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Academia, STEM and non-STEM alike, exist because governments can afford them and their members lend legitimacy to the ruling system. However this link between academia and government is a fairly recent one, and came into being post-ww2.
The post-ww2 era has also been marked by a number of other somewhat unique developments.. from post-ww2 baby booms, productivity increases and most importantly- a continuous increase in the revenue base of western governments. So What happens when the revenue base shrinks? What happens when obligations to certain groups have to be honored to preserve order?
My prediction: Given the now obvious worthlessness of education, crushing student debt, the plummeting respectability of academia, the secondary/ tertiary effects of internet connectivity and ‘austerity’ measures- it is unlikely that academia or universities can survive in their present form for more than a few years.
Some of you may disagree, and believe that academia will take decades to go down. However history suggests otherwise, as complex systems always collapse or implode rather quickly when they reach a tipping point. Don’t believe me? Look at how fast communism fell, the speed and unexpectedness of current uprisings in the ME, the decline of the music record industry, TV sitcoms, the pharmaceutical industry.
How many of you read blogs in 2005, conceived of the iPhone in 2006, believed that google would be what it is now in 2001? Would you have ever believed that facebook, twitter and social media would be what they are now in 2006? Would you have believed the kinect would retail for 150$ in 2008? Seriously, how many of you believed that obama could win the presidency in 2007? or that he would be a corporate sellout after he won in 2008?