. Here are some real cost factors to consider:

  • It costed ASU about $43 million to run the MBA program this past year
  • Costs go up each year with demand, inflation must be considered as well
  • Costs of students dropping out and not finishing (11.2% delinquency rate)

The goal is to cover costs and create positive net wealth in 10 years or less. So, whether it is realistic or not, we are going to pretend that VCS will entirely replace ASU’s tuition to cover the costs. Here are some things to consider:

  • Realistically, costs will go down because the program will shrink. The college isn’t going to take a chance on anyone, the candidate must be high quality. A smaller class size means less resources, and ultimately less everything. Let’s assume two-thirds less for all.

Here are what the numbers look like with all of this in mind:

  • The first graduating class produces $705,224 at 5.5% from their income alone.
  • Combining both the Economist Intelligence Unit and WorldatWork 2015-2016 Salary Budget Survey, grads should expect a 1.5% salary increase each year ahead of inflation over the next 10 years.
  • Also, we are figuring American net worth, not just salary. According to the Federal Reserve, household net worth is stocks, bonds, homes and other assets, minus mortgages and other debts. The average net wealth of an American is $182k (Dogen)

I don’t want to overwhelm my reader so I wont include everything. (There are at least a dozen more factors to consider adding to the equation) So here is a brief, “Final Synthesis”: At 10 years, ASU would bring in $258,00 in positive net revenue. Success!

  • For those that are curious of the math: 1327 grads * $207k *5.3% = $14.56 mil

If you are wondering where I got $207,000 if the average americans net wealth is $182,000, you have to remember that these are MBA grads making much more money than the “average american” and MBA grads are generally more financially literate than the “average american. That said, these numbers are rough. Everything is completely rounded off, averaged and then projected ten years into the future. The main factor I didn’t consider was how high the costs would go up sustaining two addition graduates each year. A lot more work is needed to produce an even more accurate number.

A full realization of this model would solve a big issue: price. Full blown VCS would diversify the price of college degrees. The price for a Med degree then depends on its demand and the amount of risk the college is willing to endure. The cost of a Med student dropping out is far higher than the cost of a teacher. Maybe the Med degree then is worth 6% total net wealth and a teaching degree is worth 3.5%. College would then integrate with the market. Not only that, college becomes a predictor for market’s demand in any job field. For example, if a radiologist technician is replaced by automated machines, the college would then see a small drop in revenue with people graduating with a Radiologic Technology degree. In this case, it would be wise for a percentage (of the percentage) to also fund the specific school that the student graduates from. That way, degree programs would lose funding and crumble while new programs would  sprout up with demand. Of course, the serious consequence of this is the potential loss of scholarly study. We might see the loss of Philosophy, History, English, Mathematics, all pillars of formal education. The only colleges that could sustain itself with an outdated curriculum are those that produce valuable work in the field. For this reason, it would be rarely offered on college campuses.

So, what are the chances of a college picking this up and trying it? Probably pretty low and this is why: Risk. I had the privilege of speaking with Dr. Rebecca Barber, Senior Director of Planning and Budgeting at ASU. She explained to me that ASU directs all their excess funds to the student body: “We are a nonprofit, and all monies in excess of expenses are reinvested in support of the mission of the institution”. Ok, so where does ASU get their funds? ASU gets 17% of the state’s budget, about $300 million, to run the college. That amount nowhere near covers ASU’s total costs – it costs over $150 million just to run W.P. Carry’s School of Business (and there are 16+ other major schools to fund). The next largest source of income for ASU are Pell Grants; however, the bulk of cost is covered by general tuition and fees. Dr. Barber says this about the colleges finances, “You can make a good argument that the cost of providing an education is equal to the amount of tuition received by the institution.” She explains that ASU, from a business standpoint, isn’t motivated to “make money”, it’s motivated to make enough money to keep up with the demand. This would explain a disinterest in having any skin in the game, a disinterest of having any risk.

However, there is one college out there that is offering something like VCS, and that college is Purdue. Purdue University offers something called an Income Share Agreement. Purdue has partnered with a group of private investors to create “The Back a Boiler-ISA Fund”. It helps students pay for school with the promise that they will pay it back using a percentage of their income after graduation. It is available only to sophomore, junior and senior level students. They too plan for the student to pay back their loan in 10 years or less. The percentage is determined based on the job attained in the field and for this reason, not all degrees are offered. If you would like to learn more, google “income share agreements Purdue”. The research they have accomplished is exciting. Time will only tell if their program is the beginning of a new dawn in education.

