Big ideas on how we can create a better world
rom feeding the planet, to providing universal access to the internet, the world’s challenges are enormous, but so too are its opportunities. Here are some suggestions for tackling these challenges.
This article was written by the original owner of startupguide.com, Ryan Allis, and published on his website in 2012. Read more about why Ryan was happy to hand over his website domain to us here.
Our species has made immense progress over the past century. While significant challenges remain as we prepare for a world of nine billion people, these challenges are also opportunities to make the world better through science, technology, entrepreneurship, and policy.
Imagine a world in which every human being has access to their basic human needs, equal status and rights under internationally accepted law, and the right to an environmentally sustainable world to live in. What would it take to achieve this?
Achieving basic human needs for all
Almost all of the basic, most important needs that any human being must fulfill in order to survive, create, innovate, and unlock their full potential fit into a simple shape: a pyramid.
Within this pyramid of basic needs is access to water, food, medicine, security, shelter, education, electricity and the internet. Imagine the job creation, innovation and creativity that we would unleash if these needs were met for all people around the world.
Imagine a world in which every human being has access to their basic human needs, equal status and rights under internationally accepted law, and the right to an environmentally sustainable world to live in.
Water, food, and shelter
To most people around the world, turning on the tap and seeing clean, drinkable water come out does not come as a surprise. But today, according to UNICEF, 780 million humans – or eleven percent of the world’s population – still lack access to clean water.
How many people don’t have access to sufficient food to power their bodies and provide the energy they need to live? 925 million people, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
The third need is basic shelter. One billion people (that’s 1,000 million people or 14 percent of the world’s population) don’t have access to sufficient shelter. In fact, there are about one billion people worldwide currently living in slums in urban areas that are densely populated and often don’t have basic things like sanitation, running water, and electricity.
Education, medicine and healthcare
Another area where the world continues to be lacking in is in literacy, which is one of the factors that correlates with basic education. If you can’t read or write, a lot of doors in this world simply aren’t open to you. There are still 920 million people worldwide who are unable to read or write, according to UNESCO.
Next, let’s take basic medicine. According to the World Health Organization, 1.7 billion human beings don’t have access to lifesaving preventive measures and basic immunizations. We’ve made a lot of progress with reducing infant mortality, but when nearly one in four humans don’t have access to the most basic of medicines, we’ve still got a lot of work to do.
Electricity and the internet
Electricity was discovered in the nineteenth century. But more than a century later, 1.3 billion people (18.5 percent of the world) don’t have access to basic power, according to the International Energy Agency.
Imagine if you went home at night after school or work, and as soon as the sun set, you couldn’t read, listen to music, or watch TV. That’s remains the situation for nearly one in five people.
These statistics are staggering. That’s why I’ve invested in a company in Kampala, Uganda, called Village Energy that’s working to provide solar power energy to rural villages – enough to not only provide light to read and work by, but the ability to charge a cell phone and power a radio. It’s innovative companies like this one that are helping to extend electricity access to the remaining 1.3 billion people.
Finally, let’s look at internet access. Today there are about 2.1 billion people with access to the internet. What that means is there are about 4.9 billion people (nearly 70 percent of humanity) who don’t.
Just think, for a moment, about what the internet has already changed in your life: access to opportunities, people, information and education.
I’ve heard so many amazing stories of what happens when an individual who previously didn’t have access to something as simple as Wikipedia suddenly gets online. The innovative spirit within suddenly gets connected to tens of thousands of years of human innovation, experience, and engineering knowledge.
At that point, they can truly create anything they can set their mind to. They have the blueprints to build anything, do anything, and to be anyone.
I would argue that access to the internet on a smart device should be a basic human right. Fortunately, the marginal cost of providing additional internet access is very low. I think we’ll see it happen over the next thirty years, and I can’t wait.
But is thirty years really quick enough? Is there something we could do that would provide internet access to everyone in the next ten years? These are important questions to ask yourself about the world you want to create.
We owe an immense debt to the people who have come before us to fight wars, work hard, innovate, allocate capital and create new technologies and societal structures. This enables us to create a world today in which everyone has access to basic needs. And when we create that world, amazing things will become possible.
I’ve heard so many amazing stories of what happens when an individual who previously didn’t have access to something as simple as Wikipedia suddenly gets online.
A $400 billion proposal to achieve sustainable prosperity
Here’s a bold idea: what if we took just one-fifth of the $2 trillion per year spent on global military expenses and invested it instead, proportionally, into a global investment fund equal to $400 billion per year, administered by top investment professionals from each nation and overseen by a professional audit committee?
Getting 200 nations to agree to contribute twenty percent of their military budget annually to this global security fund would be challenging, but I think we could do it in our lifetime.
This Global Security Fund would give contracts to, and invest in, businesses ensuring high-quality and low-cost global access to education, food, water, shelter, and sustainable energy sources, with the goal of creating a world within ten years in which all people had access to basic human needs.
We have enough wealth, opportunity, and systems in our world to provide everyone access to food, water, shelter, basic education, basic medicine, electricity, the internet, and basic sanitation.
We can, at the same time, have a world in which a free spirit and enterprise is encouraged. We can have a world in which property rights are respected, in which governments are run efficiently and transparently, in which businesses are run ethically, and in which every child is given the ability to learn, innovate, create, contribute, and lead. This world is possible.
Supporting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
What if there were a simple document, like the Declaration of Independence, that established the rights of humans, which the United States and 48 other countries could adopt?
The reality is that document actually does exist. It was created in 1948 by the United Nations, and it’s called the Universal Declaration of Rights.
There are simple articles in this document, starting with the declaration that all human beings are born free and equal, and that everyone is entitled to the same rights without discrimination of any kind, It also mandates that everyone regardless of where they are from or who they are has the right to life, liberty, and security.
I encourage you to take a look at the full Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It’s one of the most important documents underlining the way the world can be in the future.
It’s a document used at the United Nations right now to think about how we focus our resources as a global society to create a better, more secure, and safer world for you, your family, and your kids.
A few recommendations for a better world:
Keep CO2 parts per million (PPM) under 450 – A global policy that keeps the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere under 450 PPM and targets getting back to 350 by 2040.
To accomplish this we need to tax carbon dioxide emissions at the cost that it takes to remove that amount of CO2 from the atmosphere and stop subsidizing fossil fuel production. We need to incorporate the true cost of cleaning up CO2 emissions into any business that generates CO2 emissions.
Increase basic research – Substantially increasing research and development (R&D) investment in moving to a clean energy economy and away from fossil fuels, and increasing R&D investment in basic research and the hard sciences.
Open immigration – Moving toward an open immigration system in which any human being has the right to visit and live in any place on the planet. Expanding visa programs for highly talented and educated foreigners.
Reduce defense spending – Reducing defense spending worldwide and using the difference to pay down deficits and increase teacher salaries, for example.
Increase teacher pay – Attracting more experienced teachers by increasing teacher salaries.
Simplify the tax code – Eliminating regressive tax systems in which people who work for their income pay income taxes around 35-40 percent, while those who make money from investments pay capital gains taxes of 15-20 percent.
Instead of this regressive system in which the wealthy pay lower taxes, I would propose a flat tax in which everyone pays 22 percent of the money they earn.
Bring innovation into government – Bringing the tools of innovative companies into the government, including real-time dashboards on the websites and in the lobbies of every federal agency, building creative workspaces, allowing for transparent communication, enabling agencies like the DMV to be accessed via mobile apps, having high standards for team performance, and being able to let go of poor performers.
Main photo: Unsplash/Neon Brand
*This article was originally published on October 17th, 2018 and updated on December 11th, 2018.