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Can a Video Game Solve Hunger, Disease and Poverty?

Soulskill posted about 4 years ago | from the edible-games-are-the-future dept.

Role Playing (Games) 72

destinyland writes "Dr. Jane McGonigal of the RAND Corporation's Institute for the Future has created a game described as 'a crash course in changing the world.' Developed for the World Bank's 'capacity development' branch, EVOKE has already gathered more than 10,000 potential solutions from participants, including executives from Procter & Gamble and Kraft. '[Dr. McGonigal] takes threats to human existence — global food shortage, fuel wars, pandemic, refugee crisis, and upended democracy — and asks the gaming public to collaborate on how to avoid these all too possible futures.' And by completing its 10 missions, you too can become a World Bank Institute certified EVOKE social innovator. (The game designer's web site lays out her ambitious philosophy. 'Reality is broken,' but 'game designers can fix it.')"

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Hunger (1)

Psychotic_Wrath (693928) | about 4 years ago | (#31758250)

I know that when I am sitting on my computer playing games I don't eat often. I am only hungry when Its loading, but now that I have a fast computer loading times are too fast to grab something to eat.

Re:Hunger (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31760020)

If the game does not address overpopulation, then NONE of those solutions to other problems will work in the long long run.

Tool (1)

gmuslera (3436) | about 4 years ago | (#31758254)

Probably won't be the game, but wiith a bit of luck will the players the ones that will solve those problems. Never is the gun the one that kills and go to jail.

Re:Tool (3, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 4 years ago | (#31759718)

The good news is that yes, a computer game can solve all the world's problems.

The bad news is...that game is Duke Nukem Forever.

Re:Tool (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31778370)

The good news is that yes, a computer game can solve all the world's problems.

The bad news is...that game is Duke Nukem Forever.


health are energy are the keys (1)

timmarhy (659436) | about 4 years ago | (#31758274)

with enough energy you can solve any problem, and with universal good health people will be around to do the solving.

Re:health are energy are the keys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758640)

A tremendously massive object (let's say a neutron star) is hurtling towards our solar system and is headed for a direct hit on earth in six months. Even just passing through our solar system without hitting a planet is going to shatter all the planets in the solar system anyway, not to mention tearing apart our sun. The object is close enough that destroying it somehow would vaporize us. You have access to unlimited energy and modern technology, how do you save the solar system?
That said, there are plenty of problems we really could solve if we had vast amounts of relatively consequence-free energy, such as fusion power. If the cost of energy went down to basically zero for all intents and purposes, the nature of a lot of problems would change. We'd still have a lot of work to do to solve any problem though. Of course, there are a lot of solutions to various problems implicit in "universal good health", such as good nutrition for all. So, yeah, I guess you have a point, but I think you have to add time to do the solving to your list of prerequisites.

Re:health are energy are the keys (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758916)

Unlimited energy? K, I'd just plant a big laser on another planet (say mars, or even the moon would do), and pump that with "unlimited" energy until the neutron star turned around and fled. You'd lose whatever planet you sat the laser on due to the recoil throwing it out of the solar system, but hey, losing mars or some other planet is a small price to play, and we could always make a new one out of all the asteroids if we had unlimited energy! :)

Re:health are energy are the keys (1)

dougisfunny (1200171) | about 4 years ago | (#31758920)

Well, we need to start development on red matter right away, it sounds like the perfect solution.

Re:health are energy are the keys (1)

lobiusmoop (305328) | about 4 years ago | (#31759114)

Sorry, but that sounds a bit naive to me. America is the model for 'enough energy' - it has had an abundance of cheap (to the point of being effectively free) energy for the last 50 years, and has not solved every problem - not even providing the 'universal good health' care to its citizens that you mention.

  If you gave cheap energy to the third world, I suspect it would just turn Bangladesh into Baltimore. Sanjeev would take his 5 kids to school in a 2 tonne SUV, they'd dine on drive-through Micky-D and watch the game on a 52 inch plasma TV. That is not my idea of 'solving any problem'.