As I have already stated, the purpose of this paper is to get a conversation going. The solution put forward is merely to show that there is another way. Ultimately, VCS is a response to disappointment in my own education. And not just college education, education in public school districts too. The costs of colleges are 6% ahead of inflation and climbing (Schoen). For this reason, a model like VCS might actually work better where the costs are lower, like high school. There are hundreds of ways this idea can be tweaked and redone. Maybe it works best at trade school or a special kind of high school. VCS is not final, it’s a solution towards a more inspiring education – for inspiration comes not from ivory towers but from the raw, natural ambition of those wielding it.

Work Cited

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “EMPLOYMENT PROJECTIONS — 2012-2022.” Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor (2013): n. pag. Bls.gov. U.S. Department of Labor, 9 Dec. 2013. Web. 4 May 2017. <https://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/ecopro_12192013.pdf&gt;.

Dogen, Sam. “The Average American Net Worth Is Huge!” Financial Samurai. Financial Samurai, 24 Sept. 2010. Web. 03 May 2017.

Federal Reserve Economic Data. New York: Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 01 February 2017. Internet resource. https://www.newyorkfed.org/medialibrary/interactives/householdcredit/data/pdf/HHDC_2016Q4.pdf

Mitchell, Josh. “Student Debt Is About to Set Another Record, But the Picture Isn’t All Bad.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 02 May 2016. Web. 04 May 2017.

Morgenstern, Michael. “Automation and Anxiety.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 25 June 2016. Web. 03 May 2017.

Pappano, Laura. “The Master’s as the New Bachelor’s.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 23 July 2011. Web. 03 May 2017.

Ryan, Camille L., and Kurt Bauman. “Educational Attainment and Outcomes.” (n.d.): n. pag. Census.gov. United States, 1 Mar. 2016. Web. 4 May 2017. <https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2016/demo/p20-578.pdf&gt;.

Schoen, John W. “The Real Reasons a College Degree Costs so Much.” CNBC. CNBC, 08 Dec. 2016. Web. 04 May 2017. <http://www.cnbc.com/2015/06/16/why-college-costs-are-so-high-and-rising.html&gt;.

White, Martha C. “The Real Reason New College Grads Can’t Get Hired.” Time. Time, 10 Nov. 2013. Web. 28 Apr. 2017.

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economics, education, Thought Provoking

College Degrees Are Losing Meaning: An Argument Against Accessibility

The Ph.D. will become a nonsensical title when it becomes commonplace in the workforce → This is the direction that the United States is headed.

On August 22, 2013, President Obama stated, “… [The] bottom line is higher education cannot be a luxury. It’s an economic imperative.” The president may be on to something. Generally speaking, the more college graduates that are in the work force, the greater the medium income for all families who hold a degree, or don’t. I will share why this is true a bit later. Obama’s vision for education in the United States is that, living in America means having the means to send your child to college. This vision culminated into a program called the American Graduation Initiative (AGI). The purpose of this initiative is to make college accessible to all citizens despite family income. The goal, Obama says, is that “By 2020, this nation will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world.”

America is falling behind globally in this category. Countries such as Canada, have 57% of their working population with a university degree. While the United States is at 43% in the same category (ages 25-34). If Obama’s vision is realized, then 60% of U.S citizens will hold a college degree by 2020. A lofty goal.

To accomplish this, Obama’s $12 billion-dollar plan (later cut to $2 billion to pass Obama Care) focuses on funding community colleges. Community colleges were specifically chosen because statistics showed community colleges were underpreparing students who transferred to a university, which increased their likelihood to drop out. (Bound p.129-157).

Many universities united on this platform and continue to hold annual conferences supporting this educational goal. This policy gave the academic community a blue print for the future. So far, there is every intent to see it through.

Setting the Stage:

  • Due to underprepared students, there has been a decline in graduation rates, with the U.S ranking 19th out of 28 countries.
  • Obama counteracts this decline with the AGI’s plan for 60% of Americans to hold a college degree by 2020.

 

Let’s zoom out and take a brief look at what happened to the high school diploma. According to Educational Policy Institute’s publication, “Landscape of Public Education”, only 6.2% of the U.S. population held a high school diploma from 1910-1920. The data shows that education past the 8th grade was not necessary to find work during this period, enabling a clear majority of students to drop out after 8th grade. As time went on, the market became crowded, forcing workers to make themselves stand out. How does a worker establish themselves as more qualified when they have no prior work experience? Education, and it worked, for a little while anyways. One hundred years later, in 2017, 90% of students that attend high school graduated in almost all states. (Kamenetz, Anya, and Cory Turner). As a result, having a high school diploma does not make you qualified for much more than minimum wage. It is becoming increasingly clear that the bachelor’s degree is on a similar path, if not, already there.

