Why can’t we solve humanity’s biggest problems?

By Sylvain Rochon | 26 November 2018

(Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash)

We live in amazing times. We understand more about the world than ever. We have powerful computers in our pocket and artificial intelligence tools that analyze data for us. All of this at the consumer’s fingertips. The Internet is connecting all the top minds of the planet. Automation makes our lives easier every day. Violent crime rates are going down and there are fewer wars than ever in history. We live in a world of information, connectivity and peace, and yet, we are so paralyzed in fear that we can’t see the solutions to the world’s biggest problems are in our hands.

We’ll always get confused by our own experiences and illusions. It gives us the impression things are getting worse, and it may be getting worse in your pocket of the universe. On average however, humanity is doing rather well. The reason we think things are getting worse is because we have access to every bit of information from anywhere in the world through the Internet. Being bombarded with all that information sometimes gives us the wrong impression. Many years ago, we were exposed to only a fraction of the bad things going on in the world. Now that everyone has a smartphone with news alerts going off every minute, we see a much higher percentage of the nasty things that happen in the world, even though the world has become a progressively more peaceful place. It is that impression that freezes us in fear, and a fearful human being goes in survival mode.

A human being in survival mode only cares about the immediate future. The job they are about to lose, the stability of the economy and natural disasters. Larger problems, even those that could cause our species’ extinction doesn’t matter to the person afraid of being able to pay the bills tomorrow.

And so, we focus on immediate solutions to immediate threats. We therefore neglect to deal with the risks of our whole species being wiped out after decennia of ecological neglect, an out-of-control population growth and small annual changes in weather patterns.

The good news is, we have access to all the information we could ever need about the problems facing our world. We not only have access to the best tools to analyse and implement solutions to those problems, but also to all the experts of the world, both human and digital in a global communications network.

So, we have the information, the experts and the solutions to the biggest problems facing humanity: climate change, war, loss of jobs due to automation, risk of economic collapse, famine, poverty and overpopulation. Gripped in the fear of tomorrow, what is humanity able to agree on? Climate change is a problem, so we agreed on a plan to get it under control, the Paris Agreement.

That’s a good first step but it only shows that many people were fearful enough of the increasingly severe weather patterns to push the world’s government to agree on something that affects us all. What about all the other global issues we are still facing, even in developed countries that we could have fixed, in some cases, years ago? Well, the people of the world won’t fear the dangers of overpopulation until the overpopulation problem has an immediate and direct impact on enough families. We’ll take measures to prevent the collapse of the economy and the heavy loss of jobs due to automation when too many people lose their jobs due to automation, or too many people can no longer bring home a living wage. Only on the brink of the precipice do we choose to apply progressive changes.

That is, until we no longer live in survival mode.

All the major global problems mentioned here are interconnected. The world’s economies, the environment, and humanity as a community are all connected. If we could only get ourselves in a place without fear, we could see that all the global issues we face could be resolved with modern-day technologies.

To have consensus, first we need the experts to agree these problems exist: check!

Then, we need to understand the cause of those problems and suggest logical solutions. Using artificial intelligence, computing power, internet communications, legislation and willpower, we could implement solutions that work for everyone in the world. Most countries in the world agreed to sign the Paris Agreement, so it is doable. The question is, can it be done without fear of immediate destruction looming over our heads? We’re certainly not avoiding these huge issues because we disagree on the facts.

The problem, as always, is fear.

There is NO reason we haven’t implemented solutions to eliminate war, the socio-economic issues surrounding the economy and automation, famine, poverty and overpopulation. We are stuck in our own emotions of fear, and honestly, some leaders are taking advantage of this fear to force us to take decisions that aren’t in our own long-term best interest. Besides, why would our leaders think long-term? Their term of office is at most 8 years? After that, leading a country is another person’s responsibility, while they rake in the dough giving keynotes and writing their memoirs.

No major modern-day power wants to go to war. We all know each other, and the fate of the world economies are intrinsically tied with our family’s ability to thrive. We know this thanks to global internet access. War would not be acceptable because it would be like fighting our own family. It doesn’t mean conflict still cannot occur between countries. Nations with a low percentage of the population that have higher education credentials and less communication with the outside world like Afghanistan, North Korea, some areas of Asia and Africa, can still live in fear of the threatening “other”. Groups of nations can work with each other to contain those possible belligerent nations. We shouldn’t be calling any other large educated power “enemy” and making aggressive moves towards them. These days, it sounds silly just thinking about this possibility. If we simply talk with each other, educate each other and accept other countries in our own alliances (trade or otherwise), we can reduce the likelihood of war to a minimum. This is something we’re already doing and I suspect we’ll keep improving relations with other countries in the future, not because our politicians are wiser, but because more citizens of the world interact with people from other countries and we don’t want harm to come from our friends.