Re:health are energy are the keys (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#31759422)

I agree. Sanjeev can't be trusted to make those sort of choices. Let's keep him impoverished until we can figure out how to make him smarter and less greedy than Joe Baltimore. I'm thinking maybe mass hypnosis, or perhaps put something in the water supply. What's your idea?

Re:health are energy are the keys (1)

Feyshtey (1523799) | about 4 years ago | (#31763584)

There are innumerable idiots in perfect health.

Following a train of logic that suggest that a world full of healthy people equates to a world of smart people is entirely false. It only ensures a world where idiots have enough energy to pursue stupid plans longer.

So... FPS? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758284)

So it's an FPS that trains you to kill politicians, socialists, and dictators? Score!

Re:So... FPS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758628)

No, we're solving problems. So that means you can go hunting and bag me a teabagger.

Re:So... FPS? (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 4 years ago | (#31759494)

Yeah,uh, it sounds like there are no gun as imagined in a perfect U.N. governed world.
Then theres the goal of becoming a "World Bank Institute certified EVOKE social innovator".
Sounds like a lame attempt at indoctrinating children into Big Brothers Brave New Socialist World.
My solution is for players to arm up with BFGs, attack World Bank, defeat U.N. forces, overthrow sypathetic governments and free the world from the tyranny of socialism. Then everyone would be free to start over again with the current state of governments and economys out of the way.

The solution is obvious (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#31758298)

I can't believe we didn't think of it before. The solution is so obvious!

We just need to leave energy packs at strategic places and have checkpoints where we can save our status.

Oh man. The world is going to be revolutionized by this!

Wait wait! I just thought of another thing that would help. Spawn points. Holleee shit, Batman. We're through the looking glass now!

Re:The solution is obvious (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758946)

pfft... one word: "Cheats"

Re:The solution is obvious (1)

Beardo the Bearded (321478) | about 4 years ago | (#31762714)

We just need to leave energy packs at strategic places ...

We do that already. They're called "UN Aid stations" or "soup kitchens" for those without money. Those with higher levels of credits can use "restaurants", "grocery stores", or even procure player housing with built-in stations.

... and have checkpoints where we can save our status.

There's an autosave but you can't restore.

Wait wait! I just thought of another thing that would help. Spawn points.

It's called a Hospital. That's also where they keep the health kits.

Re:The solution is obvious (1)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#31762804)

It's called a Hospital. That's also where they keep the health kits.

Doesn't seem very secure. What happens if you have a camper sniping people at the hospital?

Can we model the future well enough to game it? (1, Troll)

seaoneil (1598787) | about 4 years ago | (#31758318)

I mean the "science isn't in" on climate change, for example, so assumptions have to be made. If those assumptions are wrong, any solutions that worked in the game will be useless in reality.

Probably a non-gamer (1)

semik (1242890) | about 4 years ago | (#31758332)

I do not understand why these non-gamers or casual gamers think about changing the games all the time. I am an hardcore gamer and I will buy the product. Go save the real world not our fantastic world.

Re:Probably a non-gamer (2, Informative)

mccalli (323026) | about 4 years ago | (#31758634)

I do not understand why these non-gamers or casual gamers think about changing the games all the time. I am an hardcore gamer and I will buy the product. Go save the real world not our fantastic world.

Non-gamer - I've seen the TED talk she did, and she is most definitely a gamer of the 'hardcore' variety. Was actually quite funny to feel her relief when she realised some of the audience were gamers too and were getting some of the references she was making.


no umm maybe who cares (1)

idioto (259918) | about 4 years ago | (#31758344)

maybe i should try playing as i have been busy solving all the world's problem and have yet to get a video game certification, so it shouldn't take me too long sitting around on me bum right?


Has similarities to some of my previous proposals (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758346)

Hmm this isn't too far different from two systems I've designed to encourage idea creation

The 'GNU Jedi' idea I had, where individuals gain rankings/skills based on completion of tasks in open source - coding, mentoring, documenting.