Invocation:

  • It took the high school diploma less than 100 years to completely devalue in the workplace. History will repeat itself with the higher degrees.

At the core of this article is one question: what are the implications of having too many college graduates in the workforce? Does it depreciate the value of the diploma? The degree indicates “certified/qualified”. It’s supposed to be a form of accreditation that all employers trust. So, from an employer’s perspective, it must be concerning to hear that there is $12 billion dollars being thrown at colleges to make it easier than ever to get a degree. Naturally, the question arises: “If a University hands out too many diplomas, what happens?” Well, it devalues – in more ways than one. As education becomes more accessible, the standards will drop along with it, producing a less than capable workforce. Here’s what I mean → ⇓⇓

Is there explicit evidence that U.S standards of education are declining? Well, no, in the sense that there are no figures to glean at. That said, it is depressingly easy to find college grads and professors testifying this decline. Just a quick google search, “my bachelor’s degree is worthless” will land you with 798,000 results with the first 18 pages (that’s as far as I got) filled with “how to use your worthless bachelor’s degree” and multi-dozens of links to forums on the subject. In one such link, I found, Steve Patterson, who is the author of philosophically charged novel “Square One”. He spoke about the quality of education he received at a top-tier school. “Though it might sound silly, it was discouraging to get good grades with the amount of work I put into college. It just seemed wrong… There was no critical thinking, nothing but regurgitating the plot so the professor knew we read the book, then writing some fluffy nonsense about grandiose interpretations and personal feelings. And that exercise was supposed to strengthen my college education. As if creating wild meta-narratives and writing down my feelings were an employable skill.” Mr. Patterson was particularly mad about the lack of preparation for life outside of college. And he was not alone.

On the flip side, I found a tenured professor with 40 years of university experience relating the decline to overpopulation: “Over the past fifteen years my classes have more than doubled in size… the increase in class size means that it becomes necessary to cut down on writing assignments and allows less time per student for conferences, which are designed to support idea development, correct errors in usage and logic, or suggest productive lines of thought.” All the symptoms he listed happen to support a paper done on the subject, “Class Size: Does It Really Matter?”, published by John Hopkins School of Education. It validates that a smaller class size is beneficial to student learning in school and beyond. Think again about accessibility, do we really want to crowd colleges with more students?

Act I (on standards):

  • The more crowded college becomes, the harder it is to maintain high learning standards.

 

Before community colleges began turning out under-prepared students, hundreds of companies would set up job fairs on college campuses to farm for talent. This still goes on today but more as a tradition. The common reason is this: “… These companies are attending job fairs not because they have any intention of doing any serious recruiting work there but rather because they’ve just mindlessly decided that job fairs are something that their HR departments “should” do” (Green). The college campus is supposed to be where the qualified workforce lives and breathes. This may be true but does it translate into an employee that adds value to your company? Not necessarily. So, what does a company do when the educational qualifications are there but the talent isn’t? They outsource the talent. Specifically, they hire another company to farm for employable talent – a company like, Praxis.

Praxis is a nine-month, “boot-camp” alternative to college and serves a form of accreditation. The core of their education program specifically gears the individual for the modern workforce. The program includes a six-month internship and personal mentorship. Upon completion, the student is guaranteed a position at one of the tech-startups that partners with Praxis.

Isaac Morehouse, founder and CEO, was inspired to bring Praxis to life when he kept hearing that companies had no problem finding “qualified” candidates, but not talented ones. To solve this problem, Praxis does a rigorous four-step screening process to find the most ideal employee for the company. By the end of the program, students are better equipped and even groomed, for the workforce. In turn, they create value in the company that chooses them.

 

Act II (on alternatives):

  • Employers seek employees that add value to their company, which may mean having more than a college degree on your resume.

 

There is one glaring trend that I keep ignoring, but it’s too important not to include. That is the link between how educated the workforce is and how economically robust the city becomes.

