Via Slashdot.

Stephen Hawking asks the internet: "In a world that is in chaos politically, socially and environmentally, how can the human race sustain another 100 years?"

He's got over 16000+ answers, here are my naive thoughts:

To answer the question on one level: We can survive by pooling all of Earth's resources towards sustaining the population without destruction of the environment, fixing the environmental problems we've already caused in order to regain a more stable environment, and ultimately working towards colonization of other planets.

Of course the follow-up question here is how can we achieve this?

Ignorance and Greed are the biggest obstacles towards this goal. Greed is not always about money either. I'm using "greed" in the general sense of "Looking out for me/my family/my country/my religion at the expense of others". Personal greed, familial greed, national greed.

The best cure for Ignorance is for all of us to develop a much deeper level of knowledge. The best cure for Greed is for all of us to develop a much deeper understanding of the human condition throughout the world in order to build empathy. In this sense, I think Greed is something like a symptom of Ignorance.

By putting information at anyone's fingertips and by enabling effective communication from any two people anywhere in the world we are helping to combat both Ignorance and Greed. The last century was the first time in the history of humankind that the average person had these capabilities on any meaningful level.

The internet was the first time that the average person with minimal resources could be heard by a large percentage of the world population, provided a feedback mechanism that was close enough to real-time to engage in truly meaningful dialog, and provided the ability to gain sudden worldwide exposure through the "viral" nature of the internet. Viral in this sense is the ability for information to spread rapidly and in multiple and diverse directions.

The fact that Stephen Hawking can ask his question and get more than 16000 answers in roughly three days from people all over the world illustrates this point. Such a thing was simply not possible even just over a decade ago. The best that he could have done would be to post an ad or write an article in a popular newspaper and illicit feedback in the form of readers writing in their answers delivered by the postal service.

The internet is a vehicle for building a true global community. We just have to make sure that we're all driving it together, we're not letting greed become the driving force, and we keep the barriers of access for both content providers and users as low as possible.

This is not to say I think the internet is the magic answer, but I think it's a significant step forward for our society as a whole.

§275 · July 7, 2006 · Life · · [Print]

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