The other idea was essentially what google called their millineum project, but my original design was much superior (fairly certain that they based it off my idea) - the motivation I suggested was winning a million dollars for the idea creators, and 10,000$ for those who identified good ideas, with a limited number of good idea votes. Then the best ideas after this prescreening would be vetted by experts for who wins the million dollars.

Unfortunately google went with the inferior method of the pool of 'experts' reviewing all of the ideas, and they had the prize as getting implementation funding instead of greed.

Of course Future Problem Solving came before my idea, which has many of the same elements also - give a scenario, have the students research the topic, then contribute a bunch of ideas in the hopes of beating your friendly competitors teams, and in the hopes of winning trips (to state, nationals, and to meet the president).


Re:Has similarities to some of my previous proposa (1)

LetterRip (30937) | about 4 years ago | (#31758548)

Hmm my initial impression was wrong. So far its sole purpose appears to be to waste time by engaging in activities a 10 year old might find fun, and to learn about 'how to be a social innovator' - no actual outlets for innovation, just 'post blogs and fill out forms to get spammed'. Hopefully it will actually provide something worthwhile in the future.


Here's a proper link... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758350)

I wanted to check it out for myself, so I clicked on the link in the summary. Alas, I was sent to a rather luridly written piece by a one "Surfdaddy Orca", which I was certainly not looking for.
Thus, I have googled it for you, dear reader, and thus present without (much) further ado ... the link to the Evoke game's website itself!


Video games can fix poverty (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | about 4 years ago | (#31758408)

Write a video game, make some money. Give your money to the people starving to death. The laws of Supply and Demand basically say that if you make more people with higher demand, supply will be made to reach it. There is enough land on Earth to feed everyone if it was farmed, but it isn't farmed because you can't get rich feeding people with no money.

Re:Video games can fix poverty (2, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | about 4 years ago | (#31758450)

What is the incentive to grow and sell food if the UN is going to give food away for free to your customers?

Re:Video games can fix poverty (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758940)

The UN is not giving food away for free to your customers. That would be annoying but ethically decent. They're instead giving food away to the warlords who brutally oppress your customers. The warlords than use the food to keep your customers under their control and will brutally oppress you if you attempt to compete against their source of power.

Isn't humanitarianism grand?

Re:Video games can fix poverty (1)

migla (1099771) | about 4 years ago | (#31759154)

What is the incentive to grow and sell food if the UN is going to give food away for free to your customers?

Obviously the food has to come from somewhere. Whether the food you produce is paid for by the UN, the starving poor people or someone else, you still get paid.

Amazing... (1)

Mister Kay (1119377) | about 4 years ago | (#31758452)

Wow. I suppose our Imagine Cup entry could not be more relevant right now.

O.R.B. [youtube.com]

Of all the problems in the world... why the same three?

Buckminster Fuller (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758476)

Not a very long Wikipedia article, but you get the idea:

World Game, sometimes called the World Peace Game, is an alternative to war games. The playing of World Game was an idea proposed by Buckminster Fuller. The idea was to "make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone."


some additional resources (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | about 4 years ago | (#31758504)

I sort of research in this area (only sorta, but enough to keep up and know about half the people in it). So I can't help but throw out some additional resources, which you can interpret as "stuff I like".

FWIW, the general idea is usually referred to as "serious games" [wikipedia.org], with a bunch of terms like "persuasive games", "games for change", "games with a purpose", "political games", "news games", etc. having more specific meanings.

I personally rather like Ian Bogost's [bogost.com] book [amazon.com] on the subject, which, contrary to a lot of stuff in this space, is more measured in talking about both the possible benefits and likely pitfalls. Although I love the idea and think it has a lot of promise, I've got to admit most attempts to make "serious" or "political" or "world-changing" games fall flat. Anyone played McCain's 2004 campaign game, "John Kerry Tax Invaders"? It's exactly what you think it is: a space-invaders clone with John Kerry tax bills coming down at you, in place of aliens. Hilarious, but kind of stupid. So I think it's important to not be fan-boyish about it, and figure out what would make the medium actually flourish for these sorts of purposes. (FWIW, Bogost also has a former blog [bogost.com] on "games with an agenda", and a interesting Colbert appearance [colbertnation.com]).

