TED Conversations

John Davis

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Rehabilitate the homeless in America by using simulated environments with guidance by volunteer professionals from a variety of fields.

"Why are we helping so many poor people all across the world when we have so many homeless people here at home?" This is a common question that seems to never be answered. Is it cognitive dissonance? Is it apathy? Is it the worry of more costly social programs?

I believe in the innate goodness of people, and I believe we see it in each other every day. So why is it still a problem?

What I propose is that we work together to alleviate the suffering of others in this country by creating simulated towns that volunteer homeless can come to. By training them to maintain a hygienic existence, obtain simulated work and pay, and allow them to shop in stores stocked with donated items, we can reintegrate them into the real world again. This process would be guided by volunteer counselors, psychologists, nutritionists, financial specialists, law enforcement, and anyone else who is willing to donate their skills for creating a better future for those we all know we deeply care about. This environment could also serve as a free means for students of all levels, globally, to see constructive altruism in action. We would also welcome them as volunteers, where they can obtain real experience that could help them in their respective career-or even life-choices.

There are many innovative products being used today in developing countries that could make this program very inexpensive. By establishing a non-profit or charitable trust organization, we can assure that all donations go straight to the program.

Besides just offering our time, I believe the homeless are the key to reaching unprecedented wisdom and innovation possibilities in this country. Their unique perspective on hardship could serve to help us eventually regain our country's status as a beacon of hope for the struggling all across the world, and we can take what we know elsewhere and help all who need it.

The hope is for a restoration of pride and meaning. Both in the homeless, and in ourselves.


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    Nov 20 2012: There are some homeless people who are homeless because of what you offer as a cure.

    You seem to be unaware of the fact that income inequality that is built into the fiscal system ($$$) we cling to is the core cause of poverty, homelessness, crime, lack of higher education, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc.

    you also have a very low opinion of homeless people. This isn't helpful.

    Why not fix the problem rather than give another indoctrination "fix".
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      Nov 21 2012: TED Lover,

      After poring over your response for a bit:

      Based on your name, your badge rating, acknowledging the beautiful spirit that TED has brought to the world, and looking at your blatantly contradictory response, I have come to this conclusion:

      You are brilliantly playing devil's advocate.

      As with all, I deeply appreciate your response and I hope you will continue to engage this conversation, as well as help us all contribute to the creative process to hopefully find solutions to any problems that we bring up here.

      Before I respond, I ask you to watch this video:

      Also, to ponder this quote from John Emmerling:
      "Innovation is creativity with a job to do."

      As a current Arizona State University student (I'm in my 30s, and joined college after the military), my degree has a heavy focus on innovation. For innovation to work, there is a process. The first step in that process, as with any process in life, is to identify that problem and work to find solutions. The problem does not have to be completed. That defies the process. You cannot conclude anything until you have explored the avenues of success or failure. Going back to how I think this is a test based on my highest hopes of your character, I can only assume that you are catching us off guard and are engaging this process by hitting the ground running, or that you have already covered this subject many times with others and have meaningful insight on how this proposed solution can be concluded.

      If it is the latter, I ask that you practice patience with this, as your experience is not mine and depriving me of the process of finding out why this will fail is not beneficial. Instead, I ask you to use your wisdom to guide the conversation and ask questions that will instill a new perspective for me.
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      Nov 21 2012: To start, to identify the problem requires a following brainstorming process. To brainstorm, all ideas must be presented. In this phase, there are no wrong answers, no bad questions, no bad connections that are made. The purpose is to create an environment of creativity; to get the brain flowing with ideas, no matter how obscene or how great they seem. Following this process, everyone picks the best ideas that could carry the idea along, which they then explore to see what dead ends, or what new ideas, may occur from the selected group.

      To address your first point:

      If the system I propose is the same system that has caused homelessness in the first place, what do you propose? Help me find the holes in the proposal so we can close those gaps and move forward.

