10 Provocations for the Next 10 years of Social Innovation
Indy Johar

A Silver Bullet? Or just another Painted Rock?

Unfortunately, in your article, you seem to be almost alone in your thinking, apart from a few silos. I have a change that’ll radically move us forward, but almost no one, and certainly no one with resources can BEGIN to listen. Most ideas in the same region are simply ideas, with neither a real story about how they’ll effect the change they desire (much less a well-reasoned one), nor a real plan. Mine has both, plus some evidence.

If I mention the idea, it sounds so grandiose that people can’t BEGIN to listen. I usually have to point out to people that their presumption of impossibility precludes curiosity even. And what makes them so sure? Simply a very deep cultural myth that a solution is impossible.

Your verbiage against “silver bullets” is similar. Even silver bullets aren’t silver bullets- they need to be made, harbored, loaded, delivered with a gun, aimed, fired and probably repeated, plus the mess cleaned up, the area scouted, guards set up, plus the whole investigation as to how the beast was loosed in the first place. While I have an amazingly simple plan with marvelous power, the drama of the impact looks too pollyanna for people to swallow. They turn away before they do any real thinking. Never mind that the slightly later plans include tapping into many of the kinds of integration into society that you express the need for.

This whole model of coming together for co-learning and thinking is nice, but unrealistic. I have a family to support, besides that Ashoka and other places seem to built for idle investigators, not people with plans in hand.

Your admonishment about silver bullets is the height of (typical) hubris. It assumes we’re so smart and phosisticated (malaprop-intended) that no great insights are left to be had. It’s not true at all. Let’s look.

Consider politics. Political scientists study governmental systems and how politics are done, but not political systems. Name some political systems! Wikipedia says “A political system is a system of politics and government.” But then it goes on to name governmental systems and how people are organized. Click on “politics” and it says, “the process of making decisions applying to all members of each group.” But it sticks so some very narrow interpretations of that, and then mentions the state, corruption, parties, left/right, libertarian/authoritarian. All of these are very old, simplistic and crude ways of thinking about politics and political systems.

The area is ripe for a huge breakthrough. There are very few examples of different political systems in history, though each one has differences in each application. A political system is not just the governance and organizations, but how people communicate- with elected officials, with politicians, and with each other, plus the underlying cultural contexts (of meaning) these are embedded in.

For instance, what if, for a democracy, we designed a political system for honesty. Or for transparency. Or for efficiency. My favorite is for accountability, but few people know what that means (most people erroneously either think it has to do with honesty or true representation, or they think it’s delivered by elections or the media.) For each of these, design some different kinds of systems that could deliver the communication necessary to support it, plus the institutions- the new norms of behavior needed. Plus the underlying meanings and values.

This is where political science should have gone long ago, but it didn’t. And for good reason. It’s really only since the emergence of the internet that humans have been able to ideate about new forms of mass communication.

Consider that we have lots and lots of types and instances of 1-to-1 communication, 1-many communication (and few-many). But there are only 3 kinds of many-many communication and they are very, very primitively used. Yet today, finally, we can build lots of new kinds. But again, this is well-outside the normal thinking of society.

I should apologize- I only know of one other area of impending breakthrough. Politics is the one that’s ripe, and it’s the one where I’ve designed a completely new system.

Most of our democratic national political systems were never designed. They evolved to support large parties battling for control while preserving the ability of the wealthy to purchase influence. What kind of system would evolve for that purpose? Instability would help. The ability to create drama so that reactions could fuel wars, socialist backlashes, libertarian agendas, and more.

Please indulge me saying the obvious. The results we have in politics are precisely the ones our political system allows. Our system, including our cultural mythologies, is built to give us in America a dysfunctional oligarchy which we think is a broken democracy built on greatness that goes back to the “genius of the founding fathers.”

Look at our political communication system. We spent about $7 billion in 2016 putting Trump and his enablers into power, just so we could thwart them at every turn. Most of that money went to creating sound bites, brief messages, empty speeches and lies such as fake news and PUSHing them to people. People care about issues, but have to hear about insults and vote for parties.

Consider instead a system which was designed for accountability. The one I’ve designed uses a PULL system. Instead of politicians pushing messages to people, people pull messages from politicians. And they do this over time. So for less than 1/10th of the cost, the quality of the communication goes up by something like a factor of 100. It accidentally also solves the problems of corruption and voter apathy and ignorance, if you look at the details.

But as I said, almost no one can even begin to listen long enough to be curious. People think that if an idea is good, they’ll magically understand it in just a few minutes. Investors and academics are especially like this. They know that it takes real mental sweat to do good work, but they assume they don’t need to think hard about a new idea…

Yes, this is public. But very, very few people will read down this far. Even fewer will understand it…

If you want to read about it, I’ve written a lot and am easy to find on the web. If you want to have a wonderful political system in a year, bring money or get people with money to contact me. Please, don’t send me advice. I’m looking for partners. And it’ll have to start with money so I can quit my day job. We can launch in 6 months…