An interesting precursor is Chris Crawford's [wikipedia.org] 1980s games, which tackled subjects like the Cold War and the environment in interesting ways. He's now giving away a .txt of a book [erasmatazz.com] describing the design behind Balance of Power (1986), still something of a high-water mark in combining the simulation genre with attempts to really make people think about the real world.

For more recent games, specifically in response to news events, some of which have activist content and some of which are just commentary, there's also a newsgame index [gatech.edu]. In addition, there's a recent paper [digra.org] discussing whether and how newsgames might become the 21st century's equivalent of political cartoons.

I think I covered that with "brainwashing" (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#31759472)

I'm super-serial [wikipedia.org] here. The purpose of these games isn't to teach people to think up original solutions, it's to indoctrinate them into the groupthink of the person that commissioned the game, and decided the rules and the criteria for winning.

Maybe that makes players think about the issue, but that's incidental. Rewarding Goodthink does not make for radical "solutions" like (for example) Lovelock's answer to the alleged climate change problem: build walls round the big cities and "enjoy life while you can" [bbc.co.uk]. I don't see that appearing in the success path of any eco-washing game any time soon.

Re:I think I covered that with "brainwashing" (1)

beatsme (1472991) | about 4 years ago | (#31760022)

Did you even read the article or look at the game the article is about? The objectives and actions in the game are far too open-ended to be called a groupthink training program like some of the others in the genre may be.

Nnnnnnno. (0, Flamebait)

SheeEttin (899897) | about 4 years ago | (#31758550)

Can a Video Game Solve Hunger, Disease and Poverty?

A video game can't. People can.

[Dr. McGonigal] takes threats to human existence [...] and asks the gaming public to collaborate on how to avoid these all too possible futures.

Um... I don't even need a game. Let's take a look at... Oh, Africa.
Problem: Little economy, disease, etc. (Ignoring the issue of "poverty"--just because they don't live like us doesn't mean it's a problem. Also education: exactly why do you need Western education to farm? But I digress.)
Cause: Little to no infrastructure, due to recurring military coups, dictatorships, despotism, leaders running a country like it's their personal posession.
Solution: Kick 'em out, set up a basic infrastructure, let the people build. Keep a sharp lookout for corruption.

So... What does the game do that we can't already do just fine?

Re:Nnnnnnno. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758972)

Ignoring the issue of "poverty"--just because they don't live like us doesn't mean it's a problem.

Poverty in this case means starvation and death rather than not having a Wii.

Also education: exactly why do you need Western education to farm? But I digress.

Because farming requires education. Otherwise the farmers use slash and burn tactic which cause irreparable long term damage to their own land. It also allows for an infrastructure to be maintained, a proper government to exist, provided basic knowledge of medicine (ie: condoms bloody work), a working democratic process and so on.

Trying to fix the "problems" without going for the true underlying causes is how you end up with the shit hole that exists there today. Why do you think the place is such a mess and wasn't two centuries ago?

What you see now is exactly what happens when YOUR solution is used. What do you think the colonial powers did? They run the government, built infrastructure, provided food and so on. Then they left and the uneducated masses did exactly what uneducated masses do. The useful cultural traditions (ie: farming, government, etc.) were gone and the remaining ones were a menace. Having eight kids works great when seven of them die by age 10 but doesn't work when 7 of them live to puberty due to modern-ish medicine.

Not to mention that the fastest way to increase your standard of living is to have someone else pay for it. China knows exactly what it's doing and it's reaping the rewards quite nicely.

Impossible (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31758564)

This is like asking someone who has never studied or used a computer to solve the halting problem. Any person educated enough is already working on it, or else needs no incentive from a game to do so.

