Ok, so I don’t get to post here much now that I am taking an active role in a new programme with 1500 students, where I am one of their principal professors. It’s fun, but between that and trying to maintain a new book series, new journal, and keep at the leading edge of my global age/professional cohort for research (which is basically required to advance), well, I don’t have much extra brain juice to spend even 20 minutes doing a post here. It’s sad in some ways, but that’s the stage of life I’m at. If only I had two selves, one which could maintain a fun, fulfilling professional life, and one which could spend the time writing what I think might actually be the most useful to help move society in the right direction (i.e., things like I write on this blog).
But I wanted to duck in here for a minute and share some of the fruits of my research and thinking over the last 20 years–addressed specifically to the question of how we create an ideal world. The way is becoming clearer every year. I think that social science/humanities/arts is actually at a pretty exciting crossroads right now. We’re learning a lot of stuff, relatively quickly. There are a lot of useful debates opening up. If your field seems dry, you’re asking the wrong questions and/or following the wrong debates.
So, without further ado, here’s The Platonist’s list of the 10 things we need to do to create an ideal world. Note: this will still not make you happy. That can’t be automatic in a system which must, by default, also maximize your free will. But it will maximize your odds of being happy, while maximizing free will (this is seen as requisite to fulfilliment, and meaningfulness, if not happiness).
1. Population reduced to 1 billion. This good round number was the population of Earth in 1900, when there were vast swathes of wilderness, but still many populous cities – the best of both worlds. If we had population 1 billlion, this would mean
a) Environmental problems? Instantly solved. We could all basically pollute quite a lot, burn all the wood, burn fossil fuels (cleanly), and have room for all the wind and solar power generators we wanted. Plenty of space for large animals to roam.
b) Economic problems? Also largely solved. See no 2. Below.
How to do this? As I have noted elsewhere: simple: ensure the birth rate goes just below 2.2 per woman, and viola. Within a hundred or two years, population can be brought to 1 billion. How to ensure this rate? For one thing, education already brings the rate to this level or below, so just keep increasing access to education globally. Secondly: a light tax can be introduced, where people with more than 2 kids pay a little more. On average, this would be all that’s needed.
2. Have housing regulations changed, so that large, American-style homes are normative. Tear down old c19th century tiny urban houses. And stop building tiny new ones. This solves the following problems:
a) If all houses were large, the price of housing automatically falls, so that large houses are ‘average’ priced.
b) Research shows that if people own their own homes, they have more capital. Crucially, middle-class people have a higher propensity to spend than the wealthy, b/c they have little to save. Thus, they spend more. Good for the economy.
c) Research shows that if people have larger homes, they spend more – they fill their houses with stuff.
d) Research also shows that if people spend more on stuff for their homes, the price of stuff falls.
3. At the same time, get rid of planned obsolescence. Have people buy longlasting, beautiful things. I’ve written a post about this. No need to drive business by ‘tricking’ people into buying light bulbs with deliberately fragile filaments. Find other business models. If light bulbs can be built which last 100 years (viz, some of Edisons’), then do it! And people just need to find another industry. Philips can move into something else. Making quality goods, for one thing.
4. Conduct research to minimize the price that people pay for necessities (food, electricity, phone service), to maximize people’s additional revenue to spend on fun things, i.e., vacations; home improvement, books.
5. Make work humane. As noted on this site, people could work 20 hours/week (which gives you a sense of having something to do, and a purpose), and earn just as much, given the level of automation now possible, and productivity. I think many people would find a 5 hour day, 4 days/week, to be a fine full time job.
6. Conduct research into minimizing income inequality. Optimize the system so that there is innovation, entrepreneurialism, incentive, but make being ‘filthy rich’ redundant.
7. Oh and, democracy must be normative, and universal, as the only gvt which actually responds to the people. All non democratic governmental forms have led to totalitarianism, and are far less good than democracy. But, continue developing safeguards to keep wealth and corruption from being too rampant. This can be improved.
8. Continue the ‘war on ageing.’ If people had centuries, the world would be far less of a rat race. People could have a totally more relaxed attitude towards life. They could take it slow. War would become even more ridiculous. (Note: democracies don’t fight each other, as a rule; so if all were democratic, this would be the end of war–this is basic political science).
9. Agree on ways to raise collective IQ. One of the greatest causes of inequality now, with the meritocracy that has to be (meritocracy is def. part of the ideal world – you need a sense of competition, to create meaning), is that there is such a gulf in human IQ. We need to make the bell curve narrower, and ideally raise our intelligence so that more people have 160 IQ or above. When you have this intelligence – the world is infinitely exciting and interesting. As a rule, the ‘profoundly gifted’ have more fun. Not just b/c they are at the far extreme of the bell curve. But because they see the universe in so much complexity, and yet can grasp the overarching symmetries, that existence itself becomes beautiful. A Beautiful Mind = can readily see/grasp/create a Beautiful World.
10. Promote humanism, justice, beauty, truth – the Platonics – as ideals. However you like. But a world without them, is just a mechanical, and a drab world. The world of the beat poets, the nihilists.
a) This includes, having architecture be beautiful again. When artists create beauty, and harmony with nature, they create the deepest peace that people can ever know: why are the cathedrals so inspiring; the monasteries? They follow these ideals.
This is all I have time for, but, it’s a recipe which, if followed, would lead us closest to the most ideal world we know how to create. In fact, this wouldn’t look too different from Gene Roddenberry’s vision for Star Trek: only: in the last 50 years, we have become far, far more articulate about how to get there (viz, the list above – almost none of which R could have said, certainly not with the confidence we can say now).