Monday, July 25, 2011

Remodelling America

I'm in the middle of a home remodel. Well, more of a never-ending series of home improvement projects, some larger than others. Frankly, I am beginning to suspect there is no end to this process, that it is a never-ending endeavor that is part of the price (perk?) of home ownership.

Some of my projects involve re-doing, or simply undoing, prior projects that were ill-conceived. (Sometimes paint that looks great in the can does not work so well on the wall.)

Repainting (for a third time) a certain wall in my home had me thinking about the ability to re-do, or to undo, aspects of my home remodelling that seem to have gone awry. This, as usual, led to me reflecting on how this might analogize to larger societal issues.

In a prior blog, I have lamented the lack of advanced planning and conscious, goal-oriented development that has impaired the evolution of America. I have suggested that consumer-oriented capitalism, which allows market forces to dictate the course of our nation, is not to be trusted and is a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach. In this blog, I express my view that this can be addressed and redressed by the choice of concious remodelling.

As one example, I think Americans (and most Westernized nations) have allowed personal transportation to evolve in a way that has resulted in a system that is very ineffecient, expensive and bad for the environment. Now, we cannot simply throw all cars in a junk yard and replace them with emissions-free public transportation systems. However, we CAN have a contest asking scientists (or the public at large) to propose what they believe would be the best, most efficient transportation system for a society such as ours if they were to wipe the slate clean and start from scratch. I mean, I think with the wealth of technology at our disposal, there might be transportation solutions that we have not thought of. Does public transportation have to be limited to subways, trains and buses? Is there some way to develop a public transportation network that could meet the needs of individuals for personal transportation to visit family, go on an outing, haul furniture, or go on a date?

The point is that I do not personally have in mind any specific vision for a system of personal and public transportation system that would surpass what has evolved naturally as a product of market forces in modern societies such as ours. However, I am optimistic that if hundreds or thousands of the brightest and most educated minds are addressing this issue, that they could (and probably would) conceive transporation options and solutions I would never have thought of.

Though I discuss transportation, this same approach could be taken with other aspects of society from housing to social welfare. I would like to see a contest, similar in spirit to the Nobel Prizes, which perhaps once a decade awards a $10 million prize for the best and most thorough proposal for re-visioning some aspect of society.

The end goal is to inject idealistic and solution-oriented thinking into addressing societal problems, with the notion that we may generate solutions and proposals so sound that people are compelled to demand we implement a course of societal change that moves towards those solutions and proposals.

Yeah, I know we have think tanks and universities that have people focused on solving various problems. But do you know what problems they are addressing? Do you know what limitations are placed upon them? Do you know how many people are working on any given problem at any give time? Do you know to what extent governmental bureaucracy or business interests or personal ideosyncracies are limiting or impairing those efforts? We are facing a potential armageddon in the form of a society whose development races forward like a runaway freight train with no engineer aboards, and I do not think we can sit on our hands and trust that our leaders are ensuring everything is being handled appropriately. I personally have seen no evidence we can trust the powers-that-be for creative societal solutions, particularly when the best solutions might be inimicable to the economic interests of those presently in power. Thus, I think appealing to the masses in a public manner is the best, and perhaps only, approach to take.

Now if I only had $10 million...

Ken Myers

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