Allow me to introduce Enrico Moretti, economics professor at University of California Berkley, and author of, “The New Geography of Jobs.” His book has made waves in its field of study. Mr. Moretti spent fifteen years asking one question, “What makes some cities more economically robust than others?” His research lead him to this insight: cities with a highly-educated workforce have the most creative and innovative workforce. The key ingredient being that the majority of citizens have one or more degrees. It made for an economically robust environment and in turn, a strong city. Specifically, what Enrico Moretti found was, “For each new high-tech job in a city, five additional jobs are ultimately created outside of the high-tech sector in that city, both in skilled occupations (lawyers, teachers, nurses) and in unskilled ones (waiters, hairdressers, carpenters).”  The thriving cites had within it, innovative companies like Apple, Google, and bio-tech startups. Most employees at a high-tech job, have a degree or multiple degrees. All this innovation creates a thriving economy that raises the median wage of everyone in it. His prediction is that this trend will only increase.

Act III (the opposition):

  • As of right now, a decorated workforce in education is a good thing for the economy.
  • As the workforce becomes more educated, the better paid everyone will be.

 

To wrap it up, here is a real picture of the market’s demand for a college diploma: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), only 27% of jobs in the United States require a college degree (associates degree or higher). But, as mentioned earlier, 47% of the workforce holds a college degree. The BLS projection for 2022 is illuminating. It estimates the economy creating 50.6 million job openings with only 27.1% requiring a college degree.

Living in 2017, we are able to see only the earliest stages of what I call graduate over-flow. However, it’s important to keep in mind where we are headed. There are government policies in place that will affect the climate of industry. If the trend parallels with the high school diploma, then we might have about 100 years before the Ph.D. reaches a similar value. However, I have faith that the market will correct itself and the demand for degrees will decrease.

 

Works Cited

 

Bound, John, Michael F. Lovenheim, and Sarah Turner. “Why Have College Completion Rates Declined? An Analysis of Changing Student Preparation and Collegiate Resources.” American Economic Journal: Applied Economics 2.3 (2010): 129-57. American Economic Association. Web. 26 Mar. 2017.

Green, Alison. “Have You Ever Gotten a Job from a Job Fair?” Ask A Manager. Job Searching, 11 Mar. 2011. Web. 31 Mar. 2017.

Kamenetz, Anya, and Cory Turner. “The High School Graduation Rate Reaches A Record High – Again.” NPRed How Learning Happens. NPR, 17 Oct. 2016. Web. 30 Mar. 2017.

PBS Newshour, Too Many College Grads? Or too few? Carnevale, Anthony, Strohl, Jeff, Smith, Nicole. February 21, 2014.

Obama, Barak O. “Remarks by the President on College Affordability.” State University of New York Buffalo Buffalo, New York. New York, Buffalo. 22 Aug. 2013. The White House – President Barak Obama. Web. 28 Mar. 2017.

Rios, Robert J. “Class Size: Does It Really Matter?” Johns Hopkins School of Education – Home. New Horizons for Learning, 15 May 2013. Web. 29 Mar. 2017.

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s “Education at a Glance.” Business Insider Education, September 9, 2014.

Geiger, Roger, Heller, Donald. The Economist: Higher Education: Not what it used to be. December 1, 2012.

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Thought Provoking

The Implications of Infinity

My astronomy professor got to the “expansion of the universe” unit and went over how we figured out the age of the Universe using Hobble’s Constant, which is a measurement of the expansion of the space-time fabric that the universe is made up of. Hubble’s Constant came about from the observation that the more distant the galaxy is away from Earth, the faster it travels away from us. Then our professor told us something that is contradictory to the idea that space and time are connected. He told us that the universe is likely infinite in size. Infinity is defined as endless, without boundaries. Keeping this in mind, how far does space go? When we look out at the distant stars and galaxies, could that space be infinite?

                                         aHubbleLaw2

Before I go into why the universe must have a boundary, lets talk about the super cool parts of what it would mean for the universe to be without a boundary. If the universe really were infinite in size, then whatever fictional world of characters you could imagine, as long as it abided by the laws of the universe (laws of physics), it would be in existence as we speak. True infinity is to say there is someone out there exactly like you doing exactly as you are doing right at this very moment. So continue reading this along with your new clone. Too bad your clone doesn’t actually exist. The universe is not infinite and this is because the universe had a beginning.

Now let’s slow down and let it all sink in.

