Jan 3 2018,
We are all products of our opportunity. The near-4.0 GPA, plethora of awards, and leadership positions that I boast about on my resume are not products of my ability, but rather, my circumstance. I won the birth-lottery. I am a relatively sociable, good-looking white male born into a rich country that is also relatively free from nepotism and also has a strong social support structure. My parents are hardworking immigrants, whose mission it was to never subject their kids to a life as hard as theirs. I had a huge and rare advantage from the day I was born. When I was working on the NASA base in Mississippi, most of my colleagues also had this advantage… and the sea of white males inside the NASA walls highlighted the grave disparity between the genders and ethnicity inside and outside its walls. I am confident that the milestones on my resume would not exist if I were to be, for example: a Muslim-American, or poor, or born into a poor country, or with a physical or mental disability, etc., I am also confident that my situation is not unlike that of others. We’ve had the opportunity of a clear mind when growing up. Others, likely orders of magnitude more competent than I, have not.
My friend Karl comes to mind, born into a home of drugs, poverty and constant illness while being queer with Asperger, he is able to finance and push through the same school I did when I had nothing important on my mind. I graduated with a better GPA, more extracurricular, etc. Because of this I have gotten more opportunity to further expand my resume, and will continue to do so while Karl fights for every employment opportunity. Forever, I am and will be his competition, but our different circumstances make our resumes incomparable. On a level playing field societies put not most lucky people forward, but the best. If the meritocracy starts from birth, we advance at an optimal rate.
Northern Europe, The Netherlands and Germany do a good job creating an equal play-space. These countries (mostly) have information-based economies and are home to the happiest citizens. Without exception, they have nearly free education, high immigration rates, social healthcare, low incarceration rates, (mostly) low obesity rates, are among the safest countries in the world, high wages, and have very high taxes. When I look at my friends, who I believe could do a better job than me if they had the opportunities to do so, I realize that our society is not operating optimally. This means a less efficient economy, less development in science, medicine, and engineering. Ultimately it means impaired progress.