TED Conversations

Erik Richardson

Teacher, Richardson Ideaworks, Inc.

TEDCRED 500+

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Is the effort to improve the world a lost cause?

While we might like the hopeful images painted by Wright and Bostrom as to solving major problems, or the rise of non-zero-sum games, these only hold up when looked at in isolation from the rest of the system. If we solve the problem of death, then the impact of massive consumption on the earth will be mind-boggling. Similarly if we achieve economic harmony between nation-states, the impact of increases in material growth and consumption would be astounding. It seems to me that non-zero-sumness only exists at a localized level, and that when looked at in the larger context, there is always a decline offsetting the gain. Even in Lomborg's talk, we must allow that reducing suffering due to problem A is to allow continued increase is suffering due to problems B-Z.

What are examples of gains or improvements that don't have counterbalancing downsides?

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    Sky F

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    Apr 23 2011: Reminds me of Kurt Vonnegut's 2BR02B story where it's the future and society has cured death. People are outlawed from having children unless they get someone to voluntarily commit suicide. It's a short story (10 minutes, on the internet) whose main character finds someone who agree to kill themself, and then the main character finds out he's having twins... He then basically damns the whole system.

    It's a very interesting, I found myself wondering if that future was dystopian or utopian, and that there really is no perfect society.

    In the end Vonnegut attributes starvation, plague, and war simply to our desire to reproduce and the fact that we have limited territory and resources.

    Hence why I guess the government puts so much money into NASA.

    Anyway, I agree with you. There's pretty much only localized harmony. "World peace and good will towards all" just seems like a pipe dream. Still, I think the best option is to do our best...
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      Apr 23 2011: Interesting tie-in to science fiction, Sky. I think you're exactly right about the role our space programs will play.
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    May 16 2011: As a person that has dedicated his life to make this world a better place I shall not hope so.
    The problems that we face are simple and can be eradicated very easily.

    Problem No. 1.) The Governments
    Problem No. 2.) The Banks and the Banking System

    Both are inward anarchic organizations that are self serving while on the outward claiming to be democratic hence they need our support.
    Money is nothing but a Drug and a system of control hence the whole world are money "Junkies" dependent on a virtual substance without they can not live anymore.
    And the Government and Religion are the Dealers while the Banks are the Pushers i.e. providers.
    Technology like mine is prevailed from reaching a marketable stage by those Gangsters and I use this word reluctantly but there is no other word for it.
    There are over 100+ technologies out there that if implemented can reduce CO2 emissions to an absolute 0.
    Further more with all what we have we can regrow the deserts of this world we can feed and educate every single person in this world to the maximum of their capabilities and we can clean up this mess we have right now.
    What is stopping us to do just that?
    Banks and Politicians

    We are One planet we share all the same:
    Water Air and Land.
    What we do to other people we do top our self.
    What we do to this planet we do to our self.

    Time to wake up, NOW!

    http://zeroemissiontransportation.webs.com/
    http://zeroemissiontransportation.webs.com/allweneediswater.htm
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      May 17 2011: But, if we eliminate banks and governments to get rid of one set of bad things, wouldn't we merely clear the path for a new set of bad things equally or even more bad?
  • May 13 2011: There are different concepts in which the world can be improved in, for example, some countries are growing massively economicaly while others are faling to meet the standard of the world itself...and i see that as the cause of the unstable politics faced and the accumulating rates,in conclution for me the effort to improve the world is a lost cause in strugling parts of the world.
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    Apr 23 2011: I've often said that society works perfectly until people get involved.

    Death is a problem? Some might say it is a release. Others might say it is a transition.

    I think what is happening at the moment is that we are eagerly anticipating a brave, new world but many, many people are trying to move to this new century while clinging to what we've always done.

    Politicians are the absolute worst. They are box-ticking in the extreme. We have no visionary leaders in NZ, just over-paid accountants..
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      Apr 24 2011: Yes! Plus, I love the opening line.

      What do you think it will take to ignite the start of the brave, new world?
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        May 8 2011: I honestly think it has started.

        I feel that organisation is humanity's greatest and worst tendancy. (Obviously, momentous achievements have been made through the focused and concerted effort of groups of individuals.)

        But rules and systems are notoriously difficult to change.

        I find politics in NZ disheartening. All of our politicians are bringing their old ideas, attitudes and solutions to problems. They don't seem to be capable of independent thought or even have any shred of imagination, which will be vital if we are to solve some of the looming issues of this new century.

        When these systems and the same old clowns that operate them are removed and replaced, then the brave new world will come to greater focus.

        So, I guess I'm with Alby Einstein on this - imagination will be key. We need people in 'power' to exercise this muscle. How that will happen? Osmosis through people power? I'm not sure, but I'd like to count myself in with the hopers and the dreamers..
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    Apr 23 2011: 'Based on results' yes. That said we need to look at the results so far and realign those results to our world vision. However, 'Based on results' we do not have world peace, we do not have a good answer to global warming nor do we have an achievable goal for the economic situation we are in. Don't get me wrong, I am not a pessimist in fact just the opposite, if we can achieve this much without any kind of real leadership and cooperation between countries, just think what we could achieve if we got out of our own way?