How the STEM Crisis Threatens the Future of Work
As the world’s leading economy, the U.S. is under pressure to produce the best minds to solve the greatest challenges facing mankind.
The problem is, the United States is falling behind in some of the most important areas of education to help solve the problems of today and tomorrow. The crisis in STEM fields—which cover science, technology, engineering and mathematics—is threatening the growing workforce and in turn, the country’s position in the global economy.
Today’s infographic from Early Childhood Education Degrees explores the importance of STEM education and how an emphasis on these four areas could successfully lead the world into an uncertain future.
The Rise of STEM
STEM is a relatively new term, coined less than two decades ago—although the grouping of subjects was sometimes referred to as SMET in previous years.
While 86% of Americans believe that increasing the number of workers in STEM areas is vital for maintaining their position in the global economy, a 2005 report sounded the alarm that U.S. students were lagging behind academically.
To combat this issue, STEM education and subsequent research programs were injected with more funding. New legislation also helped prioritize these subjects in the curriculum for kindergarten through high school.
The Skills Shift
According to Emsi, a modeler of economic data, undergraduates in STEM education increased by 43% between 2010 and 2016. However, despite the promising growth, 2.4 million STEM jobs went unfilled in 2018.
One possible reason for this? Advancing technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and robotics require entirely new skill sets. Success in STEM jobs also relies on adapting to new situations and developing soft skills such as:
- Creativity and innovation
- Problem-solving and critical thinking
- Collaboration and leadership
As these technologies continue to evolve, having skills in STEM will be non-negotiable for employees and leaders the world over.
Threatening U.S. Economic Leadership
Statistics show that the U.S. is providing more opportunities for other countries to take the lead in STEM fields. For example, 62% of all international students in tertiary education in the U.S. are in science and engineering fields, with almost 70% of those students coming from India and China.
What’s more, over half of all U.S. patents go to foreign nationals and companies instead of Americans at home.
If America’s STEM proficiency continues to decline, not only will the skills gap be detrimental to the workforce, but it will also erode its potential future for economic and scientific leadership.
The Global STEM Leaders
According to the World Economic Forum, China is a major player in STEM education, boasting 4.7 million graduates as of 2016.
The country’s swift uptake of STEM initiatives is driven by new government policy, school participation, and parents’ increasing awareness of the benefits that will future proof the careers of their children.
The U.S. sits in third place with 568,000 STEM graduates, but compares closely with India on STEM graduates per population—1 to 52 in India and 1 to 57 in the United States. However, they’re still no match for China’s 1 to 29 ratio.
Narrowing the Skills Gap
If the U.S. is to become a global leader in STEM literacy, innovation, and employment, the Department of Education suggests that a STEM reform is needed, with the increase of diversity and inclusion being a top priority.
A significant opportunity for growth lies in making STEM more accessible for women—but while there has been a steady rise in women pursuing STEM careers, there are still systemic barriers in place that prohibit women from entering.
Experts also suggest that the introduction of STEM at an earlier age and educating students on the diversity of STEM careers are crucial elements in preparing a more capable workforce.
Given the recent demand for reform, it is clear that STEM education is key to thriving in the new technology-based economy and cultivating solutions to real world problems.
The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022
Six of the top 10 most downloaded apps in Q1 2022 were social media apps, and four of them are owned by Meta.
The Top Downloaded Apps in 2022
Whether they’re providing a service like ride-sharing or acting as a mere source of entertainment, mobile apps have become an integral part of many peoples’ day-to-day lives.
But which apps are most popular among users?
This graphic uses data from a recent report by Sensor Tower to show the top 10 most downloaded apps around the world in Q1 2022 from the Google Play and Apple App Store.
Social Reigns Supreme
According to the report, total app downloads reached 36.9 billion in Q1 2022, a 1.4% increase compared to Q1 2021.
A majority of the top 10 most downloaded apps were social media platforms, with Meta and ByteDance owning six of the top 10.
|2||Photo and video|
|7||Snapchat||Photo and video|
|9||CapCut||Photo and video|
Meta’s four platforms on the list are Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Messenger, while ByteDance owns TikTok and video-editing platform CapCut.
Just outside the top 10 are Zoom and WhatsApp Business (yet another Meta-owned app).
TikTok’s Winding Road to the Top
In Q1 2021, TikTok exceeded 3.5 billion all-time downloads, becoming the fifth app (and the first non-Meta app) to reach this milestone. This is impressive considering the app has been banned in India as of June 2020. Prior to the ban, India accounted for 30% of TikTok’s downloads.
India’s not the only country that’s banned the use of TikTok. Pakistan has blocked TikTok multiple times because of concerns over “inappropriate” content. However, it’s worth noting that the bans in Pakistan only lasted a few days before being lifted, and currently, Pakistanis are able to access the platform.
Top 10 Highest Grossing Apps
TikTok isn’t just the most downloaded app in the world—it’s also the highest-grossing non-game app, based on Q1 2022 revenue from the App Store and Google Play:
|2||YouTube||Photo and video|
TikTok generated an impressive $821 million in consumer spending in the last quarter. The video-sharing platform was the top-grossing app on the App Store, and the second-highest-grossing on Google Play, coming just after Google One.