Put a hundred million uneducated people in a room, and unless they are given infinite time to work out the underlying complexities, they will be unable to produce anything worthwhile.

Re:Impossible (1)

SilentSandman (1488023) | about 4 years ago | (#31759022)

I'm inclined to disagree here... while these 'uneducated' people may not be able to solve the issue in it's entirety, they have one significant advantage; perspective. Some of the greatest technologies we have today were made not by the 'educated' people who were busy looking at the problem, but by someone having an unusual perspective on the issue which all the rest wrote off before even thinking about it.

This 'game' gives the opportunity for all those -other- perspectives to get a little light, and maybe, just maybe, start growing.

Can a board game solve hunger, disease, and povert (1)

KWarp (1556259) | about 4 years ago | (#31758606)

Games are most effective at making participating players aware of subtle issues in a complex interconnected system. Games can promote awareness of an issue, but not a solution.

100% agree (1)

Trepidity (597) | about 4 years ago | (#31758664)

I think "activist games" aren't really the future, but games that make people think about interrelationships are. Even Sim City has a lot of subtle elements to it, and it wasn't even intended as a "serious" game.

Re:Can a board game solve hunger, disease, and pov (2, Interesting)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | about 4 years ago | (#31760110)

Except for the part where the game designer gets to choose how the "subtle issues" are connected in a "complex interconnected system", I am sure you are right.

Take that stupid "kill the terrorist and make more terrorists" game. The group that made said game had an agenda and the rules of their game did not conform to reality but rather to their agenda. Their game ignored the fact that terrorists kill people, so the terrorists in the game never formed their own group of enemies.

Your post should be:

Games can be propaganda for an opinion of an issue, but not a solution.

Hey, kids, brainwashing is fun! (3, Insightful)

Rogerborg (306625) | about 4 years ago | (#31758618)

Level up! You are now 100% Ecomental-Think compliant!

There is Subtle Progress Here, However... (1)

RobotRunAmok (595286) | about 4 years ago | (#31758830)

A year ago "Global Warming" would have been on their "Sim Apocalypse" list. Now, notable only through its omission...

Re:Hey, kids, brainwashing is fun! (1)

Nesman64 (1093657) | about 4 years ago | (#31768476)

Also, chocolate rations are cut this week.
Or was it: All are equal, but some are more equal than others.

Hmm, now I'm all mixed up.

Sorry, you're too late! (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | about 4 years ago | (#31759086)

I'm sorry, but you're too late. World poverty is already history thanks to Bob [wikipedia.org]. But there's still some of the world's diseases up for grabs, but the downside is you have to be able to sing...

Solve them? (2, Interesting)

Kuukai (865890) | about 4 years ago | (#31759184)

Video game designers have a hard enough time creating hunger, disease, and poverty. At least realistically. You don't see part of Liberty City get poorer as drug lords thrive. You don't see the bums lunge at the hot dog carts. In X zombie game you don't see the virus spread through an un-inoculated population.

Maybe that's why the game looks a lot more like a comic book with a bulletin board system...

Re:Solve them? (1)

bFusion (1433853) | about 4 years ago | (#31760048)

Video game designers have a hard enough time creating hunger, disease, and poverty.

I dunno, whenever I play WoW for days at a time, I tend to end up hungry, filthy and (at least intellectually and emotionally) broke.

No chance (1)

gweihir (88907) | about 4 years ago | (#31759188)

These are global and complexly interwoven problems. Any solution coming out from the game is going to be a locally optimized solution and if these were good, we would not be in the current fix.

Then there is the problem of implementation. The fix to global warming is easy: Stop burning all that fossil fuel. Unfortunately, we would needed to have implemented 10 years ago, what we did know 20 years ago. Now we will get global warming with hunger, war and death coming along and it is essentially too late to do anything meaningful about it.

So, no, this may be a cool idea, but it is fundamentally flawed and a waste of time.