Job loss due to automation has a short term and a long-term solution. In the short-term, we must turn to modern concepts such as unconditional basic income where the people empower their central government to provide a basic allowance to every citizen of the country. Under basic income programs, the idea is for the subsidy to be sufficient to raise families out of poverty no matter whether family members are working or not (hence the unconditional part). The long-term threat of job loss, hence prolonged income loss, is a change from an employment-based economy to another one where citizens need not work for a living. This requires the nation’s assets to belong to the people, giving them the right to live healthy lives on their own property (the land). Then, if citizens create value within their nation, then, they can be paid as per the norms of competition and offer and demand to gain additional buying power. Thus, driven citizens that create value for society, offer services and products that can be purchased by others who also participate in the upper layers of the economy. Meanwhile, automation and AI are used to ensure the land is producing and delivering the resources every individual in the nation needs for basic living.

It is only one possible way to change the cashflow of the economy from having as many workers as possible working jobs and paying taxes, to another that does not require human workers at its center to work. This new modern economy type would remove the risk of economic collapse because the system depends on land value, which is not something that goes away easily.

We must also control our population before the planet cannot sustain it, killing us all. We must find a way to reduce our birthrate, plain and simple. It’s just math. If we continue to make more babies than there are people dying, the population increases. Eventually, humanity would simply die because the planet just won’t have enough available resources to sustain everyone. It would be bad. Very bad, if this happens. To avoid this scenario, we need to agree on a method to either reduce the global birthrate or to increase the global death rate. It is a policy issue requiring sacrifices, similar to the climate change issue.

The solutions exist, and many have been tested for AT LEAST 50 years! Yet, we are not working on solutions to most of these problems. Right now, the time is perfect to implement solutions because we have never had such good understanding of how everything is interconnected, and with over 50% of the planet connected on the Internet, we can see how we can reach a consensus as a unified humanity.

So, what are we missing? The will to take steps for the whole planet? The will to suggest an unconventional solution? The best solutions are not those that come from our ancient past. They come from proper evaluation of the situation, good understanding of possible outcomes and then wisely implementing a solution that has never been implemented before. It is risky but there are no solutions in what has already been done at a large scale.

What we’re also missing is education. The population may be connected and has lots of information available through Web, but not enough of us have good enough education to discern opinion from fact and proper research from fake scientific proclamations. There is a lot of misinformation out there.

We the People have all the power. We’re the ones that elect our highest officials. We’re the ones that drive economies and a nation’s economic successes through our buying habits. We’re the ones that make messages go viral, or decide an idea is uninteresting or not important enough to share on our social media.

Therefore, to resolve all those big issues, we need to:

1. Educate ourselves. Do our own research. Then, teach others how to find facts from sources. We need to become experts at unearthing real facts and gaining that knowledge. This is on us.

2. Elect government officials that will fight for reason, facts and global solutions that help everyone, everywhere. We do not live in a fishbowl. We are interconnected in so many ways so what is good for them is also good for us. Not the other way around mind you. We can help each other grow and understand the same facts. You can read my article about this subject here.)

3. Encourage our government officials to work with other governments on known progressive solutions and implement them asap. With our support, they will not be shy or argue. We are the ones that put them in power so naturally, modern leaders will align with the majority’s desires over time.

We are the People. We have the power to change our cards and to make the world a great place for ourselves, our families, and for everyone else.

We can Engineer a Paradise if we so choose. We can lead and others will follow.

One person’s journey towards that goal can heal the world, and give us long, long lives without fear about tomorrow.

Are you with me?

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Sylvain Rochon is an international speaker, futurist, author and entrepeneur. His website is sylvainrochon.com. His Twitter feed is @SylvainRochon.

The Biggest Roadblock To A Better Future

What are the most important moral problems of our time? | Will MacAskill

How will we survive when the population hits 10 billion? | Charles C. Mann

Why we’re heading for a ‘climate catastrophe’ – BBC Newsnight

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