Kevin Goodwin

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What can we do to get our intelligentsia to focus on the major problems of our time?

It seems that we (humanity, particularly in Western cultures) have far more (in number) intelligent people either complaining about, placing blame for, or making fun of the problems of our day than actually trying to fix them. How do we re-instill an attitude or belief that we can overcome our problems in people who have already stopped trying or never really believed it possible?

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    Oct 30 2011: Kevin --

    A 'Hmmm" --

    Below is the reading done at my church this morning. I don't usually copy religious texts into secular discussions, but the connections to your Q were striking, in my mind:

    A Warning Against Hypocrisy

    "Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them."

    “Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries[a] wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces (...)."

    From the Christian gospel, according to Matthew.

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      Oct 30 2011: Andrea -
      How perfect for our times! So much wisdom in the red letters. Thanks!
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      Oct 30 2011: And he also put it a little more succinctly thus:

      You hypocrite! First remove the beam from your own eye, and then you will see clearly enough to remove the speck from your brother's eye. – Matthew 7:5
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      Nov 3 2011: But doesn't quoting Christian literature that so bitterly accuses Rabbi's of doing what Priests do feel a little bit contradictory and divisive for humankind?

      Even the thumbs up seem divisive to me, and I'm not relgious.

      Please help me understand the contribution to humankind.

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        Nov 3 2011: Phil,

        No, quoting Christian literature that accuses Rabbis of doing what Priests do indicates humane insight.

        Religiously contradicting others attempts at insight is divisive.

        The quote's "contribution to humankind" is the same as one that quotes a non-religious text, like Khalil Ghibran or Betrand Russell.

        Or this, by Christian critic Ralph Waldo Emerson:

        "That which we call sin in others is experiment for us."

        "Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of a second person, hypocrisy begins. We parry and fend the approach of our fellow-man by compliments, by gossip, by amusements, by affairs. We cover up our thought from him under a hundred folds."

        With due respect, Phil:

        Your perseverative and borderline-propoghandist disrespect for humans who possess and speak of their religious faith contradicts your defense of humankind.

        Atheists haven't exactly had a shining record as humanitarians, either. Still we love 'em and humans of all stripes and mantels who sincerely try.

        Especially when they exhibit insight. It is more humane.

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          Nov 3 2011: I am sorry for the question, Andrea.

          I am so out of touch I thought you would write something like, "Thanks Phil for the reminder; many of my freinds are Jewish. Some priests are hypocrites, too."

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        Nov 3 2011: Phil,

        The priest who read the Biblical passage earlier this week is a deeply respected humanitarian who is "notorious" for his love of Jews. He commissioned an oratorio commemorating the 60th Anniversary of the Holocaust to honor Jewish people and to illuminate Christian complicity in the Holocaust.

        Advisors of the performance included numerous Jewish and Catholic leaders and not a few non-religious.

        It was premiered by the Minnesota Orchestra at Minneapolis' largest Catholic church, a Rome-connected Basilica. It went on to be performed globally, including as shown here by students from a US Catholic college at a German concentration camp.

        All of us: Jews, Gentiles, Muslims, Christians, Richard Dawkins, leaders, followers and all in between are capable of hypocrisy.

        Which I'm reminded of when my ass is kicked for assuming I know whatever it is I'm sure of in the moment.

        And, as I write this, I'm aware of risking right here.

        It seems self-hypocrisy-awareness is often only understood in "hindsight insight."

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        Nov 4 2011: Also, remove the labels (Christian, Jew, etc) and replace them with "humans" and the sentiment works as an observation of human behaviour (not Jewish or Christian behaviour.)
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          Nov 4 2011: Thomas, you have a good point.

          When I wrote a letter withdrawing my name from the Baptist brotherhood (I sent it to the Louisiana Baptist Message, since there is no central authority) my pastor called me with his copy and said, "Phil, you cannot withdraw. For twenty years you have been the out-of-the-box thinker in this church."
          I responded, "I know that. But I am beating my head against a brick wall, and it hurts. It is time for me to pursue something else."

          Fortunately, reforming the Christian literature is no longer my concern. Suggesting that it needs either reform or protection in privacy is humankind's concern, and I am a member.

    • Nov 3 2011: I find a lot of truth in these old passages. Should be required reading for current day politicians. I sometimes wonder if things really have changed so much. Perhaps we equate our being to the technological advances that are going on around us and have forgotten our common ground.
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    Nov 3 2011: Academia rewards individual achievement- and industry is much the same. We have to find ways to reward collaborative work groups - who are needed for many of the problems we face around the environment, infrastructures (energy, water, food, etc.) - which will take professionals from across disciplines, working together to effect change. That is *truly* "out of the box" thinking. Academia / industry keeps people "in the box."
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    Nov 3 2011: One thing I know, you have to believe that you can do it : CHANGING! People are so afraid to change, scare of the unknown, but in the same time, it's part of our DNA, SOUL, BODY, MIND AND SPIRITUALLY, we are all here on this planet to change.

