kai_krause's picture
Software Pioneer; Philosopher; Author, A Realtime Literature Explorer
Close To The Edge

We all should be worried.....that somewhere in New York there is a powerful cultural entrepreneur, who is surrounding himself with 'a couple hundred of the smartest brains' and who is then deploying his army of gray matter on....coming up with more stuff to worry about?

Like we have run out of daily doses of crises and cliffs and badly need fresh doom to go with the gloom?

Really, I had hoped that we could have turned this into a useful and positive direction. For instance:"Make a concrete proposal how one billion dollars could be put to the most effective use within 2013"—and then see what that brain pool is really capable of?

And actually do it.

There are a few billionaires and many philanthropists among the group, one could quite easily set up an Edge Prize to rival the X Prize, putting up concrete problems to overcome in the smartest manner.

This could include science problems per se, but also the meta problem of science itself being undervalued and indeed orphaned to some degree. The Higgs Boson means so very little to the hick morons, who could do so well with increased education at all levels. And more than bringing up the bottom, there is enormous dormant potential at the top, the smart ones in every class in Anytown, anywhere.

Just as an example: Imagine just for one second if literally every child were issued their own "xPad". Entirely free. All of them with identical specs, totally shatterproof. With a cloud infrastructure to provide a home for each student, a thin front end containing hardly anything locally, each device just a porthole, neutral and exchangeable. There would be no point in stealing one, a valueless commodity

The sheer number of the target audience would allow third parties to create brilliant courseware. It would equalize the playing field and raise the awareness at all levels. New kinds of classes could be offered, such as how to find answers and solutions, how to search, how to deal with security, the pleasures and pitfalls of the social networks—all those issues which are of much higher importance to kids now than the literally "old-school" curriculumand which they are left to deal with on their own right now.

There are about 80 million people enrolled in education in the US. Total budget is almost a trillion. You think such a move could make a difference? You bet it would. An extremely cost effective one, too. There are endless but but buts to intervene, sure. Lots of detail questions, lots to think about.

But that is where a think tank of smart folks should be put to great use.

Just making that itself an Edge Prize: the best proposals for implementation, leading to hundreds of them, with a system for peer review to let the truly smart ideas bubble to the top—as opposed to handing it off to some supposed 'expert' study group, government glacial processes or lobbied interests of the industry. You ask this question in the schools themselves and you would be amazed at the number of detailed problems you can worry about.....but also solutions and suggestions!

The trick would be to create the system in which the best ideas can be rewarded. You really think Apple needs to have 126 billion in cash reserves and would not be fine with 124? I bet they would love to help, if not entirely altruistic—and so would all the others. Meaning: given the proper proposal, at a large scope, it is actually not the money that is the problem.

And there you are with where I feel.....we should be worried: That this is not happening.

And I do not mean this one lone xPad example idea pulled out of a hat, I mean the principle itself: We do not have the insight that all the problems have become much too complex to be solved by our current methodology. The way the government is defined, the way it is run, the way it is chosen, the way it is funded, how it deploys the funds—it is all broken... Nothing to do with left or right, but seeing it as abstractly as possible: the individuals in their contract with society as a whole, are on the edge of cancelling.

And the only way out of all this is.... applied Sciences, if you think about it. Smart thinking, intelligent planning, systematic analysis. Beyond partisan opinions, outside corporate brands, without financial gain. Dealing with it almost as an art form: the beauty of an optimal path, the pleasure of finding a solution.

And there are the people who can do it, who have dedicated themselves to exactly these processes all their lives—alas, only in their narrow sub-sub-sub-fields.

The state of the planet is the crowning super problem of them all—and yet—the people who may be able to provide insights and offer fresh ideas—are often occupied by trivial and mundane side issues, it seems. Such as answering questions if they can think of more things to worry about. ;)