  1. If the universe were infinite in size, it’s “beginning” would have happened at an infinite time in the past.
  2. An infinite amount of time has not passed.
  • The universe began roughly 13.7 billion years ago as predicted by Hubble’s Constant. That means space has only had 13.7 billions years to expand to the size it is today. If the universe had infinite time to expand, the universe would have died a heat death. For those that don’t know what heat death is, essentially it is the certain fate that all of the stars and sources of light in the universe will burn out and the space between the stars will expand so far from each other, the universe will reach a temperature of 0 kelvin – absolute zero, the temperature at which atoms stop motion [zero energy]. However it is not the case that the universe has died a heat death because we are still here.
  • Since space and time are connected as one, there cannot be infinite space and finite time, because there is finite time, there is finite space.

Age

Here is the trip, and why my astronomy professor holds strong to the idea that space is infinite, despite how contradictory it is – when we look out into space and examine the distant galaxies all around us, we observe that there is an equal amount of matter in all directions. That is to say that we see no evidence of an edge to the universe. That leads to a couple possible conclusions: One, the universe is much, much bigger than we imagined, making our local ecosystem appear as a smooth drop in an even bigger sea. Or two, the universe began everywhere. When you ask astronomers where the universe began to expand, they are going to tell you that it began everywhere because at the very beginning, all points in space were at a single point, the same point. So what happens when I present my professor with this idea that space has a limit? He tells me that I misunderstand because there is an infinite quantity of points in space.

Well I am stuck. Are there infinite points even though not infinite time has passed on our clock? Maybe my understanding of space-time is wrong, or maybe our understanding as a scientific community is wrong. Logically it seems space can only be finite in size. There must be something missing: Relativity.

What philosophers and astronomers can both agree on is that space, at the very least, has a relative boundary. Any light beyond 13.7 billion light years away would have to be traveling faster than light to reach us – which also implies we would have to be traveling faster than light to escape the ‘edge of the universe’. I like to compare the relative edge to our universe as an ‘event horizon’ in a black hole. For those of you that do not know, a black hole is called a black hole, not because it is black, but because it does not emit light (meaning it is transparent and invisible). This is due to the fact that its gravity is stronger than the required velocity for light to escape it. The point at which the escape velocity exceeds the speed of light is called the ‘event horizon’. Am I sneakily pointing out that our universe exists within a black hole? Maybe.

What are we to make of all this? Are space and time really connected as one or are they separate and the universe is infinite in size but not infinite in time? Let those with integrity examine what is being said and decide for themselves the implications of infinity.

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Nature of Existence, Thought Provoking

Psychohydraulics (A Meditation on Language)

Where does language’s authority come from?

Language is a deeply integral part of our life; it’s difficult to grasp its value and purpose. Literally, I can express a thought, just as these words are doing now, and through writing, bring something within myself into concrete existence. I can describe a place in my imagination to another conscious being and they can imagine roughly the same as I do! Through the facial expressions of a child, we can interpret anger, or joy. Through vocal tone or percussion, we can separate serious from sarcastic. By the paints on a canvas, we can feel beauty and connection or desolation and pain. There is a shared, unspoken language that each of us understand. What is that? Not only should we be asking what particular language that it is, but, what is language and where does it come from?

Language will be defined as a medium for communication and expression understood through meaningful, coherent patterns. It is a catalyst for expression – something that we are so totally absorbed in that we forget it’s place in creation. Referring back to the question introducing this piece, what gives language it’s power? Think, tens of trillions of prayers request for a reality that is different from a current one, why would any of them come true? Are we the ones giving meaning to the pattern of sounds, or have coherent patterns always existed and we are drawing from something fundamental, upon which existence has built its foundation (language being a quality of existence). My suggestion is that language is divine – meaning that language is not strictly an invention of man, it is eternal in nature. Divine Language (communication) transcends all intentions in all forms; it is a real connection lying within each one of us.

Language looks to be the only real link to a greater depth of understanding – we think in it, we speak in it; it is all encompassing and therefore illusive when we reach to it. How can we understand language when we are confined to think only about it within it’s own boundaries? Can we transcend language?

The take away: the language in which we speak cannot be fully understood in the same means by which we speak it; it must be transcended by the highest language (in this case, meaning understood without our spoken word).

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Thought Provoking

Random Number Generator

What if we did a study where we asked many thousands of people to scribble on a sheet of paper and compared scribbles?

What would we find? Would the scribbles have any correlation to each other? What If scribbles point to a similar pattern within a culture, or maybe scribbles point to how your emotional state is, or a brain pattern, or a subgroup of people that all think similarly? Maybe all human beings have a common scribble. What do scribbles say about us? this is all very interesting.

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“They grow up placing their self-worth in that praise: If I’m not told I’m beautiful, she’ll start to think, then I must not be.” – The Key to Raising Confident Kids? Stop Complimenting Them!