    When people said write the book of your life, and most of us write : I want to be rich, help others, be more caring etc., they do not realize they have to do the work to CHANGE what they are lacking to go about and to ACTUALLY : becoming rich, helping someone else etc...

    When we asset all that, of course our intelligence become receptive to this new ways of doing things, and it actually come easier. When you have that consciousness of doing the right thing, your intelligence ACTUALLY know what the best things to do in any circumstances.

    You don't need a PHD to be intelligent, you need to work and change to become the best human being you can be and want to be, by doing so, you automatically make others around you benefit from it, and your intelligence follow your heart, not your head.

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      Nov 3 2011: Mireille: That was exactly what I'm asking about. There are tons of people who WANT to change themselves and their conditions. There are relatively few people who are WORKING for change, in themselves or in the issues humans face.
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        Nov 3 2011: Cheers Kevin! Is so true!!

        Luckily, that ONE person can change the world, because if we were suppose to wait for a bunch of us, to DO THE ACTUAL WORK OF CHANGING THEMSELVES, we will be instinct for sure as a race!!

        So, I say : I'm CHANGING, and going to the process of changing, facing myself and my fear, fight my bad thoughts, bind them etc., even if sometimes, I cried, I'm angry, mad, etc.... I WANT TO DO THE WORK TO BECOME THE BEST HUMAIN BEING THAT I CAN BE, because I want to CHANGE all of this human suffering, help others, end world poverty and I will succeed, before God calls me back and of course, by His grace, no one can stop me !!

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    Nov 2 2011: You need to reform the democracy.

    To adopt geniocracy instead of democracy.
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    Oct 30 2011: Hold them accountable.
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      Oct 31 2011: For the screw ups of other people?

      Besides, what happened to "the answer will come from the every man"? While maybe they may come up with the foundation of a solution but why are we absolving everyone else from their role in the implementation?
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    Oct 30 2011: Kevin--

    Excellent Q.

    The answer, in my mind, is to begin solving the problems while inviting intelligentsia to help by putting their methods where their mouths are at, so to speak.

    This inverts usual technocratic models. By modeling how participatory, experiential efforts can achieve the concrete results which are all too often abstracted and isolated in research and think-tank silos.

    It challenges experts to test their own theories in equal measure to how much they tell them to others.

    It is common for experts to spread their wealth of ideas though influence. Thus focus is often there, and, in fact can be working in ways not visible on the outside. But, then again, so are counter-focus influences.

    There is no more powerful proof of the efficacy of a solution than that modeled by its makers.

    The doctor who practices the preventative care she prescribes, the politician who eschews special interest funds to insure the integrity his campaign ads claim, the preacher who practices what he pontificates.

    A recent example is Jeffrey Sachs engagement with the Occupy Wall Street movement. While many in academia are coaxing students into action, through various venues, Sachs breaks elite models by working with the 99% "commoners."

    My personal view is all people have significant untapped intelligence and culturally constructive potentials. In my mind, all stakeholders can and ought to be both engaged by others and engage themselves in creating and enacting solutions.

    Which means non-pedigreed people must also stop complaining, placing blame and mocking the problems of others. And, make all efforts to lead the intelligentsia by showing 'em how real solutions are done.

    Some writing I've done on similar themes --

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      Oct 30 2011: I like this approach but I do believe we need to shift our focus from "solving external 'problems'" to "finding internal 'solutions.'"

      As long as we think our "happiness" is defined by circumstance, we will attempt to modify our external environment in a vain attempt to be satisfied.

      The best predictor of the future, is the past. If manipulating our environment was a source of fulfillment, virtually every citizen in a "developed" nation would be verging on enlightenment. This is not the case. And, apparently, a global epiphany is not imminent.

      There may be a lesson in this simple observation.
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        Oct 30 2011: Thomas,

        Regards being not being defined by circumstance.

        By William Ernest Henley:

        Out of the night that covers me,
        Black as the pit from pole to pole,
        I thank whatever gods may be
        For my unconquerable soul.

        In the fell clutch of circumstance
        I have not winced nor cried aloud.
        Under the bludgeonings of chance
        My head is bloody, but unbowed.

        Beyond this place of wrath and tears
        Looms but the Horror of the shade,
        And yet the menace of the years
        Finds and shall find me unafraid.

        It matters not how strait the gate,
        How charged with punishments the scroll,
        I am the master of my fate:
        I am the captain of my soul.

        A favorite of Nelson Mandela, whose leadership models might be worth considering, in practice.

        Perhaps they are prescient of hope for humanity. Provided we can heed the pro-social lessons.

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          Oct 30 2011: Andrea - wow! Thanks.
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          Oct 30 2011: Yes, "Invictus" is a lovely poem with heroic themes. I think its focus on the "individual overcoming circumstance" is aligned with my sentiment. But I also think what I am talking about can be achieved simply, quietly, and humbly regardless of circumstance. That is, whether one faces "wrath and tears" or one faces parent teacher meetings and mac-and-cheese, one might find an inner solution that is equally sublime.