More totalitarian nonsense (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | about 4 years ago | (#31759374)

Everyone that looks upon humanity and calls it broken is a dictator wanting to be born. They want to meddle in people's lives, arrange them like so many dominos, and then proclaim the carnage they have created as fixed. I wish these madmen and madwomen for once would have the self honesty to admit that they are the ones that are broken, because they hate a free people.

Re:More totalitarian nonsense (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31762954)

"Sure as I know anything, I know this - they will try again. Maybe on another world, maybe on this very ground swept clean. A year from now, ten? They'll swing back to the belief that they can make people... better."

  - Capt. Malcolm Reynolds

And More (1)

b4upoo (166390) | about 4 years ago | (#31759408)

Our leaders have failed to confront the fact that technology is eliminating jobs ever more quickly. We are
  fast reaching the point where pay checks will come from the government, machines will do the work, corporations will compete with ever more robotic produced goods.
              The social pecking order must be preserved. Requiring that a portion of one's government check be wagered on game success would maintain our social structure. Play would be mandatory but game choice would be up to the individual. Some may like checkers or chess while others may prefer games requiring manual skills.
              This could be combined with games that seek solutions to common issues such as fair water usage to the farms and cities.

Pfft (1)

Niubi (1578987) | about 4 years ago | (#31759572)

Wasn't there the case of that Korean gamer some years ago who dropped dead from playing WOW (or similar) for like hours and hours on end without breaks for food and drink? He'd probably disagree! Better for him if he'd played DubLi instead.

Thinking Outside The Box (1)

mindbrane (1548037) | about 4 years ago | (#31759618)

I've been trying to stare down, Chuck Norris style, this conundrum for the better part of a decade. Ultimately I end up back at Otto Jespersen's dictum that a problem is best canvassed from all sides, but, perhaps it's best to first know if the side you pick is from inside or outside the box. If you're inside the box, maybe it's your home in some back alley, and you're profoundly constrained by the conditions of the box, then, any possible side you choose in order to implement your solution, is still going to be constrained by being inside the box. If you're lucky enough to be outside the box but arrogant and ignorant enough to believe that the labels you've neatly placed on the box are the blond, perfectly coiffed curls hinting at your Goldilocks Solution to the World's problems then really IMHO you're just jerking off in public and expecting applause.

Solutions to problems are arrived at by critical thinking subjected to peer review. Critical thinking is expensive, metabolically, emotionally and politically. It might just cost you your life. Choosing labels like 'happiness', 'democratic', 'poverty' 'perverse' and any other knee jerk label, applying it to real life situations, then calling for solutions is an indulgence only those outside the box can afford to indulge in. The critical thinking necessary to solving hardcore, complex problems isn't something the majority of people necessarily want to take on. In point of fact, I'm sure, many people living inside boxes in back alleys are living there because critical thinking is not something they are constitutionally capable of or even want to undertake if enabled to do so. Taking problems that require empirical findings, critical review, innovation, expensive implementation and monitoring and giving them news' hour labels, and, then setting your self up as the white knight dragon slayer is an insult to those solving the problems and a trivial pursuit.

After the better part of a decade I've a few notes culled from a wide swath of disciplines that might provide the scaffolding for game play that seduces players into habits of critical thought processes that might, if inculcated, enable them to view problems rationally and test solutions at the least possible cost, but, unlike the bright, curly golden haired prize of a Goldilocks' Solution, the stuff I'm working with looks like the thin, frail, white hair of world weary, old people.

Most of the world's problems are social problems (1)

MikeRT (947531) | about 4 years ago | (#31759700)

The barriers in the developing world are not things like poverty and disease; those are the symptoms. It's social problems like corruption, over-bearing governments, aristocrats with no sense of noblesse oblige to the common man, inefficient and ineffective legal systems and other things which make the development of those societies to western standards exceedingly difficult.

Re:Most of the world's problems are social problem (1)

TheSync (5291) | about 4 years ago | (#31764758)

It's social problems like corruption, over-bearing governments, aristocrats with no sense of noblesse oblige to the common man, inefficient and ineffective legal systems and other things which make the development of those societies to western standards exceedingly difficult.

