If we agree that the world is “fucked” — stuck in a downspiral, where the situation is getting worse and worse — then you should be very supportive of any initiative that wants to “unfuck” it.
But let’s first see what I mean by “fucked”, why Bill Gates disagrees with me, why we’re both right, and only then I can describe what I intend to do to improve the situation.
Bill Gates: the world is improving, every day
Bill Gates believes that the most relevant metrics regarding how the world is doing are all improving, and he’s right: poverty is going down (but not in the United States), literacy is going up, gender equality is improving, clean energy generation is taking over, and… Wait!
Here’s the first little crack in the argument. To be precise, it is true that clean energy production is growing way faster than “traditional” energy production (and finally becoming competitive with coal), but energy is one element in the bigger “equation” called “environment”.
Unfortunately, another element in the equation, “pollution”, is getting worse and worse every year: the improvements in rich economies are not offsetting the unsustainable, high-polluting growth in the rest of the world.
The environment is fucked up
When we say pollution, most people simply think of “CO2” pollution, which of course IS getting worse year after year. But that’s just one of the many form of pollution we should consider.
Many other types of pollution are getting much worse, and faster than CO2 pollution: from lead poisoning (trust me, it’s not just Flint), to mold, to heavy metals, to toxicity in our houses and offices, to the impoverishment of our food, and so on.
We can easily summarize this as a general bad state of Earth’s environment: forests are shrinking (in area, but total biomass is shrinking faster), oceans are biologically “drying up”, fish and marine life might not exist in 30 years… You get the picture.
Wealth is fucked up
Furthermore, income inequality, which we can agree is a bad thing, is not going down, despite the world’s GDP grows at more than 3% annually. And even worse, wealth inequality is rising fast, in the US and globally.
Historically we know that when wealth and income become more concentrated, social tension rises and, like an earthquake, it gets unleashed all at once, sometimes in multiple regions around the world: the two World Wars, the great 1929 recession, or the most recent 2008–2009 crisis are vivid examples of that.
In those social “earthquakes”, the ones suffering the transition the most are usually the poorest. Hence, from a purely statistical, metrics-driven, Bill-Gates-y point of view, things are actually not all getting better: some are improving (and that’s great, and I don’t want to minimize how important this is), but… Winter is coming. And we have no idea how cold this one is going to be.
Winter is coming. And we have no idea how cold this one is going to be.
Big Brother is watching you
Another scarier angle to look at is the level of control, or better the “invasiveness”, of corporate power and influence over the lives of ordinary people. We are becoming “cows to milk”, where milk is of course money and attention and time — corporations use sophisticated techniques and technologies to… Well, to “fuck” us, pardon my French; to know everything about us in order to sell us more stuff. Our privacy doesn’t matter. Our happiness doesn’t matter. Where the world is going doesn’t matter.
We buy things we don’t want, live lives we don’t like, waste time on activities we don’t care about, and in the process we give up our right to a healthy, sustainable, affordable, balanced, socially and culturally rich life. It shouldn’t be like this.
As much as I admire what the Gates (Bill and Melinda) have done and are doing with their Foundation, I cannot stand the trap of false optimism in which they have fallen, and in which all of us are sheepishly falling too.
In the United States alone, more than 300 million people are getting sicker, fatter, sadder, lonelier (in the United States, in Europe, in Japan, and elsewhere), more indebted, more stressed.
People don’t walk as much as they used to; they don’t look up anymore, or look at each other in the eyes; they instead compromise their (our) eyesight and neck/spinal strength and structure to continuously stare at glaring screens that we pay for, screens which suck our time and money out of our lives.
Louis CK, the comedian, said it right when he said “Everything is amazing, and nobody is happy”.
Moby, the musician, said it even better. He recently published a sadly accurate music video to criticize how our society is succumbing to an Orwellian (or better, Huxleyan) control over every aspect of our lives.
When you stop and think about the life we live today, it looks crazy.
Who could have imagined that a “Digital Detox” would even be a thing?
We lift people out of poverty only to make them cells of a sad, consumerist society. That’s fucked up. Let’s unfuck it.
So, what’s the solution?
I don’t have a solution for everybody — or at least, not yet.
I have decided that I want to build a company that addresses these issues, and creates solutions that will deeply impact how and where we live (I mean, physically), the environmental footprint of our activities, and the social and financial happiness of as many people as possible.
Why a company? Because I think it’s the most efficient way to have some impact on the issues described above.
And yes, I know, it’s very vague. Let me give you a different, more practical, description of what I mean.
The first project I will work on is the concept of a “mobile” city (well, a very small one), either on land or on water, in proximity to a high-density, existing city in the United States. Maybe I should call it a “mobile” neighborhood.
The benefit of this “mobile” city is that it can be built quickly, and can quickly adapt to the needs of its community. In other words, the “feedback cycle” is similar to a software product, and it’s measured in days, not years.
It will offer beautiful, high-end housing at affordable prices. It will help connect like-minded people, but it won’t be a ghetto, or a gated community for rich guys.
I am working to clarify a lot of the remaining open questions, and of course I am very happy to hear from anybody interested in helping me out.
I am also in talk with several people and organizations which could become partners or allies in this journey.
You can also help me A LOT by both liking this article, following me on Medium, sharing it on social media, or forwarding it to friends — but only if you do these things in moderation! If you don’t know what I mean, watch Moby’s video again.
But above all else, I would like to hear your thoughts on what I wrote. Am I wrong? Am I right? Is this a problem, or a set of problems, we should solve? Or all the world need is multi-colored birds trying to save their eggs from green-colored pigs?
Thanks, and stay tuned.