          Hāfiz captures some of what I suggest in this lovely excerpt:

          The Truth has shared so much of Itself
          With me

          That I can no longer call myself
          A man, a woman, an angel,
          Or even a pure

          Love has
          Befriended Hafiz so completely
          It has turned to ash
          And freed

          Of every concept and image
          my mind has ever known.

          – Hāfiz (Khwāja Šamsu d-Dīn Muḥammad Hāfez-e Šhīrāzī)

          Imagine feeling so complete and fulfilled that the labels we love to apply simply have no meaning. In such a state, we would not need to "solve a problem" big or small in order to feel good about ourselves.

          We could but we would not "have too."

          It is a subtle point and one that is usually met with, "Yeah but if we all thought like that, we would not deal with __________ [fill in the blank.]"

          This might be true. It might not.

          My assertion is that if we felt satisfied with life (not circumstance) we would very likely NOT have created the major problems we now have before us to begin with.

          The "solution" is within us. It is within you. It is within me.

          I doubt very much many people will appreciate this but, until we do, I suggest we will continue to "solve ourselves" into bigger and bigger problems.
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        Oct 30 2011: Thomas,

        Beautiful, thank you.

        Hafiz as yang to Hanley's yin.

        Truly breathtaking.

  • Oct 29 2011: Hi Peter Holleman:
    I might direct you to an idea I posted that you can peruse if you wish, tear apart (more than likely) but hopefully will think deeper into the "how this can actually be done" (or something like it), and all the connections between peoples, countries and cultures it might possibly create, that would be beneficial. It is on page 2 of the "Ideas" page here and is titled, "Is there a way for the world to solve it's problems that involves most of the population". Maybe needs a better intro but it is hard to be so exact and get so much into only 2,000 characters.

    It's focus I guess is to be "plunder-free" as you put it. When you say, "economy free" I'm not sure what you mean.
    Economy means not wasting and as far as money (economy) goes I believe strongly that the world won't make it if it doesn't move away from money. That is where greed, crime, deception, politics and money itself, among many, play a negative influencing role in decision making.

    I'm not claiming to answer your question but only to see if I've written something that resonates with you and your idea, and vice versa. What resonates with me today are ideas that are really thinking differently and away from the institutions and such that we have now

    They are primarily the reason why we find ourselves in the serious predicament we are in. It is worldwide and only together is there a possibility of solving them. By this, I suppose I am somewhat referring to "the problem solvers" mentioned by Kevin Goodwin here. The ones in position at present with the power to solve our problems, have not done so. We need new problem solvers who make decisions not based on money or politics but on what will really work. It seems to me, those new problem solvers are us.

    I will keep saying it:
    Things don't "get done" because of money. Things "don't get done",.....because of money.
  • Oct 28 2011: Think for yourself
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      Oct 31 2011: Man, I wish I had thought of that!
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    Nov 4 2011: Thank you everyone for your input and your feedback. Our way is clear as mud, but it seems we have enough hands to keep going forward.
  • Nov 3 2011: We concentrate on curing the fruit of the tree, it has always been man's desire to eliminate the current situation to prolong his mutation, we are doing well at 7 billion, even if the tree is dying.
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      Nov 4 2011: The fruit cannot kill the tree. (Think about it.)
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    Nov 3 2011: Great question Kevin,
    I will honestly have side with Chomsky on this one and really say that the intelligentsia(in general) is not really concerned about the major issues of of the world.There are of course some exceptions to this but for the most part the intelligentsia is really about social, political and economic power.

    Chomsky stated in an essay on Liberal Scholarship (1969) that "power in our time has more intelligence in its service". When I think of this statement I really think about the Trilateral Commission. Its purpose is covered up by utilitarian language but what they really are for (and they have openly stated this) is that they "seek to indoctrinate the young" and to get them to be obedient, conformist and thoughtless citizens. Now this is hard to do in the domain of science and technology being that innovation is really an imperative when it comes to these subjects but as long as one can be controlled politically, economically and socially the elite class really have nothing to worry about. Also most of the intelligentsia are working with these big media corporations as well.

    Now to really address your claim, change is not going to come about through the intelligentsia.: For one most of them really cannot relate to the everyday struggles that many people around the world go through. Lets talk about one issue: WATER. In India the Narmanda river flooded due to the creation of the Bhakra Damn. Many indigenous peoples livelihood were destroyed. The intelligentsia decided that irrigation, electricity and drinking water for millions were more important than 2 million people impoverished. But from what I know about Indian Politics, its really corrupt and those who are corrupting it are those privileged enough to get an eduction. China hand the same issues with the 3 Gorged Dam.
    intelligence is not the only requirement for change. What it really comes down to is a recognition of ones situation and taking direct action to change it. numbers=power
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      Nov 4 2011: Orlando: I agree with Chomsky and you. Politics and business are corrupt and in many case are corrupted by members of "the Intelligentsia". This is all the more reason why popular politics and popular policy don't stand a chance because it's too easy for those who want to get over to claim "some expert" says this is good. With enough "experts" to call bullshit, the population could have real information and use their masses to stop bad policy/decisions.
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    Nov 3 2011: I believe that society (at least in my art of the world) as dropped a bit in my opinion.