Many of these elements are measured in indexes of Economic Freedom, such as the Heritage / WSJ [heritage.org] index or the Fraser Institute [freetheworld.com] Economic Freedom of the World project.

Where you have poverty, disease, and low economic growth, you tend to have low levels of economic freedom as measured by these indexes.

Re:Most of the world's problems are social problem (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 4 years ago | (#31766594)

Those indexes are biased since they neglect key aspects of human happiness like community; health; external costs like pollution, systemic risk, and defense that businesses often pass on to society; and the corrupting effects of the concentraation of wealth in a few hands as the rich get richer -- things implicit in the original poster's comment.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality [wikipedia.org]

    http://www.amconmag.com/article/2005/mar/14/00017/ [amconmag.com]
The most fundamental problem with libertarianism is very simple: freedom, though a good thing, is simply not the only good thing in life. Simple physical security, which even a prisoner can possess, is not freedom, but one cannot live without it. Prosperity is connected to freedom, in that it makes us free to consume, but it is not the same thing, in that one can be rich but as unfree as a Victorian tycoon's wife. A family is in fact one of the least free things imaginable, as the emotional satisfactions of it derive from relations that we are either born into without choice or, once they are chosen, entail obligations that we cannot walk away from with ease or justice. But security, prosperity, and family are in fact the bulk of happiness for most real people and the principal issues that concern governments.

Like many conservatives, they leave out community and health as part of a good life, but otherwise it's a great essay.

Hans Rosling has shown that many materially poor countries have made great progress towards building prosperous and healthy societies under a variety of political assumptions (often ones that emphasize social welfare).
    http://www.gapminder.org/ [gapminder.org]
    http://www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_reveals_new_insights_on_poverty.html [ted.com]

Another index:
http://www.rprogress.org/sustainability_indicators/genuine_progress_indicator.htm [rprogress.org]

As the value of human labor continues to fall from automation, better design, and voluntary social netwoks, we will need new models of prosperity that are not mainly about "every person for themselves". Freedom is also not very secure or meaningful without face-to-face community, which is often just assumed, but seems rarer these days as our individualized consumer-oriented society fails in so many ways.

I agree most of the world's problems are social problems (even if better technology can make some social problems easier to solve through increasing abundance).

Give me a break. (3, Insightful)

MaWeiTao (908546) | about 4 years ago | (#31761328)

To me this is more simplistic, idealistic tripe. This is a more sophisticated variation of the stupid notion that love can save the world and we all just need to get along; something routinely conveyed in popular music. It's feel-good nonsense that provides no real solutions.

I'll grant you, the world does need these kind of idealists. This world would be a worse place without them. That said, all these problems have already been solved. Religion at it's core teaches humanity almost everything it needs know to solve these problems. Countless researchers and scientists have also devised innumerable practical solutions.

The problem, when it comes down to it, is human nature. These problems haven't been resolved and will never be resolved because of human nature. It doesn't matter what system of government or any other social system you impose on the people. People will find a way to exploit it. And far too often one group ends up being oppressed, financially, politically or socially, for the sake of another. Everything inevitably gets corrupted, including the aforementioned religion.

If people were totally selfless and honest we wouldn't even need a sociopolitical because all problems would solve themselves. But people aren't like that, so the most effective system is the one that accounts for human nature but is able to channel that energy in altruistic ways. Easier said than done. And of course this does nothing for disease which is something we'll be dealing with no matter how good people are to each other. It isn't a matter of saying fix it and it's done.