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Words I really like
  • Festering
  • Phantom
  • Galvanize
  • reboot
  • syncronipity
  • gangrene
  • Maya: is the the measurement of the infinite as it becomes finite.

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Confidence: A seed of confidence is more powerful than any skill a person may be given. If a student leaves my class believing that they are destined for success, fated to accomplish something great, I have already given that student more than half of the tools needed to accomplish their goal.

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Losers don’t lose, they quit.

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  • Is knowledge best imparted through logical lines of thought or is knowledge best imparted through strong emotion? Most things that we consider “life lessons” are invaluable and shape us into who we are. Most often, we experience this “light bulb” that goes off in our head and an emotion follows. So is it an emotional experience that invokes the knowledge?

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Where were we before this world? Were we up in the heavens with Zeus and his possy of gods – assigned the job of making sure penny’s always landed Lincoln-side-up for good luck? Those would be the days, pre-mortal eleasticicty. What a tragedy it would be passing into mortality. It would not be peaceful. Picture traveling to another dimension – the kind of image most associated with that is going through a worm hole, sucking your matter into a great stretch and swirling it all down a tube like water down the toilet. It would be as dramatic as Zeus picking you out of his bucket of lightning bolts and throwing you down to Earth the moment mommy and daddy conceived. *CRACKLE then BOOM* you are now on planet Earth.

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Thought Provoking

Let’s Talk About Reality

Ok guys, I want to point out something that is rarely talked about, thought about, or investigated – that is the imagination (We will define the imagination as the mental images, and sensory details that you can experience with your minds eye). The imagination has fascinated me only recently over the past few months. I was inspired after watching Esther Perel’s TED Talk on, ”The secret to desire in a long-term relationship”. The idea was introduced to me that our imaginations are a much more active force in creating experiences  we desire than given credit for. It lead me to question, “how powerful is the imagination?”. We know that it is powerful enough to invent an understanding of our origin: creation – because we have used creation stories to make sense of where we come from.

So think about this: when we read creation stories, whether it be scientific ones like the big bang, or religious ones as in Genesis, we had to envision, in our minds, all the parts and possibilities that allow that creation story make sense to our brains.

Why did I bring up creation stories? Well I want to point out to question: what is the key difference between the created and the creator, what is already here, and what is perceived as being there? Can we say that the actual events that are recorded in a car accident (created) and the perceived events (creator) have no relation to one another? The intuitive belief is that we have no real effect on our day-to-day experience. But let’s try being insane.

So what is to say that really the, “big bang”, the event from which the universe has theoretically sprang, is actually derived from our imagination – but not just derived from it, sure we could not picture the universe and all of it’s workings without the imagination, but what if the imagination is the genesis of creation? Whose to say that the origin of understanding and even present experience is ultimately from our perception interpreted via imagination?

The take away: Is the spout (meaning, imagination) which we use to make sense of our reality, really the origin of our world?

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There is nothing more that a human wants than to be a creative force in the universe

All of this time spent here, the past many years (say 4 or 5 at least), all I have wanted to be is a creative force. Currently, I consider myself more of a consumer of culture than a producer of culture. The most hilarious (ironic) thing though is that my life-goal, my human endeavor, ultimate ambition is to really be in a position that is basically the most influential/the largest output of culture creation possible. Let me rephrase. The culture generator or sorts. My position will be in that of education, which, by design, is a culture creator of sorts. It is no wonder that when my focus is inward, all I feel is this energy swelling up inside of me, literally at times, it feels, bursting at the seems…

What do I do with this energy? All I can do right now is write. Write and write with vigor. Let the words I spill onto the page spill from the bursting seems, as if to let some of that air out.

To be the culture creator that I know that I am… (End “stream of consciousness”)

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9,000 years of anarchy in Ireland?

Great read.

On the Mark

I posted once before on Ireland and their anarchy that lasted for more than a thousand years:

This most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts first came to my attention while reading Murray Rothbard’s For a New Liberty. This was a society where not only the courts and the law were largely libertarian, but they were basically anarcho-capitalist in the modern sense of the phrase. This Celtic society was not some primitive society or tribe but rather it was a highly complex society. Ireland for centuries was the most advanced, most scholarly, and most civilized society in all of Western Europe. And all without a government!

Murray Rothbard documented the Irish Anarchy in his book “For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto were he wrote in part:

The most remarkable historical example of a society of libertarian law and courts, however, has been…

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