    I live in a world where society holds people like Katy Price at the hight of culture and naming these people as the progressive thinkers of the day. The fact of the matter is that the intellectuals of my society are not people like teachers, scientists and artists... they are people who get their tits out and make a shed load of cash in the process.

    This is only a very small example of one aspect but can you see people like that co-ordinating red cross supplies in Africa... No. Can you see these kinds of people being anything more than a media magnet to any issue... No.

    Aspirational society is a bit to blame, its all about getting rich (or the end result) and no thought goes into why they do what they do.

    I think as a society, we need to re-define what being intelligent is and what being successful means, then you will find things move in the right direction.
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    Nov 3 2011: Its lack of a proper, genuine platform for talks, a platform that is able to enrich the healthy environment for constructive debates, which are conclusive, material, applicable and being a party to debate offers some kind of authority to people involved to execute the outcome. The model of such platform should invite merger of politics as well as socio-economical concerns of the world. It should primary be based on 'common minimum programs', starting with however small and expanding to larger common issues which least can be identified as 'dual' or rather involves contradictions. Yes, we will have to reform democracy or it could perish under its own weight of passivity. Before we make a dialog, we have got to erect a high fidelity model of such platform, in absence of which, all debates are nothing but new TRPs. Thanks to TED ,this is some start.
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    Nov 3 2011: Hello Kevin, I think that part of the answer is embedded in the way you have asked the question: The mere definition of focus is to concentrate or narrow down. The more problems we try to solve in parallel, the less effective.

    So I would imagine the first step would be to come to an agreement as to the short list of what those problems are. And since we cannot avoid the duality of being individuals but living in groups (and extending the paradigm a little more: living in small groups but interacting with ever larger groups), then the proposed list should include at least one local problem and one global problem.

    But start by solving the one local problem and then move on on a bigger scale. I would argue that local problems are usually easier to attack than global ones, but being successful on the small scale serves as a learning towards bigger enterprises. Move up just one level, to solve a problem that is common to several groups around. Maybe by the time you solve medium to large problems, the agreed global issues may have changed. But by showing that increasingly complex problems can be solved by interacting with ever growing groups of people, the daunting task of attacking one single global problem will seem less daunting.

    One problem at a time, and small scale before big scale.

    What kind of problems do you consider major?
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      Nov 3 2011: Andres, I like your approach. In essense you are building a grass-roots movement toward the goal of local, metropolitan, national, and global problem solving. The issues I consider major and worldwide are: stabilize national economies, better distribution of food, healthcare, education, environmentally-sustainable methods for subsistence living.
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        Nov 4 2011: All of these very important issues indeed Kevin. How would you prioritize them? For example, I would put better distribution of food (and would add clean water) above healthcare, and maybe healthcare still above education. But that is my personal prioritization. Vernon Nolan (search for "A World army to supply food free for all" in the TED conversations) for example, has started outlining his ideas around one of these issues (food distribution)

        Once your list is prioritized, what kind of local problem could you attack that would support the issue that ends up on top of your list? And as you work on the solution of your local problem, how could you escalate from your local problem solving up to a more global scale?

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    Nov 3 2011: Vote the right one!
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    Nov 3 2011: I can think of no problem that woudn't be greatly deminished or entirely eliminated by slowly reducing the human population. Can you?
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      Nov 3 2011: Oooo! Are you another VHEMT member? I am!
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        Nov 3 2011: QUOTE: "...VHEMT..."

        Ah, hubris, thy name is human!

        I.e. Thinking ANY solution we can come up with of is somehow an improvement over evolution.

        That nature adapts (and will continue to adapt) to our incursions is a testament to nature, not to our cognitive contributions, such as they are. Having said that, we are part of nature and the role we play WILL have (is having!) an impact. What nature does with it is beyond our ken. Trial and error. Live and learn.
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          Nov 3 2011: If we haven't learned by now we soon will
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          Nov 3 2011: You realize, I hope, that there aren't actually cards to carry in that organization? There's not really any "membership" per se?

          "Live and learn"? Looks like we're failing on the second front. Which may, or may not lead to failure on the first.

          (The outcome will be determined long after I am gone.)
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        Nov 3 2011: QUOTE: "You realize, I hope, that there aren't actually cards to carry in that organization? There's not really any "membership" per se?"

        Yes, and aside from a youthful ... ah ... indiscretion, I would likely be a member.

        QUOTE: "Live and learn"? Looks like we're failing on the second front. Which may, or may not lead to failure on the first.

        True enough.

        QUOTE: (The outcome will be determined long after I am gone.)

        Also true enough (unless you're on the coast when the icecap melts sometime in the next 48 minutes ... hey, it could happen.)
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        Nov 4 2011: So would you consider this a representative monologue?
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          Nov 4 2011: "We are deeply, deeply sorry to say that due to licensing constraints, we can no longer allow access to Pandora for listeners located outside of the U.S. We will continue to work diligently to realize the vision of a truly global Pandora, but for the time being we are required to restrict its use. We are very sad to have to do this, but there is no other alternative."

