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Why History Is Quickly Becoming the Most Important Subject

Updated: Jun 15

A collage of a painted woman holding an iPhone like she's taking a selfie in front of a floral background.

When I was a middle school history teacher, I sometimes felt like my class wasn’t as “important” as the others. The insecure corner of my brain told me that math and science were the future, whereas my stories of pyramids and oracles were fun, but useful only in teaching kids “how to learn.”

The rapid development of AI has changed everything, and it’s not hyperbolic to say the consequences of failing to recognize that are a matter of life-or-death.

Humans Can’t Compete

To be clear, I’m not against AI. In many ways, we’ve been using it for a long time. Calculators, computers, and Grammarly are all early iterations of what we’re seeing; the technology is simply developing exponentially.

But let’s be clear about something else, too: the vast majority of human brains simply cannot compete with machines when it comes to math, science, English, translating foreign languages, composing music, you name it.

I don’t know about you, but I have a 0% chance of doing math faster than a calculator, and though I’ve dedicated my life to writing, ChatGPT can write stories and articles a zillion times faster than I can.

So What’s Left?

If AI outperforms humanity in just about everything, what does that leave for actual, breathing humans? What can we do that they can’t?

We can have relationships and families, and we can vote.

The consequences of voting may seem inconsequential in our current two-party system, where it’s hard to distinguish the crummy candidates on the right from the crummy candidates on the left, but do not underestimate the power a government can wield.

According to the National Center for Policy Analysis, governments killed between 170 million and 360 million of their own people in the twentieth century alone. The paper summarizes:

● Communist regimes have killed the most people in this century, followed by Nazi Germany, which killed more than 16 million people between 1933 and 1945. ● The Soviet Union killed 54.7 million between 1917 and 1987, and China killed 35.6 million between 1949 and 1987. ● The Khmer Rouge killed a much larger percentage of its nation’s people, liquidating about a third of all Cambodians between 1975 and 1979. Source

The paper rightly notes that democracies are far from innocent in this discussion, but we tend to kill foreigners through war rather than commit genocide against our own people.

Those Who Don’t Know History

One of my greatest concerns as an educator is that our history books (for some inexplicable reason) tend to overlook genocide/democide when it’s perpetrated by communists, which is ironic since they’re the biggest mass murderers the world has ever seen.

We all know that Hitler was evil incarnate, period. But it’s very, very troubling that our students aren’t also taught about horrors inflicted by Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, and countless other communist regimes. News flash: they killed way, way more people than Hitler. And at the end of the day, communism and fascism are two sides of the same coin: totalitarianism.

When I asked ChatGPT to compare capitalism and communism, I got an answer that was stunning in its moral equivalency. To describe communism without mentioning the 100 million people they killed over the past 100 years (and continue to kill, in the case of the Uyghurs in China, for instance) is like describing Nazism without mentioning the Holocaust.

A screenshot of a conversation with ChatGPT explaining the differences between capitalism and communism.

I couldn’t help but belligerently continue the conversation:

A screenshot of a conversation with ChatGPT correcting its misrepresentation of communist societies.

This answer leaves me borderline apoplectic. It’s two sentences of disclaimer, one sentence minimizing the government’s role in committing genocide/democide (“have been associated with” suffering, like Mao once frequented the same bingo league as the real mass murderer — he’s just associated with the crimes.)

And then the whole second half of the paragraph goes on to criticize capitalism! I’d like to make it clear to anyone for whom this isn’t inherently obvious, but capitalism isn’t perfect. Nevertheless, let’s compare ChatGPT’s unprompted criticisms of capitalism to the communist equivalent.

  1. Economic inequality – Obviously there is economic inequality in a capitalist system, as there should be. We aren’t all equal in our intelligence and work ethic. And by the way, there’s a lot more inequality when dictators are living in palaces and the vast majority of people are starving to death. A capitalist system is the only one in the world where, statistically, those with lower incomes are more likely to be obese than starving. I say this with no judgment of obesity — merely pointing out that it’s probably better to have too much food in America than be one of the millions starving to death in USSR Ukraine (Holodomor).

  2. Environmental degradation – Capitalists don’t have a great track record when it comes to the environment, but neither do communists. China emits more than twice as much CO2 as the United States each year (though we produce about twice as much per capita). I think this is more of a “where humans are in our technological development” issue than a matter of capitalism vs. communism.

  3. Exploitation of workers – One of the critiques favored by university students with purple hair and lip piercings is that while communism may have killed 100 million people in the last century, “capitalism” killed just as many when you factor in the slave trade. We all know that slavery is evil and a disgusting stain on our nation’s history. But when you use slavery to condemn capitalism, you’re overlooking a few important factors:

    1. Great Britain, Spain, Portugal, and basically every country involved in the Atlantic Slave Trade were monarchies, which is a form of totalitarianism. As I mentioned earlier — whether it’s Nazism or communism or monarchism — totalitarian governments are a threat to human life. Period. Blaming 11,000 years of slavery on capitalism doesn’t make sense given that, within 100 years of America’s founding, we were tearing ourselves in half to get rid of it. Slavery is evil and a stain on human history, but let’s not muddle the timeline. Most of it deserves to be laid at the feet of monarchy, not democratic capitalism.

    2. Now that we’re not comparing apples to oranges, let’s compare the “exploitation of workers” in modern America to the “exploitation of workers,” in say, gulags. Sorry, but I’d rather be making minimum wage at McDonald’s with the ability to keep climbing the socioeconomic ladder.

Schools Don’t Teach That

When I look at today’s schools, I worry about what the next generation might vote for — through no fault of their own. They simply aren’t being taught about the dangers of totalitarianism and the many masks it adopts.

I think America’s youth know to run like the wind from fascism, thank the Lord, but they don’t realize that communism inevitably leads to the same results. Suckered by platitudes like, “We should all be equal,” students fail to realize that “equality” is fundamentally impossible to implement. If you walk into a room with ten people, are you all exact replicas of each other? Of course not. Different people have different strengths, levels of intelligence, ambition, work ethic, etc.

In order to equalize everyone, there has to be an outside equalizer. If that equalizer can take your money, are you their equal? Of course not. They have more power than you do; meet your new dictator. And since “equal” is a vague term—and standards of living can always deteriorate—this sets up a slippery slope of confiscation.

Moral of the Story

Believe whatever you want, but make an informed decision. Know your history. Those who don’t, as they say, are doomed to repeat it.

P.S. If you like these long-form articles, feel free to buy me a coffee using the button below. I am an unabashed capitalist, so I have no problem requesting $ in exchange for my work! Thank you!

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