Keith Devlin has written a piece in the Huffington Post.
Repetitive tasks such as high-tech assembly-line manufacturing, airline reservations, and customer support are not the only things that can be outsourced in the flat world of the twenty-first century. So too can many less routine tasks that require a university education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
In particular, procedural mathematics (solving differential equations, optimizing systems of inequalities, etc.) can be outsourced.
Devlin argues that all mathematical skills taught at university can be outsourced to computers or other countries and says:
If we cannot compete, then we need to play a different game. Fortunately, that other game is one we already do well at: originality and innovation.
Devlin goes on to outline ways in which the US can compete on these terms, describing two categories of people (and both of them know binary):
The first category comprises people who, given a mathematical problem (i.e., a problem already formulated in mathematical terms), can find its mathematical solution.
The second category comprises people who can take a new problem, say in manufacturing, identify and describe key features of the problem mathematically, and use that mathematical description to analyze the problem in a precise fashion, picking up whatever mathematical techniques are required along the way.
Hitherto, our mathematics education process has focused primarily on producing people of the first variety. As it turned out, some of those people always turned out to be good at the second kind of activities as well, and as a nation we did very well. But in today’s world, and the more so tomorrow’s, with a growing supply of type 1 mathematical people in other countries — a supply that will soon outnumber our own by an order of magnitude — our only viable strategy is to focus on the second kind of ability.
Devlin goes on to outline the second category further and provide examples of necessary curriculum developments.