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      Nov 3 2011: So which do you prefer? World War III, the next Black Plague (AIDS on steroids), or nation-driven reproductive limits, like China and India have undertaken in the last three decades?
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        Nov 3 2011: Ahh, the unrealized promise of Bird Flu.

        But seriously, the best way to reduce breeding rates is to empower women to have fulfilling careers. A sizable number then either choose not to have children or delay it until too late.
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    Nov 2 2011: I am going to stir this another way because I think my using the word "intelligentsia" has stirred much of this conversation toward what we currently call "experts". That is not what I mean. I mean something more akin to W.E.B. DuBois' Talented Tenth. Take the best and the brightest in all fields, including non-professional fields, and roundtable the issues into plans for action.
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    Nov 2 2011: Letitia: Good insight on academia and research. I don't believe that people with graduate degrees even scratch the surface of the total intelligentsia. I include engineers, teachers, artists, farmers, IT workers, housewives and anyone else that HAS knowledge of multiple fields and CAN use analysis to come up with answers that will work and/or stipulations about an answer that doesn't work in a given situation.

    Having been a graduate student, I agree with you about their destroying self-esteem. That being said, self-esteem, family-esteem, community-esteem, nation-esteem and human race-esteem have been eroding for the better part of a century due to forces far more insidious than graduate school.
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      Nov 2 2011: QUOTE: "...self-esteem, family-esteem, community-esteem, nation-esteem and human race-esteem have been eroding for the better part of a century due to forces far more insidious than graduate school."

      You know, the words we use are important. And the pictures we paint (with our words) affect our perception, and the perception of others.

      While I am sure there are good examples of "esteem" being eroded, this is not what I see. What I see is, well, pretty much everything.

      What you say has some validity but the opposite is also true, self-esteem, family-esteem, community-esteem, nation-esteem and human race-esteem are also growing.

      How can this be?

      Well, with Seven Billion people, we can see examples of everything.

      In my observation, the general mood is positive.

      We humans tend to have a narrow field of vision. So if we surround ourselves with people who have a particular worldview, we will tend to see the world the way they do.

      What does "surround" mean?

      For us, it means, maybe 250 people. But, in practice, it might mean ten.

      Ten people, even 250 people, are not a particularly representational cross-section of our good planet earth.

      So how about "the intelligentsia?" Are those of us who might fall into this category a better indicator of the "signs of the times?"

      I don't think so.

      Who could we look at to see what is "going on?"

      The 5% of the world's population that live (more or less) between the 49th and 32nd parallels of North America? The 10% of the world's population that are "wealthy?" People on TED?

      I don't think so.

      How about the 90% who live simple, lives and are actually quite happy? Most people I have met are happy most of the time regardless of their environment. They don't have time for all of this "intelligentsia" stuff that is so dear to our hearts. The happiest people I have met are also the poorest people I have met. The poor in Africa, China, India and the other places I have been are often joyful in conditions that would crush me.
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    Nov 1 2011: Use the internet to convince most voters in the US to vote Libertarian and thereby change US politics. (Let other republican (rule of law) nations follow suit with their party that has a platform similar to the US Libertarian Party Platform.)

    This would have two effects: purge the elected government of Republicans and Democrats and awaken citizens to the need to become We the People as defined in the Preamble to the US Constitution--awaken US citizens to the fact that the religious Declaration of Independence does not trump the secular US Constitution.

    Plainly, neither the US Government nor God intends to govern the people: We the People must, as the Preamble states.

    There are parallel issues in other republics.

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      Nov 2 2011: Phil: Politics (in the US system) has proved time and again that term-limited politicians don't have the chutzpa to make lasting positive change and term-tenured politicians don't have the motivation to. I like the Libertarian Party and the Green Party and the Socialist Party and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. I hope they all gain enough of a following to get us away from a two-party political system. That being said, I hope that we never have any one party (including my own) rule all of the US government.
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        Nov 2 2011: Kevin, I agree with you fully about one party in control. But the only party I would vote for is the Libertarian Party. After one shake up the others might shape up.
  • Nov 1 2011: It might be useful first to find out what causes the de-motivation in them in the first place. What context are we talking about here? Is it in workplace, family, or something else? There are so many factors that could affect a person's motivation to want to solve problems, it could be that they are not given any empowerment in workplace and they probably get so tired of trying to fix the problems because whenever they tried suggesting a new solution, their voices may either go unheard or the management might not be very happy because there are imperfections in the system. One way to get around it is the culture in the working environment can be changed in which everyone is encouraged to speak up and voice their opinions. Management might consider to be more receptive in listening to opinions from staff.. Also, some people might tend to think that if they were to suggest a solution, they might end up having to bear the extra burden of solving the problem. To get around this problem, the person can be rewarded in the company for suggesting a solution and a committee be set up to look into fixing it. Actually i think its very normal human behaviour to sometimes whine and not do find a fix to problems because we do not really put ourselves in the shoes of fixing the problem when we complain. Saying is easier than doing actually. On the other hand, when people whine, does it really mean that there is a problem in the first place? Or is it they are just complaining because things do not go the way they want it to be? It might be worthwhile understanding why people are complaining and their reason before jumping to conclusion that there is a problem and people are running away from fixing the problem..Nonetheless, I personally think that people are most motivated to do things that interest them, something that they enjoy doing and makes them feel empowered too.
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      Nov 1 2011: Lynn, there are some problems...inadequate global healthcare, toxic food/water supply, irresponsible corporate governance, predatory banking that create problems around the world. I'm suggesting the brilliant minds that come up with our entertainment, our vanity appliques, the US ARMY Corp of Engineers, NASA, CERN, MENSA, etc. join with the groups of people who are already working on these problems and get the politicians, media and opinion-jockeys out of the way.

