TED Conversations

Phillip Beaver

Citizen, Humankind


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What are your essential requirements of humankind—what do you need to live in peace with your fellow humans?

Anticipating my eighth decade, I am one in 7 billion; a minnow in an ocean. Yet, I feel humankind includes me and needs me, much like a hand needs its fingers (borrowing from Ralph Waldo Emerson). Neighbors and people in other countries make me feel important; but members of political regimes seem a threat.

Humankind seems preoccupied by diverse nations. Yet, when I meet people in other nations, they seem like me--simply wanting to live in peace as “I” see it. Each “as I see it” does not seem as far apart as our nations influence us to feel.

I wonder if it is because we have no forum to share what we, individual humans, would like to receive from the rest of ourselves: humankind.

Often, when people propose peace or unity, they invite “the truth,” faiths, reason, prosperity, conformity, an ideology, and other objects that 7 billion people just cannot address. I invite thoughts about what it takes to live in confidence, despite the un-knowns humankind faces.

I think I need:

Enough rest and sensible food supply
Exercise, talk, reading, and writing
Use of most of my earnings and confidence any taxes are used for humankind, not an elite few
Security to care for myself and loved ones
Opportunities to meet with other humans who want to visit with me.

Perhaps “security” is the broadest of my five concerns. It involves many issues, such as, the rule of written law, lawfulness as common as obeying traffic signals, freedom of thought, ordinary protection of my home and property, medical care according to the risks I choose or take, environmental protection, and work opportunity commensurate with my contributions.

Without attention to your nation's governance, what would you require of humankind? How could you feel confident that you are as independent and significant as a finger on a hand--so essential to humankind?

Revision 1. July 2, 2012, Rev 2 in last paragraph July 8.


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  • Jun 28 2012: Pat and I definitely disagree on the government issue.

    I can't imagine any way it could actually be done, but I would like to see some way to assure that each generation leaves the world a bit better off rather than just a bit more stripped of its resources. Just coming up with a measure for this might be interesting. If we make the world better by eradicating smallpox, does that make up for X amount of resources?
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      Jun 28 2012: I would say that that is exactly what the U.S. and other countries have been trying to do for the last 100yr always looking for that elusive magic top down policy.

      But as per my previous post have left the human capital that much poorer.
      • Jun 29 2012: Pat,

        First, I did not intend to start an argument with your philosophy of government. Please separate my two paragraphs as two completely independent ideas.

        Then you might understand that when I wrote "some way" I did not mean that it was necessarily a top down approach. The argument I was expecting was that capitalism has already achieved this goal, and indeed capitalism is a very impressive generator of wealth. However, capitalism does not necessarily produce a sustainable economy.

        Now that I have given more thought to my original idea, I think the key is to develop a measure. Perhaps the sum of global wealth, plus some number representing the health of the world population, plus the total resources still available. Unlike strictly economic measures, it must reflect the sustainability of progress. If everyone could see a number that reflects our sustainable progress, voluntary actions might be influenced toward increasing sustainability. I am not near smart enough to figure this out by myself.
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          Jun 29 2012: Barry

          I'm not talking about a philosophy, I'm talking about what works. The daily economy consists of 100's of billions of transactions that connects every individual in the world and holds each one accountable to whoever they are trading with. This is irreducibly simple and infinitely complex at the same time. No one individual can even remotely control this at the very best they will introduce unintended consequences.

          From an empirical point of view please read Zdenek Smith's comments here:

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      Jun 28 2012: By "disagree" do you assert that the stronger the government the stronger the individual?

      It seems the stronger the government the wealthier the elite and the weaker the individual.

      Isn't economic viability a measure of geopolitical success? If so, it seems the world is in economic crisis.

      More importantly, what pared-down requirements would you propose in order to agree to be governed by the state?
      • Jun 29 2012: Phillip,

        By "disagree" I meant that in my opinion statements like "the stronger the government the weaker the individual" are unrealistically simplistic; they have little application to a representative form of government where every result is the product of compromise, especially in a country as big as the USA. My ideas about government are not based on any philosophy; I don't claim to know the optimum size of government. My opinions about government issues are based on the actual situation and the realistic options available.

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