      If I approach your ambiguous statement from an economic perspective, I come up with this:

      There is no resource management system (aka government) that can prevent homelessness. Socialism, communism, capitalism, meritocracy, theocracy - any of the given systems that man has devised. The reason for this seems to be quite simple - we do not have infinite resources. Without infinite resources, there will always be need. With need comes desire. With desire, the potential for envy. With envy, or the simple need to survive, bellicism.

      I'll point out the now defunct system called mercantilism. The mercantilist philosophy necessitates that a country must hoard precious metals to stay ahead of competitors and retain (if they have it) military dominance. To perpetuate this, the host government assumes total economic control, and if necessary, invests in domestic firms to produce goods that could otherwise be imported. The problem with that is because resources are finite, you must eventually release wealth back to your competitors to gather the raw materials needed to sustain production. Now, because the host nation puts heavy barriers to trade on imports, it creates the aforementioned
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      Nov 21 2012: bellicism because of the natural assumption that surrounding nations you are exporting to will be unwilling to give you a fair deal on those materials. This happens because as you amass wealth, there is less for their own people, requiring them to increase the costs of materials to compensate for what they are losing by paying the heavy costs of the trade barriers. Too much of that leads to war. Exacerbating the issue is the bullionism that was inherent among the elite, who even though told promises of a more prosperous nation because of the mercantilist system, only hoarded the wealth for themselves and maintained the status quo among the poor anyway.
      This led to the concept of Laissez-faire capitalism, which is essentially the opposite of mercantilism. Here's the problem with that: It just reverses the process on the most fundamental levels. By creating totally free trade with no governmental regulation on trade barriers, exploitation of the theory of comparative advantage comes into play. That leads to difficult domestic economic turbulence, disrupts the ratio of compensation and pay, and slows the economy. This, of course, as we can see with the current Arab Spring and the rioting across Europe, leads to revolt.

      War within, war without. What's the difference? It all revolves around resources.

      If you could propose a system that does not rely on tangible objects for wealth (money, metals/precious metals), I would engage you in that conversation for as long as I live. I would love our world to rely on each other to find value instead of relying on the exchange of currency, or something that just leads back to currency.
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      Nov 21 2012: A touch on capitalism:

      In my opinion, the problems that I have mentioned is what eventually created the modern capitalist system that we live under today. One thing that separates our system from the others from the past, and even the present, is choice. As a free market society, you have the freedom to decide what to purchase, what not to purchase, create business where you see fit as long as you adhere to state and local regulations, and MOST importantly, what to do with your money.

      To me, the last part is everything that provides substance and meaning to our system. Because of the tight central control over money and resources of our previous government overseas, our country broke free and through struggle and victory, obtained the right to be responsible for ourselves. What I am saying is that if there are homeless who are that way not because they have mental illness or because of a simple choice to be that way, they unfortunately indirectly chose to be that way.

      The good news however, is that there is balance. That as a nation of responsible people, we are supposed to understand that there are those who will make mistakes, or there will be those who cannot help what happened to them. We should not only have the means to help the people in our towns get back on their feet, but actively do so with all the care that someone would give to family, within reason. By doing so, we strengthen our bonds to each other and resign to the deeper need for connection, safety, and support. However, Americans today are known for being excessive, known for spending beyond our means, known for not saving for the future, and with that, the fear to know our neighbors because we could not sustain them asking for our help. In addition to that, we have chosen to remove the skill of farming as a necessary tool for retaining liberty and preventing ourselves from being a burden, have chosen to be persuaded too much by marketing tactics, and are solely responsible for
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      Nov 21 2012: what people perceive as government abuses. As a republic, we choose our representatives, and then set them free to uphold the values, under trust, to carry through with our wishes. Politicians playing games, however, is expected. That was why our country was founded on the principal that you must regulate government and prevent them from doing what every other central power has ever done. We do that by relying on each other for support so we may not be so affected if the federal government buckles under pressure.
      What have we really done to prevent it? What have we done to perpetuate it? What about yourself? I can honestly say that I am the same American that I portray in the previous paragraph. But I'm trying, TED Lover. I am trying to believe that our current system is the closest opportunity for people to create value and wealth from something other than tangible resources. I am trying to reconstitute the idea that we do not need government support to help those we are responsible for. This comes from the understanding that we can only help those who want to be helped, and by leading by example, maybe we can get the ones who are resistant to changes in the status quo to eventually jump on board.