      Corporations won't do anything that doesn't make them a profit, now or in the future. Scientists, by and large, work in their tiny niche and don't share nearly enough information with other fields that could use it. Medical professionals, particularly in the US, spend way too much time and effort having to worry about themselves, their practice and constantly changing regulations to dedicate more time to helping patients. Childcare and early childhood education around the globe (even in highly-developed countries) is producing too many kids that have fallen behind the curve of opportunities.

      There is a time for making people feel better about their lives and there is a time for making people's lives better. This is the latter, not the former. Feeling better has a shaky correlation with doing better and there is no causality there. Doing better has a greater influence on feeling better, but even then the correlation isn't much better than 60%. Feeling approaches are sinkholes because human nature is to feel better and then look at the next problem...back to square one. If we can go all-in to do better...stabilize national economies, better distribution of food, healthcare, education, environmentally-sustainable methods for subsistence living, and using the Internet for it's intended purpose (to connect us) as opposed to it's de-facto purpose (to entertain us)...we can have more reasons to feel better.
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        Nov 1 2011: Well if you don`t actually want to figure out how to motivate them to work on it voluntarily, maybe you should just round them up and hold them at gunpoint.

        Otherwise, you're going to have to work with the options provided, i.e. getting them physically on-board by getting them emotionally on-board.
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          Nov 1 2011: Let's not go overboard. Motivation and feeling better are not the same thing. Lynn is taking a sociologist's stance "Why did the phenomenon happen?" I am taking a social worker's stance "How can we get you out of this phenomenon?" The 'Why' assigns causality to events that "pre-determine" the phenomena examined. The 'How' assigns actions to address the negative impacts of the problem as it is currently experienced.

          Don't mistake me, I belive motivation is central to the question of how to get people involved, but I don't believe the tactic of erasing "the cumulative impact of social norms in previous experiences" is fast enough or effective enough. We've done that over and over again through history and the result is usually that we responded too slowly, unevenly and have a bunch of people mobilized for the right battle at the wrong time (think Maginot Line). That tactic results in pushing the problem forward, to when we've finally got it right...which presumes the things we're getting wrong haven't ripped our social foundations apart first.
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        Nov 2 2011: Couple of suggestions:

        Graduate school produces people with Masters and PhD's (presumably a large portion of the intelligentsia). Speaking as a graduate student, these programs (at least in North America) are largely destructive to self esteem. Students learn to solve very small pieces of the puzzle at a time in isolation under the direction of a single supervisor.

        The alternative to Academia is Industry (at least in the Sciences) where research is team-based and productive, but confined to the company for the protection of patents and therefore profits.

        Even in Academia funding largely comes from individual grants (since Universities pay Professors and TA's next to nothing) and this makes academics reluctant to share and work together for fear of losing funding opportunities.

        Basically I think the problem is that the need for limited money fosters competition instead of communication between the intelligentsia.
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    Oct 31 2011:

    We need more talks like this one by Bjorn Lomberg who argues that we need to prioritize world problems and approach them in a sensible order.
  • Oct 31 2011: We focus our attention on the problems because it is smaller than the solutions and it is right in front of us and the solutions are far away, so we don’t want to travel to get there because it frightens us. We somehow feel comfortable to sit around and deal with it (until is gone/forgotten) or we point a finger and blame someone and expect them to fix it. It’s our human Nature. I believe that the intelligence has nothing (or maybe little) to do with that. And after all, since our childhood we are being programmed to be so. This kind of attitude comes from exterior information we get every day. If you don’t believe me, do me a favour. Take any random newspaper and TV program and have a good look, does any of these informative media talk about solutions. If not, then how do you expect that our brain process as a solution finder?

    It is hard to say how we can re-install our attitude and start to think about solutions. But I think if we start to look at ourselves as a third person we might become aware of what we really want to do for us. And start to change ourselves which possible will change our attitude and beliefs and this might re-install our brain.

    Imagine you are God (third person) and you watch us from up there, what we actually do on earth and to earth and to each other, wouldn't that make you laugh at us?
  • Oct 31 2011: When "the problem" is defined well, the solution is seen therein.