Some simple answers: basic income, vitamin D, etc. (1)

Paul Fernhout (109597) | about 4 years ago | (#31761520)

A basic income would eliminate poverty (and was endorsed by Nobel Prize winners):
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.basicincome.org/bien/aboutbasicincome.html [basicincome.org]
    http://www.usbig.net/ [usbig.net]
    http://www.pdfernhout.net/basic-income-from-a-millionaires-perspective.html [pdfernhout.net]
The right amount of vitamin D would reduce sick care costs by maybe a third in industrialized countries:
    http://www.lewrockwell.com/sardi/sardi111.html [lewrockwell.com]
    http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/treatment.shtml [vitamindcouncil.org]
A good diet, occasional fasting, and moderate exercise would reduce another third or so of sick care expenses by helping people break out of a pleasure trap from supernormal stimuli:
    http://www.amazon.com/Pleasure-Trap-Mastering-Undermines-Happiness/dp/1570671508 [amazon.com]
    http://www.amazon.com/Supernormal-Stimuli-Overran-Evolutionary-Purpose/dp/039306848X [amazon.com]
Single payer health care in the USA would reduce expenses (for paperwork) by a third as well (these are not all additive, of course):
    http://www.pnhp.org/facts/what-is-single-payer [pnhp.org]
Reinstating regulation on children's TV might help prevent damage to kids:
    http://www.amazon.com/War-Play-Dilemma-Childhood-Education/dp/080774638X [amazon.com]
    http://www.amazon.com/So-Sexy-Soon-Sexualized-Childhood/dp/0345505077 [amazon.com]
A more vegetarian diet would also free up three-quarters of agricultural lands in the USA:
    http://www.westernwatersheds.org/watmess/watmess_2002/2002html_summer/article6.htm [westernwatersheds.org]
Renewable energy has been cheaper than fossil fuels and nuclear, when you factor in the externalities, like pollution, defense spending, and risk:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brittle_Power [wikipedia.org]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.energyandcapital.com/articles/oil-gas-crude/461 [energyandcapital.com]
Switching to electric cars would probably reduce our electricity use, and eliminate the need for much oil (since it takes more electricity to refine the oil into gas than it would to run electric cars the same distance as a gallon of gas in an ICE car):
    http://www.evnut.com/gasoline_oil.htm [evnut.com]
We can develop the technology of being able to produce almost anything from commonly found raw materials:
    http://www.islandone.org/MMSG/aasm/ [islandone.org]
We know how to make healthier communities:
    http://www.bluezones.com/makeover-about [bluezones.com]
    http://www.amazon.com/Surviving-Americas-Depression-Epidemic-Community/dp/1933392711 [amazon.com]
Nuclear weapons and military robots are ironic because the same technology could produce abundance for all, with no need for fighting.

Most of these things have been known since the 1970s. The last three decades have been lost in that sense. There are plenty of ideas. How to get past all the entrenched vested interests (which spread endless self-serving misinformation) is the bigger problem.

For example, Herbert Shelton, who suggested starting in the 1920s that most disease in a culture of affluence like the USA could be prevented or cured with sunlight, better diet, and occasional fasting was mercilessly attacked for decades by medical doctors more interested in pushing pills, surgeries, and even cigarettes. For example, Herbert Shelton lost his job at one publication in 1927 for wanting to run an anti-smoking article.
    http://www.soilandhealth.org/02/0201hyglibcat/shelton.bio.bidwell.htm [soilandhealth.org]
Herbert Shelton's work on fasting helped inspire Mahatma Gandhi.

So, we need to move forward as a society, and we have endless technology to help us. More technology might make things easier, but the big problems are really social.

Can't Help A Nation That Can't Help Itself (1)

Chameleon Man (1304729) | about 4 years ago | (#31761640)

I had a friend who joined the peace corps who is now stationed in Honduras. She single-handedly created programs to improve the education of the youth within the village she worked. Problem was, while the kids enjoyed her work, she was the only one willing to offer help and continue the programs. Her time with the Peace Corps will be ending soon and she feels that she'll be leaving them in the state that they were before she got there. It's as if the folks in this particular village accepted aid but weren't willing to pick themselves up off the ground.

Pfff. The Rand Corporation. (1)

Joe Snipe (224958) | about 4 years ago | (#31763112)

Aren't they working in conjunction with the saucer people in a plot to eliminate dinner?

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