      As for my opinion on homeless people, I can only urge you to read my idea again and reconsider. I will point out specifically paragraph 5.

      I'll end with this:

      What does revolt against the British government, going to the moon, and the pet rock all have in common?

      They were successful.

      I don't think that this idea is so far-fetched. It just needs to be worked on.

      Again, I appreciate your time and response. Please continue contributing to this post. I hope you will do so with a different set of eyes (if you're not just playing devil's advocate), and in a way that promotes the brainstorming phase. I hope anyone who still contributes will take this as effort, and not be overly critical of it.
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        Gail . 50+

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        Nov 22 2012: Those who know me on this site know that I am a proponent of a moneyless society and no private ownership of land. I am also a proponent of a very different kind of government - the kind that the ratifiers of our Constitution intended, but which was overthrown by the Supreme Court in a bloodless coup d'etat in 1819.

        Money is the root of all of our social ills, though it is helped along by the Abrahamic religions. If you study the history of money and our economic model (and religion) , you will see that our money system was intentionally established to create an aristocracy and a race of laborers, the latter of which, by reason of natural selection (& wars), will die in sufficient numbers to keep the system in place.

        Our fiscal model cannot work in a system where equality reigns because our fiscal model is intended to create homeless people. For this reason, your solution is unworkable.

        Your view
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          Nov 23 2012: TED Lover,

          First, please refer to my post to Fritzie Reisner about my career field. It is ambiguous, and for important reasons. However, you will get the idea.

          Now, a piece of advice: reconsider using an unsubstantiated support base to provide yourself with any desired degree of credibility. You will certainly get the opposite in almost every case. In general, it serves only the person using the tactic, and almost always to mask insecurity. Instead, I recommend giving yourself the time and care necessary to develop a strong case about any of your opinions, so you know which ones are worthy of commenting on, and which ones are worthy of conceding to ignorance. I do this often.

          Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe you are referring to yourself as an anarchist. Furthermore, your response is more bold, which leads me to believe that you are becoming more emotional in this discussion. What I'll do at this point is exercise more brevity, as this can easily degrade into a debate that I will not participate in.

          My response:

          - At the core, what are the differences between bartering and coin, and what are the similarities - in terms of fundamental psychological change that promotes/prevents a person from making a choice to help someone?
          - Can either of them provide an absolute assurance of security or fulfillment of the basic human needs?
          - Also, barter or coin, how does it fundamentally change our abilities to help those in need?
          - Was the world more, less, or just as safe before the creation of the monetary system?
          - Do I have the choice to make the best with what I have available?

          - Can you address any of the points I made on the economic angle I used to approach your last post? I have provided you with a summary on why *some* problems may exist. I used information that you can research, and reach your own conclusions with. Can you please provide me with information that led you to your conclusion?
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          Nov 23 2012: - Do you propose that the books of the Abrahamic faiths promote abuse? Is it possible that it is not the faith, but the people who exist within the faith that promote abuse?

          - Can you tell me of any religion that has not been used as a tool for abuse?

          - How familiar are you with the documentary film Zeitgeist?

          Finally: Please keep the topic on point. The answers you provide to my questions can all be tied back into the idea that I have proposed. Unfortunately, I will not deviate from the post, and any efforts to do so will be ignored.

          I appreciate your response, and I hope you continue positively contributing to this discussion.

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