Power of the Crowd

Humanity wastes 550,000 hours a day typing in the annoying Captcha (200,000,000 Captchas per day * 10s per instance). Luis Von Ahn, inventor of the Captcha, explains why this is a good thing. And if you’ve ever been frustrated by the poor quality of Google Translation, please take 16 minutes and watch his brilliant TED Talk on Massive-Scale Online Collaboration. While you’re hearing about the historically unprecedented power of 100 million people working towards a common goal, be dreaming up your own ways of helping the planet while using your  

Zeitgeist 3 – Moving Forward

Peter Joseph (probably not his real last name) has released a new Zeitgeist film. I disagree with a number of Peter’s “Venus Project” assumptions, conclusions, and leading questions. I also found his first two films especially lacking in solid content, relying more on hearsay, dubious history, and weak conspiracy theories. In some cases, Zeit 3 is terribly naive (“upgradable” technology, idealized production and distribution incentives and strategies, utopian city design, overstated energy alternatives, etc.). Yet I’m sharing this movie with you because I think the film is a good conversation starter and especially good thought provoker, addressing a number of profoundly important questions. I find it ironic that the filmmaker, an atheist, uses a John Ortberg lecture as his core value statement — ultimately pointing to the failure of GDP as an adequate, or even relevant, measurement of our individual and collective well-being (a position I passionately agree with). I’m convinced that we need to start thinking towards third-way “systems-based” economies that combine the best elements of free-markets and central resource planning, while retaining the liberties of an unalienable rights-based republic re-imagined in healthier paradigms of resource sustainability, human empathy, and global-equitable access to fundamental human needs. Centralized economies fail for many reasons. One reason is because, historically, they haven’t appropriately rewarded the people and organizations who excel and add real value back into the community. But cultural definitions of excellence, value, reward, and community vary subjectively. Corrupt, bailed-out banking systems and an obese military-industrial economy are two areas in which we can start to radically re-define the terms excellence and reward. And we can start to expand our definition of community from tribes and borders to a sense of global family. I agree with the filmmaker (@ 2:16) that we are faced today with a potentially fatal “value system” disorder and (@ 2:20) that many of today’s economic assumptions are gross distortions driven by temporary access to cheap, concentrated energy. For the health and well-being of our great grandchildren and our planet in general, we need to develop a better informed and more comprehensively linked value system between our economic systems, our natural resources, and our fundamental connectedness as a human  

Restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider

from Paul Hawken’s commencement speech at the University of Portland: “…This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power. Like Mercy Corps, it works behind the scenes and gets the job done. Large as it is, no one knows the true size of this movement. It provides hope, support, and meaning to billions of people in the world. Its clout resides in idea, not in force. It is made up of teachers, children, peasants, businesspeople, rappers, organic farmers, nuns, artists, government workers, fisherfolk, engineers, students, incorrigible writers, weeping Muslims, concerned mothers, poets, doctors without borders, grieving Christians, street musicians, the President of the United States of America, and as the writer David James Duncan would say, the Creator, the One who loves us all in such a huge way… What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past…” Read  

Can Earth Sustain Its Population?

Challenging article  in this week’s Christian Science Monitor. Some say that the Earth cannot sustain the kind of rapid industrial growth we have seen 1950-present. My own research tells me that energy is scarce, not abundant (relative to demand). I’ve also found a strong correlation between access to energy and population growth (and its opposite: limited access to energy and population decline).     Do I think population control should be discussed in the USA? Yes. But today’s CSM article underscores the cultural difficulties in even discussing the issue. Kudos to CSM for having the journalistic guts to tackle this. Some data from the CSM article:    * In 1950 the less-developed (poorer) regions of the world had roughly twice the population of the more developed (richer) ones. By 2050 the ratio will exceed 6 to 1.  * Human numbers currently increase by 75 million to 80 million people annually, the equivalent of adding another United States to the world about every four years.  * At present, the average woman bears nearly twice as many children (2.8) in poor countries as in rich countries (1.6 children per woman).  * Some 51 countries or areas will lose population between now and 2050. Germany is expected to drop from 83 million to 79 million people, Italy from 58 million to 51 million, Japan from 128 million to 112 million and the Russian Federation from 143 million to 112 million.  * If recent trends continue as projected to 2050, virtually all of the world’s population growth will be in urban areas.  * Everyone born in 1965 or earlier and still alive has seen human numbers more than double from 3.3 billion in 1965 to 6.8 billion in 2009.  * The peak population growth rate ever reached, about 2.1 percent a year, occurred between 1965 and 1970. Human population never grew with such speed before the 20th century and is likely never to grow with such speed again. Note also comment #23 on this CSM article from Dr. Clifford