While none of Meta’s platforms made it onto the top 10 list for gross revenue, these platforms make a ton of money that doesn’t necessarily flow through app stores. In 2021, Meta generated more than $117.9 billion in revenue, with over 97% of that coming from ads.
Growth’s on the Horizon
The pandemic had a massive impact on the app market.
In 2020, app spending on things like premium access, in-app purchases, and subscriptions surged by 30% year-over-year to reach $111 billion.
And while COVID-19 restrictions are easing in most places around the world, app spending isn’t likely to taper off anytime soon. By 2025, spending is expected to grow to $270 billion.
Synthetic Biology: The $3.6 Trillion Science Changing Life as We Know It
The field of synthetic biology could solve problems in a wide range of industries, from medicine to agriculture—here’s how.
How Synthetic Biology Could Change Life as we Know it
Synthetic biology (synbio) is a field of science that redesigns organisms in an effort to enhance and support human life. According to one projection, this rapidly growing field of science is expected to reach $28.8 billion in global revenue by 2026.
Although it has the potential to transform many aspects of society, things could go horribly wrong if synbio is used for malicious or unethical reasons. This infographic explores the opportunities and potential risks that this budding field of science has to offer.
What is Synthetic Biology?
We’ve covered the basics of synbio in previous work, but as a refresher, here’s a quick explanation of what synbio is and how it works.
Synbio is an area of scientific research that involves editing and redesigning different biological components and systems in various organisms.
It’s like genetic engineering but done at a more granular level—while genetic engineering transfers ready-made genetic material between organisms, synbio can build new genetic material from scratch.
The Opportunities of Synbio
This field of science has a plethora of real-world applications that could transform our everyday lives. A study by McKinsey found over 400 potential uses for synbio, which were broken down into four main categories:
- Human health and performance
- Agriculture and food
- Consumer products and services
- Materials and energy production
If those potential uses become reality in the coming years, they could have a direct economic impact of up to $3.6 trillion per year by 2030-2040.
1. Human Health and Performance
The medical and health sector is predicted to be significantly influenced by synbio, with an economic impact of up to $1.3 trillion each year by 2030-2040.
Synbio has a wide range of medical applications. For instance, it can be used to manipulate biological pathways in yeast to produce an anti-malaria treatment.
It could also enhance gene therapy. Using synbio techniques, the British biotech company Touchlight Genetics is working on a way to build synthetic DNA without the use of bacteria, which would be a game-changer for the field of gene therapy.
2. Agriculture and Food
Synbio has the potential to make a big splash in the agricultural sector as well—up to $1.2 trillion per year by as early as 2030.
One example of this is synbio’s role in cellular agriculture, which is when meat is created from cells directly. The cost of creating lab-grown meat has decreased significantly in recent years, and because of this, various startups around the world are beginning to develop a variety of cell-based meat products.
3. Consumer Products and Services
Using synthetic biology, products could be tailored to suit an individual’s unique needs. This would be useful in fields such as genetic ancestry testing, gene therapy, and age-related skin procedures.
By 2030-2040, synthetic biology could have an economic impact on consumer products and services to the tune of up to $800 billion per year.
4. Materials and Energy Production
Synbio could also be used to boost efficiency in clean energy and biofuel production. For instance, microalgae are currently being “reprogrammed” to produce clean energy in an economically feasible way.
This, along with other material and energy improvements through synbio methods, could have a direct economic impact of up to $300 billion each year.
The Potential Risks of Synbio
While the potential economic and societal benefits of synthetic biology are vast, there are a number of risks to be aware of as well:
- Unintended biological consequences: Making tweaks to any biological system can have ripple effects across entire ecosystems or species. When any sort of lifeform is manipulated, things don’t always go according to plan.
- Moral issues: How far we’re comfortable going with synbio depends on our values. Certain synbio applications, such as embryo editing, are controversial. If these types of applications become mainstream, they could have massive societal implications, with the potential to increase polarization within communities.
- Unequal access: Innovation and progress in synbio is happening faster in wealthier countries than it is in developing ones. If this trend continues, access to these types of technology may not be equal worldwide. We’ve already witnessed this type of access gap during the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines, where a majority of vaccines have been administered in rich countries.
- Bioweaponry: Synbio could be used to recreate viruses, or manipulate bacteria to make it more dangerous, if used with ill intent.
According to a group of scientists at the University of Edinburgh, communication between the public, synthetic biologists, and political decision-makers is crucial so that these societal and environmental risks can be mitigated.
Balancing Risk and Reward
Despite the risks involved, innovation in synbio is happening at a rapid pace.
By 2030, most people will have likely eaten, worn, or been treated by a product created by synthetic biology, according to synthetic biologist Christopher A. Voigt.
Our choices today will dictate the future of synbio, and how we navigate through this space will have a massive impact on our future—for better, or for worse.
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