Wouldn’t it be nice?
Software entrepreneurs are used to getting and giving the familiar advice: Scratch Your Own Itch. It is indeed very easy to identify a need — a product space — when it is your own need. You recognize that something involving you isn’t solved, you figure out a solution, and go for it. This is a decent formula and it has taken us a long way, encouraging people to look around them and use human knowledge and technology to fix stuff. Which is pretty awesome.
But it can also be a double-edged sword. A bunch of people scratching their own itches might lead to an itch-free community of entrepreneurs, while the non-scratchers remain itch-full. In other words, if we focus on our own problems we create a Solution Echo Chamber, where an abundance of solutions exist for the world of Silicon Valley (a.k.a. First World Problems) and problems from other realms remain orphan, simply because the means, resources and knowledge do not reside with those itching.
That is absolutely not intended to take away from the amazing achievements of First World entrepreneurship; I absolutely believe that technology can trickle-down and create wonderful global benefits. Solving social link sharing (via Twitter, Facebook) has morphed into actual democratisation of communication worldwide; Solving car commuting to work (via Uber, Driverless cars) will eventually lead to a greener and safer world. These things happen out of people’s goodwill and they consistently make everybody’s world better.
But I want to propose a change of terminology. Let’s step away from our own very comfortable little worlds. Let’s learn about the rest of it, and reach out our hands to help others. Why should we settle for scratching an itch when we can create a better life?
Let’s motivate our community into asking instead:
Wouldn’t it be nice?
Let’s be naive and wish wishes upon the world, upon our children’s and grandchildren’s lives, upon civilization as a whole. Let’s think back to our earliest childhood dreams and consider our partners in this adventure, our fellow humans and animals and the planet itself. Let’s go back to the drawing board and the science-fiction and philosophy books and imagine an awesome world and then create it. We all have the tools and smarts to make it.