Suggestion: Fully Utilize the Internet to Solve Human Problems
I keep coming back to this idea over the years. I want something I can’t find on the net: a visual interactive map of human problems and where we are along the various paths to best current solutions. It would be a basic human right to access it, to interact, add to it, vote on it, and it would need real working security to keep that voting legitimate. Everyone could zoom in on any problem to see the edge technology with details explained so any person, say with a basic high school education, could understand it.
There are already starts on this system, for example, the Grand Challenges for Engineering as determined by a committee of the National Academy of Engineering.
- Make solar energy economical
- Provide energy from fusion
- Develop carbon sequestration methods
- Manage the nitrogen cycle
- Provide access to clean water
- Restore and improve urban infrastructure
- Advance health informatics
- Engineer better medicines
- Reverse-engineer the brain
- Prevent nuclear terror
- Secure cyberspace
- Enhance virtual reality
- Advance personalized learning
- Engineer the tools of scientific discovery
Find out what committee members said about the challenges at the news conference where they were unveiled.
There are many other areas that must be covered, however. Health, wealth (resource allocation) and wisdom (religion, ethics, education) seem to be good general categories.
Will we, as a whole species, ever use the tools we now have to work together to make all of our lives better?
This idealistic idea of a human problems tool presupposes an intelligent reality-based populace. People tend to think short-term, emotionally and selfishly. Without informed discernment, listed problems in the system would risk being trivial and irrelevant to our long term species survival.
The web site Change.org has many petitions for change. A quick look at the site shows that over 3 million people have signed a “Petition to make Kobe Bryant the new NBA Logo” and that there are many other petitions, for example, for individuals wronged by the justice system.
While useful, these aren’t getting at what I envision. An effective human problems tool would address core issues that let each of these wrongs occur. People would pay attention and change would really happen. The web sites Debate.org and Kialo.com have useful details in various debates and something like these should be linked to something like the petition site.
These sites are underutilized. There are many more people clicking “like” buttons on Twitter and Facebook, but these social media platforms do not encourage viewing multiple sides of each issue, nor resolving disagreements. To vote on the human problems site I envision, you would have to read through the debate for that topic first, ensuring you are informed.
Informed Debaters / Voters
Unfortunately, there are some points in these debates that will not make sense because people do not understand the science or other foundations of the points being made, and because they do not understand logical fallacies.
Therefore, the map of human problems site would require that you pass a course on logical fallacies and that you learn what is known about a topic first, to understand the debate points. It could be made into a fun game-type system, where you earn points, or whatever. This way each person could enter an informed vote. Unfortunately, with educational information being filtered and slanted by those with specific agendas, the whole system is still broken.
The Education System Inputs
Everyone needs the power to examine what is being taught in courses and to challenge it with those challenges being viewable by students as part of what they are learning. For this not to be a terrible idea that could be corrupted, it requires working digital security that is free from undue influence, to allow any one individual, any person with the most useful or correct answer, to be seen by all. The input to the educational information would also need to be linked to the debate system.
Checks and Balances
It’s a complicated system but one that may be required due to the reality that we are human, corruptible, and that our views differ widely on the truth.
If you remove checks and balances from any one part of the system, corruption creeps in and grows, so it needs to be constructed with an interlocking system of checks and balances. When any part of the system gets broken, the seriousness of that small break needs to be understood for what it is, sometimes a threat to the entire way of truth.
This is my “science fiction” idea, but it could be done with existing technology. It is also a look at how an alien system of self-governance may be run, and perhaps, one day, how our species could have a revolution of relevant action, where we spend our resources with much more mindfulness.
Published originally on Jun 21, 2014. Updated on Jun 23, 2020.