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Now, not being a particularly old person, I have no idea if this was going on before my time but I have noticed a very major shift in the way society works. No longer do people work to do a good job, or become skilled, they work to meet goals and criteria in least work-intensive way possible.
My favourite example of this is a political move made by the UK a while ago. Having made note of the fact that not many people were getting a university degree and having made a promise to change this, they began to work on how to solve this deficiency in education. Eventually, they came up with something like this : "We'll just call all of the technical colleges universities as well - that means there'll be a massive increase in people with a university education!". Lo and behold, the government was soon able to report a huge percentage increase in university educated citizens without actually doing anything. Of course, the fact that what they did actually did nothing to improve education whatsoever and just wasted money is irrelevant - everyone THOUGHT they had done something.
(I got this example from reading the book "Crimes against Logic", 'tis a good read)
This same principle of "not actually doing anything" is seeping ever more deeply into society, and it's easy to pick it up if you look for it - especially in academia and business. I have also noticed it happening in schools - I know it happens because I've caught myself doing it - where children are encouraged to work in a way that presents the impression of quality (rather than, say, actual quality) or where people take courses because "It'll look good on the resume", not because they actually care about acquiring the skills the course claims to teach.
Other examples include governments doing such things as 'meeting emission targets in the next 3 years', all of which aren't all that impressive but still cause everyone to assume that the governments are trying their best to fix the planet.
In conclusion; Goddamnit, society.