Rant about changing the world – I blame Piaras

Piaras asked on his blog:

“For all our talk about blogs, RSS, podcasts or whatever the latest buzzword of the day is, imagine what we could achieve if we put the same time and energy into providing running water for everyone around the world.

Naturally I replied and it turned into quite a long-winded rant:


I don’t think the cause itself is as important in the short to medium term compared to making people actively do something about any cause. Anti-apathy Activism will impact the world more and at a faster pace. Running water is a noble cause and one that can have a dramatic effect on the lives of a few 100 to a few thousand people. I’m not saying people shouldn’t volunteer to do this, but there are various routes one can take to change the world and save lives. Going out to Africa and getting hands on is one way, but there are many others.

Imagine if the likes of Bill Gates went off to Africa before he started Microsoft and helped bring clean water to the people there. He’d never have made his billions, he’d be a humble intelligent man impacting the lives of thousands of Africans. He’d have saved lives. But his charitable foundation would have never happened. The foundation which is investing a lot of money into preventing malaria, one of the biggest killers in the world. Research that could save the lives of millions.

Imagine the person that made podcasts so accessible and univsersal that everyone in the world listened to them. And that a podcast on the plight of people in Africa managed to be delivered to half the desktops in the world. That one podcast could do more than 100 people building wells in Africa. I think people should see what they are best at, work on that but at the same time see how they can, via what they do, change the world for the better.

If you can encourage the people of the world to recognise that the world needs to be better and that they can actually make it better then no matter what they do, the world will get better. You first need to build this foundation though. Technologists can do it in various ways. They can build some famous application that makes billions which then allows them to create a trust fund like Bill Gates did and that Google are doing, or you can research a better form of wireless communications that can be used cheaply by people in Africa to talk to each other.

People like Robert Scoble and Jeff Jarvis are so good at what they do that they have the attention of a lot of very clever and influential people. Jeff is organising the Recovery 2.0 idea for better coordinating disaster relief initiatives via the Web. Scoble has the ear of an astounding number of the best tech minds around. If Scoble in the morning made a post suggesting some tech solution that could cut world hunger in half and asked his readership to create the application he had in mind, I would bet within a week the app would be rolled out.

Even people with selfish motivations can make things better. All those self-evangelising rockstar idiots on the TV have saved lives and changed the world ever so slightly and of course stroked their ego. I don’t mind such a trade-off. We just need a world to become more altruistic. Let people that say charity begins at home ignore African charities if they instead improve the lives of people here by being xenophobically charitable.

So, how can the Tech Camp people encourage the people of the world to get off their asses and do something? To realise that even something as boring as letter writing can make a difference? Humans in my possibly naive opinion are creatures who are inclined to help the group out and to go out of the way to make the group a better place. In the sound and fury of the modern world people probably feel seperated from the group. We need to make people realise that a drop in the ocean is more like the butterfly that can cause the typhoon.

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