    Kevin Goodwin, you imply that the "intelligentsia" are the problem solvers. And the solution is to get the good ideas to those in power, those who set public policy.

    When dealing with organizations with their own goals and agenda, your "solution" may conflict and thus be rejected. Read the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Azimov.
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    Oct 31 2011: Make it profitable...unfortunately.
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    Oct 31 2011: Since there seems to be some concern/confusion as to why I focus on, what I call "the intelligentsia", I'll explain. Both public perception and political policy have become overwhelmingly a marketing game. With the wide array of advertising, marketing, smeer campaigns, slander, and just outright BS (on both sides) the vast majority of people are left to ask what is true, let alone what should be done about it. Angry and scared people are willing to latch onto anything that let's them vent their frustrations, hoping that it will make positive change (see Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street).

    I single-out the intelligent because we are the ones most likely to see through the clouds, smoke and lies that surround us to get to the heart of issues that are only being batted around in public forum. Politicians play tennis with the fortunes and livelihoods of the public and most can't see what is actually happening, or understand what this will mean in the long-term. If Obama "saved" Social Security in this term and another President "killed" it in a later term, would they blame Obama, W, Clinton, Bush, Reagan, etc. for not fixing the long term issues or just push the blame to the person left holding the bag. If the local and international economy fell on it's face, would that be seen as systemic or the failure of the one left at the end? The majority of the public cannot see a wide-enough scope now, or a far enough scope in the past to really assess what is happening, and what will happen. Someone with a wide scope of focus and a deeper level of analysis is going to have to do it for them.
  • Oct 31 2011: Intelligence in mind... is much better to improvement... Peace in mind is the best gift.
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    Oct 31 2011: Back again to the "intelligentsia", is that particular group really the main factor of our major problem?

    We also take part and factors who indirectly support those problems with our daily actions.

    As citizens of the world, we need to think globally but act simply. It all starts from small actions to increase awareness. Just do our role as good citizens and respect the governors and other parties in charge whether they do their roles or not, soon they will feel bad for themselves if they don't.
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      Oct 31 2011: First of all, it might help if you actually replied to the post in question rather than starting a new sub-thread every time, so you can really only look to yourself for clearing up the disjointed nature of the conversation.

      And I didn't say "hold them accountable for other people" I asked if you were suggesting holding them accountable for 'other people's screw ups'.

      Unless you harbour some delusion that the intelligentsia are the same people running the banks and other institutions into the ground, it does seem to be what you are suggesting.
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        Oct 31 2011: Gisela...please stick to the topic at hand. It becomes very difficult to answer a question when any point of departure becomes a point of contention.
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          Oct 31 2011: In what way was that not a response to "Hold them accountable"? Which in itself was a response to your question.

          Perhaps you should scroll down to the rest of the thread, it's split in two (the source of point 1).

          (Ironically, NOW we're off-topic, thanks to you.)
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          Nov 1 2011: QUOTE: "(Ironically, NOW we're off-topic, thanks to you.)"

          Oh! I quite like being off-topic.

          What are we off topic about?


          Obviously, I will not be invited to any intelligentsia convocations any time soon! And I doubt I'll even be allowed to vote in the "New World." Although I am quite bright when compared to an average ten-year-old.

          Is cross-conversational humour allowed?
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      Oct 31 2011: Craig...please stick to the conversation at hand.
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    Oct 30 2011: In order to focus you should have a
    gud country where no people will be discriminated
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    Oct 30 2011: I believe that the first thing to do is wake up and realize what is a problem, what is a conflict and what is a state of disorder. Then if we can see clear the differences, we can go to define if all this is a complex matter or a complicated matter...the difference between complex and complicated is the relationship between constants and variables. More complex, more constant....more complicated more variables. Then, just then....focus....but we have to be with a deep insight to reach the light to see and focus...after all that...the time for action come.
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    Oct 30 2011: I am pretty sure this is not going to "go over all that well" but here it is anyway:

    Perhaps the best thing we could do is stop focussing on "the major problems of our time."

    It is precisely because we have been focussing on "major problems" that we now have even bigger and "more major" problems than we have ever had in our history.

    If we stopped, looked at what it is we really (really, really, really) wanted, we might find it has nothing to do with plains, trains and automobiles; nothing to do with democracy, capitalism, socialism, religion, sociology, ecology, or any of the other BIG issues of our time.

    What if we were simply happy (no matter what?)

    Then we could stop "solving our way out of problems SO THAT we MIGHT experience happiness" - it evidently doesn't work, anyway!
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    Oct 30 2011: Education - at the institutional level that it..
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    Oct 30 2011: Nicolas Berggruen has recently created a Think Tank that brings the eminent thinkers of our time together to solve the challenges that plague us. This is a wonderful step forward.
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      Oct 30 2011: "Intelligence" is a relative term. They may be intelligent and eminent thinkers compared to other humans. That is not high praise.

