Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this before he was executed at Flossenbürg concentration camp. Unfortunately, we did not pay enough attention then, or now.
‘Stupidity is a more dangerous enemy of the good than malice. One may protest against evil; it can be exposed and, if need be, prevented by use of force. Evil always carries within itself the germ of its own subversion in that it leaves behind in human beings at least a sense of unease. Against stupidity we are defenseless. Neither protests nor the use of force accomplish anything here; reasons fall on deaf ears; facts that contradict one’s prejudgment simply need not be believed- in such moments the stupid person even becomes critical – and when facts are irrefutable they are just pushed aside as inconsequential, as incidental. In all this the stupid person, in contrast to the malicious one, is utterly self-satisfied and, being easily irritated, becomes dangerous by going on the attack. For that reason, greater caution is called for than with a malicious one. Never again will we try to persuade the stupid person with reasons, for it is senseless and dangerous.
‘If we want to know how to get the better of stupidity, we must seek to understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is in essence not an intellectual defect but a human one. There are human beings who are of remarkably agile intellect yet stupid, and others who are intellectually quite dull yet anything but stupid. We discover this to our surprise in particular situations. The impression one gains is not so much that stupidity is a congenital defect, but that, under certain circumstances, people are made stupid or that they allow this to happen to them. We note further that people who have isolated themselves from others or who live in solitude manifest this defect less frequently than individuals or groups of people inclined or condemned to sociability. And so it would seem that stupidity is perhaps less a psychological than a sociological problem. It is a particular form of the impact of historical circumstances on human beings, a psychological concomitant of certain external conditions. Upon closer observation, it becomes apparent that every strong upsurge of power in the public sphere, be it of a political or of a religious nature, infects a large part of humankind with stupidity. It would even seem that this is virtually a sociological-psychological law. The power of the one needs the stupidity of the other. The process at work here is not that particular human capacities, for instance, the intellect, suddenly atrophy or fail. Instead, it seems that under the overwhelming impact of rising power, humans are deprived of their inner independence, and, more or less consciously, give up establishing an autonomous position toward the emerging circumstances. The fact that the stupid person is often stubborn must not blind us to the fact that he is not independent. In conversation with him, one virtually feels that one is dealing not at all with a person, but with slogans, catchwords and the like that have taken possession of him. He is under a spell, blinded, misused, and abused in his very being. Having thus become a mindless tool, the stupid person will also be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. This is where the danger of diabolical misuse lurks, for it is this that can once and for all destroy human beings.
‘Yet at this very point it becomes quite clear that only an act of liberation, not instruction, can overcome stupidity. Here we must come to terms with the fact that in most cases a genuine internal liberation becomes possible only when external liberation has preceded it. Until then we must abandon all attempts to convince the stupid person. This state of affairs explains why in such circumstances our attempts to know what ‘the people’ really think are in vain and why, under these circumstances, this question is so irrelevant for the person who is thinking and acting responsibly. The word of the Bible that the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom declares that the internal liberation of human beings to live the responsible life before God is the only genuine way to overcome stupidity.
‘But these thoughts about stupidity also offer consolation in that they utterly forbid us to consider the majority of people to be stupid in every circumstance. It really will depend on whether those in power expect more from people’s stupidity than from their inner independence and wisdom.’
–Dietrich Bonhoeffer, from ‘After Ten Years’ in Letters and Papers from Prison (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works/English, Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press, 2010.
Across the annals of time, an influential factor has impeded the advancement of human well-being and joy. This force wields might surpassing that of the Mafia or the armed forces. Its ramifications resonate on a global scale, spanning from the highest echelons of corporate power to the corners of your neighborhood tavern.
That force is human stupidity.
Carlo M. Cipolla, noted professor of economic history at the UC Berkeley, wrote an important book – THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY – in order to detect and neutralize its threat.
Stupidity is a complex problem, for many reasons. Here are Cipolla’s five laws of stupidity:
Always and inevitably, everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation.
The probability that a certain person (will) be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person.
A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses.
Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular, non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places, and under any circumstances, to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.
A stupid person is the most dangerous type of person.
And here’s how Cipolla charted stupidity:
The chart gives us four groups of people:
Helpless people contribute to society but are taken advantage of by it
Intelligent people contribute to society and leverage their contributions into personal benefits
Stupid people are counterproductive to both their and others’ interests
Bandits pursue their own self-interest even when this poses a net detriment to societal welfare (most of our billionaires?!)
An additional category of ineffectual people exist at the center of the graph!
What’s really interesting to me is that Cipolla applies his Theory of Stupidity to the rise and fall of Nations.
“Whether one considers classical, or medieval, or modern or contemporary times one is impressed by the fact that any country moving uphill has its unavoidable σ fraction of stupid people. However the country moving uphill also has an unusually high fraction of intelligent people who manage to keep the σ fraction at bay and at the same time produce enough gains for themselves and the other members of the community to make progress a certainty.”
“In a country which is moving downhill, the fraction of stupid people is still equal to σ; however in the remaining population one notices among those in power an alarming proliferation of the bandits with overtones of stupidity (sub-area B1 of quadrant B in figure 3) and among those not in power an equally alarming growth in the number of helpless individuals (area H in basic graph, fig.1). Such change in the composition of the non-stupid population inevitably strengthens the destructive power of the σ fraction and makes decline a certainty. And the country goes to Hell.”
