Got any ideas on how to save the world from itself? If you have, jot them down and send them to an organisation operating out of Sweden.
It’s a laudable objective, but is there a fatal flaw with the idea? Stockholm-based Global Challenges Foundation is asking for ideas on creating a new model of global cooperation so that humanity can be saved from climate change, weapons of mass destruction and extreme poverty. The best proposal wins US$5 million.
How about this for a start: “Dear Sir, I think we can solve this problem if everyone started being nice to each other.”
It is just that someone has already thought of that idea, and he got nailed to a cross for his troubles.
“The prize competition,” say the organisers, “is based on the premise that the current system of global governance that has evolved since World War II is no longer equipped to deal with 21st century risks that transcend national borders and can affect populations anywhere in the world.” Well, they are not wrong there.
They are not looking for fixes to specific problems, rather they “will ask entrants to design frameworks for international decision-making equipped to address today’s global challenges with a focus on climate change, major environmental damage, violent conflict (including nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction) and extreme poverty.”
Oh yes, and entrants might want to take into account that the global population is predicted to rise to 11 billion by 2100.
What they didn’t do is ask for respondents to focus on how AI, automation in the jobs market, and neural lace, which may eventually be used to interface the human brain to computers, may also change the world. Or for that matter, how virtual reality may create a virtual world that is so appealing that it is better than reality. There is also the issue of how social media can act as an echo chamber, accentuating bias, and how the internet may be eroding our ability to deep think.
The world faces many challenges, and frankly many solutions. All the technological threats listed above are as much opportunities as they are dangers. Furthermore, technology can also solve the problem of climate change, without forcing us to sacrifice economic growth, while tech could yet solve the problem of poverty.
Would the situation be helped if there was some kind body making international decisions? The answer to that, surely is yes, but then isn’t that what the United Nations is meant to be?
Maybe the problem cannot be solved unless the will and desire among world leaders, and indeed their people, demands it. And the forces of nationalism we are seeing at present suggest we are heading in the opposite direction.
Laszlo Szombatfalvy, founder of the Global Challenges Foundation said: "We believe that the human ingenuity that has allowed us to eradicate diseases, bring down poverty levels and stabilise the hole in the ozone layer, can, if properly channeled, play a role in averting the greatest risks to our survival. If we can tap this creativity and apply it to designing a better decision-making system for the world community, then we will have a chance of preserving our world for future generations.”
Hats off for trying to save the world, played right, this could be a wonderful idea. And maybe the winning entry will be greeted by a fanfare of publicity, and get everyone talking about it, which would be no bad thing.
But here is the potential flaw. The prize is about advancing global collaboration, yet a competition, for which there is just one winner, might be the antithesis of cooperation.
What we really need is a kind of wisdom of crowds, working together on a fix.
Or maybe this competition could be the first step, maybe the publicity that will surely result from this will be enough to get everyone talking, and if this can be achieved, then frankly, the very idea for the competition may be better than the idea behind the winning entry.
And if you are up for having a go, you have until May 24th, next year, why not give the Global Challenges Foundation a look over?