September 10, 2009

Blue sky blueprints

Sternenpflucker, Piero Strada
New Scientist promotes Blueprint for a better world, ten radical ideas to improve the world.

  1. Evidence based politics
  2. Drug legalisation
  3. Keep everybody's DNA profile
  4. Measure non-wealth progress
  5. Research into geoengineering
  6. Real carbon taxes
  7. Use genetic engineering
  8. Stop the current ocean harvesting
  9. Pay people for uploading green power onto the grid
  10. Four day work weeks

I think some of these are very sensible (like shifting to a harm reduction approach for drugs, doing proper geoengineering, use of genetic engineering, sensible ocean management and to price carbon realistically). The big problem is that many of the improvements are based on very strong assumptions about the government - universal DNA databases are perfectly OK if police can be trusted and kept in check. Evidence based policy is a great idea, but would it really be implemented by a self-serving administrative class? And the four-day week seems to assume that everybody would be doing the same everywhere, within a western-european welfare state. I think it is more likely that we are going to see people having even more different lengths of their work-weeks, especially since most creative jobs already have ill-defined weeks.

Still, as utopianism goes this list is pretty good. Many of the entries look eminently doable or at least possible to implement partially to get information.

I would probably add methods of improving government transparency and accountability to the list. The greatest threats to human flourishing today seem to come directly or indirectly from bad governance, corruption and closed societies. Finding ways to overcome that would do a great deal of improving the ability to fix other problems. We can start at home by demanding greater transparency and a reciprocal increase of accountability for every proposed privacy-intrusion. We can develop software tools to sustain societal transparency both by automatically documenting what is being done (imagine a public database tracking all expenses and resources, possible to mine through an API), by rewarding improvement suggestions (consider a whistle-blower/improvement service that can give people rewards proportional to the savings made when they point out waste, abuse or inefficiency) and generally construct open e-governance systems - or independent institutions keeping an eye on them. We can also export transparency by making it part both of foreign aid or by building it into exported technology. Lots of possibilities, plenty of policy positions one can take, but clearly an important area.

Posted by Anders3 at September 10, 2009 04:40 PM