What you are saying is very true, but I feel that you are letting your interest in sci-fi overtake the need for rational policy at present. What you are describing is very real, but this would be akin to people in the 1800s discussing the theoretical basis of how mass global transportation would affect cultures and the economic ill-effects globalization would cause.
Except we're not talking changes that are many decades to centuries away. We're looking at something which is already underway, and which will be coming to fruition within our lifetimes.
I am actually a strong proponent against this concept of higher education for all individuals. What we need though, is a more robust K-12 system that teaches the types of skills necessary in the future (a.k.a skills that will not be reproducible by machines during our lifetimes). These skills include emotional intelligence, the ability to critically think, creativity of thought, and rational/situational thinking. I work in higher ed, and some of these students are like drones, with none of these skills. If you look at people who are chronically unemployed (2-3 years), the reason for their unemployment is often a lack of these fundamental skills.
I'm in favor of reforming the education system to improve the quality of life for those it services, but this is going to be of little use in fighting the future. Yes, by all means go for it to achieve the marginal improvements it will eke out during the next decade to decade and a half. Retrain workers displaced by technology, help them pick up their deck chairs and move them further up the Titanic
so they can work a few more years before being made underwater and obsolete once more. After that, in two decades at most, the machines are taking over. A child born today will come of working age in a society where no one drives cars, the top ten supercomputers are the most intelligent entities the planet has ever seen
, most companies have computer networks whose intelligence rivals that of humans, and where his or her own computer will have an intelligence somewhere between that of a dog and a chimpanzee--and a processing power hundreds to thousands of times what PCs have today.
We've got a shot of preparing today's blue collar workers and their kids for the jobs of tomorrow. Those jobs won't be blue collar, but will likely require a modified education system that heavily deals with specialized trade labor - which involves a lot of intellectual work. But I agree with you that the likelihood of such positive changes occurring is slim to none. As such, what you describe will ultimately turn out to be the reality. I'm just saying, that that isn't the ideal outcome, nor does it necessarily have to be the case.
I think this is a good approach for today's teenagers and younger displaced workers. For someone in their 50s losing their job, they're better off retiring. For now though, we need to begin planning for the future. We need to formally acknowledge that most of the jobs lost in the recession are not coming back, and that there will not be nearly enough jobs to replace them. We need to accept that the structural unemployment rate is already likely 5 to 6%, it's likely to rise about half to three-quarters of a percent a year for the next decade, then rise faster and faster (recursive improvement in AI), and that nothing can stop this.
Once we recognize the industrial system is dying, there's lots
we can do to improve education so people have a better quality of life, developing their creativity for creativity's sake rather than how effective it is as stamping widgets or sitting in an office 40 hours a week.