• closing thoughts from a long day

    by  • August 7, 2008 • Personal • 0 Comments

    If you want to change the world, get serious, get educated, and get to work. Pick a problem, whether it’s water quality or organic agriculture, and get good and educated. A lot you can get online – start with TED talks for an overview, then progress to UN reports and similar documents. It might take a year or two to master the language and get a sense of what’s going on in the field because, well, it’s a hobby – you’re doing this in the time you might be fishing.

    But after a while, if you’ve got a reasonable degree of practical intelligence, you’ll start to say “I know how this works, I know why people don’t have clean water, I know what diseases they face.” Maybe you donate money to pay other people to work on this. Maybe you volunteer to travel and help somewhere as a part of an NGO project. Maybe you stay at home and tinker with things searching for a breakthrough.

    If we had a few tens of thousands of people behind us with about this much involvement, we’d be fit to change the world in some big ways. It’s a Linux or Wikipedia amount of effort and labor. We have an operating system. We have an encyclopedia. Now we need an infrastructure workbook.

    Practical back-yard engineering culture is what is going to save the world. Mass production has its role, but we still don’t have evolved designs on all of these basic systems like wood stoves. The field is wide open to innovation.

    I’m just beginning to see the Hexayurt Project people supersede my understanding of what needs to be done in some areas. If you need to know where to buy tape, or what the supply chain issues are with boards in a given geography, or feedback on new door design, the mailing list is better than I am – lots of people, lots of thinking and independent study and experiment and organization.

    That is very, very gratifying. It was hard when this was my project, but it’s much, much easier now that it’s ours.

    Now let’s see if we can’t get similar movement on all these other areas, a great alliance to push appropriate technology development up to the point where it just starts growing like cell phones, and leaving goodness in its wake.

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    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


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