      Now, if we could find some wise and humble people, that might be helpful ... perhaps Nicolas Berggruen has found such a group .... but even that assumes solutions to problems will be found "outside" of ourselves - in a group of wise and/or intelligent "others."

      This is convenient; it implies a solution will come from someone "other than me" and, therefore, I do not need to change, I can just wait until these smart, wise guys figure it all out. In the meantime, I'm just going to drive my ATV up this sand dune, and fly to Tahiti for the holidays, promote a utopian ideal, and have grapes from Chile in December.

      But, as I have said in other conversations, nature is self-regulating: we will either adapt or we will be expelled.

      This is only a concern from the vantage point of a human being.


      Changing behaviour is important but understanding why we engage in sub-optimal behaviour and, then, addressing the underlying motives is, I think, more important.
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    Oct 29 2011: I am not sure who counts in the "intelligentsia," but I think that a huge number of highly intelligent people DO focus on trying to solve the major problems of our time. These problems are complex, however, and among intelligent people there will be differences of opinion as to the best ways to make life better. There are also some solutions that lean in advantage toward some people and some toward others. And there are tradeoffs among legitimate and noble objectives.

    So we have a combination here of ambiguity about the balance of worthwhile objectives that would be best to achieve and uncertainties among serious and well-intentioned experts as to the consequences of different courses of action.

    Thirty-five years ago I read a book that might have been by Richard Nelson of Yale University called the Moon and the Ghetto. The focus, as I remember it these many years later, was to explain why scientific problems are easier to solve by intellect than social problems.
  • Oct 29 2011: Take the profit out of information.
  • Oct 29 2011: Pose them as interesting, challenging puzzles to be solved? Show them that it is in their self-interest to solve them? Convince them that it is the best use of their power? Let them know they can maximize their own joy by solving these major problems? The Hannah Arendt Center for Politics and the Humanities?
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    Oct 29 2011: Great Question !!!

    Framing questions in this way can provide the impetus to go deeper, to see the shadow issues and institutional barriers that significantly limit our ability to 'understand' the results of our choices.

    Unfortunately our institutions of higher learning are focused more on data and less on wisdom. In fact, I see little that might qualify as 'wisdom' coming from research, science or education. If it did, where does it manifest? Where on this planet has any modern society explored the truly integrated notion of living sustainably? If we had such a model, perhaps it would help us see the depths of our denial on all levels of human endeavor.

    Perhaps if we learned from history how most 'gilded ages' have had 'social adjustments' in the forms of social revolution generally very bloody. It seems we haven't learned a thing so we repeat history once again. Until we terminate this experiment of the human species. Please, please prove me wrong.
  • Oct 29 2011: This is an interesting topic for such an interesting period. Over the last month we've seen an explosion of public dissent towards the economic institutions here in the west, and political institutions in the middle east. Seeing such massive movements gain momentum in such a short period is shocking. With the spread of the internet we are seeing ideas spread to greater numbers over shorter periods of time. To think that during Clinton's inauguration there were fewer than 50 websites in the world (mostly government) gives you an idea of where we are today.

    TED talks is is definitely helping, Mike Biddle and MBA polymers is a great example of ideas taking root and governments getting on board. @ Gisela, we are citizens in many ways. National, global and market, you can vote by what you purchase or what you choose not to. I think that TED is a means to spread ideas and it is us who need to further circulate these ideas as well as continue exercising our voices, whether its through voting, occupying or exercising choice as a market citizen. Don't be fooled into helplessness by lack of money/power, once the masses share a common belief, values and/or idea then change is inevitable as history has shown numerous times.
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      Oct 30 2011: I was actually referring to not letting the suggestions simply be a waste of time because they never get implemented.

      It's not about helplessness, it's about where to expend the energy to actually affect change. I have an ex who is (quite literally) a rocket scientist who quit working at a particular position because it was all theoretical systems he was designing. There really is a point at which it is wholly unfulfilling to expend your energy on something that is not going to see the light of day - or even for a realllllly long time down the road.

      So, being outnumbered by people who are not going to actually implement suggestions can be demotivating.
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    Oct 29 2011: Somehow being vastly outnumbered by people who do things like vote for people like our idiot mayor here in Toronto is demotivating. I'd guess you'd have to make it worth their while so that it doesn't simply get reversed by majority rule.
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    Oct 28 2011: Depends on what problems of which you speak . . .
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    Oct 28 2011: Hi Kevin, that's exactly what I want to do with my idea. I believe humanity is currently racing towards a black anarchy. Because we're plundering this cosmic miracle, ánd because all we plunder forms the foundation of the global economy. In the past there was plenty to plunder, and the world population was small. But times are changing. While the world runs towards a black anarchy, I want to iniate a white anarchy! A community where our intellientsia is focussed on living in a 'plunderfree' and economyfree manner... It's a huge challenge! I know, but the current road ahead isdefinitely the wrong one; if we want to live here another 300,000 years...
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    Oct 28 2011: How do we get TEDsters, and solution-focused non-TEDsters more of an audience with leaders in business, technology, sciences, government? How do we get the best solutions to the "problem-solvers"?