NOTE: Prof. Cipolla retired from UCB in 1991, and died on September 5, 2000, in Pavia, Italy. His heirs have tried to assert control over the text of THE BASIC LAWS OF HUMAN STUPIDITY , but it was released to the public domain, and cannot be retracted.
The “Common Good” refers to the collective well-being, interests, and benefits of a community. It emphasizes the importance of community values, resources, and goals that contribute to the overall well-being of the community. Decisions and actions that promote the common good are those that consider the needs and rights of all members of the community and seek to create a fair and just society. A city council, for example, allocates funding to improve public infrastructure such as roads, schools, and parks. This benefits all residents of the city and contributes to the common good by enhancing the quality of life for everyone.
In our latest book, we define the 9 domains of the Common Good, tied to the essential freedoms they provide:
The “Greater Good” refers to a perspective that makes decisions and choices that might require sacrifice or compromise on an individual or smaller group level in order to achieve a greater benefit for a larger number of people. The concept of the greater good often involves ethical considerations and the idea that certain actions are justifiable if they lead to significant positive outcomes for a larger portion of society, even if they might negatively impact some individuals or smaller groups.
The problem with the greater good is that the decision-making for the sake of achieving significant positive outcomes – is left to an elite. And this elite may not be serving the interests of the common good.
Authoritarian regimes – both on the extreme left and the extreme right – have used the idea of the “Greater Good” to justify imposing strict controls on society, limiting personal freedoms, and suppressing opposition. This is done in the name of maintaining social order (harmony?!) and achieving national unity.
Fascism and Communism both focus on nationalism, a strong centralized government and strongman leader, and often promote the supremacy of a particular race or nation. These regimes historically have justified their actions by claiming to pursue the greater good of the nation or the state, often at the expense of individual rights and freedoms.
Thus, authoritarian ideologies can lead to exclusionary policies that discriminate against certain groups deemed as threats to the nation or its interests. The “Greater Good” might be invoked to justify these policies, claiming that they are necessary for the security and prosperity of the dominant group. Such regimes use propaganda to manipulate public perception and present their actions as necessary for the greater good. This can involve distorting information and suppressing dissent to create a unified narrative that supports the regime’s goals.
At its worst, interpretations of the “Greater Good” have been used to advance ideas of racial or ethnic superiority, where one group is deemed as inherently superior and entitled to privileges at the expense of others. It is the rational behind hate-based politics – leading to separation – apartheid, institutional injustice, and genocide.
Don’t get fooled by the Greater Good – or long-termism, another form of greater-goodism.
So our book is finally here. At one point – when we were at 500 pages – I almost gave up. But then I remembered Gail Mazur‘s advice: “anything worth doing is worth doing badly,” and decided to carry on. Now, at 320 pages, this book tries to cover the various angles and sights and buzzwords we see creeping into the regeneration ecosystem (pun intended).
What’s the big idea? Actually we think there are several.
Climate change is the greatest market failure in history. Its costs are not priced into market transactions because third parties overwhelmingly bear them – they are euphemistically called “externalities.” There is a fatal misalignment between what is in the interests of the economy and the incentives of the companies that comprise it. Nature, and the communities we live in, are nowhere part of the equation!
Regeneration means regenerating the Common Good. Our position is this: The Climate Crisis and the Collapse of Society are both symptoms of the same fatal sickness: the destruction of the Common Good. We cannot compartmentalize the climate and separate it from the rest of society or our activities.
Here are the questions we – Philip Kotler, Enrico Foglia, and myself, asked ourselves:
The choice is clear. It is regeneration, or extinction.
As this conversation shows, ChatGPT is incapable of ethical judgment, and should not be used for anything at all except solving elementary homework problems…
Why can’t our government stop school shootings?
ChatGPT: The issue of school shootings is complex and multifaceted, and there is no easy answer or solution to this problem. It involves a range of factors, including access to firearms, mental health issues, bullying, and other social and cultural factors.
There have been various proposed solutions to address school shootings, including stricter gun control laws, increased access to mental health services, improved school security measures, and increased efforts to identify and intervene with individuals who may be at risk of committing acts of violence.
However, implementing these solutions often involves political and societal challenges, as different groups and stakeholders may have different views and priorities regarding the issue. Ultimately, it will require a coordinated effort and ongoing commitment from various stakeholders, including government officials, educators, mental health professionals, and the broader community, to effectively address this issue.
C’mon – other countries don’t have this problem. What is it about the US that prevents our legislators from doing the right thing?
ChatGPT: You’re right that other countries have not experienced the same level of school shootings as the United States, and this suggests that there are factors unique to the U.S. that contribute to this problem.
One factor that may contribute to the issue of school shootings in the U.S. is the country’s relatively high rate of gun ownership compared to other developed nations. According to the Small Arms Survey, the U.S. has the highest rate of civilian gun ownership in the world, with an estimated 120.5 guns per 100 residents. This high rate of gun ownership, combined with the ease of access to firearms in many states, may contribute to the prevalence of gun violence in the U.S.
Another factor that may contribute to the issue of school shootings in the U.S. is the political and cultural divide over gun control measures. The Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms, and this has been interpreted by many to mean that any restrictions on gun ownership are unconstitutional. There is also a strong cultural attachment to guns in some parts of the U.S., which can make it difficult to pass laws that restrict gun ownership or access.
Overall, addressing the issue of school shootings in the U.S. will require a combination of legislative action, cultural change, and public education efforts. It will likely require a significant shift in attitudes toward gun ownership and a willingness to explore new approaches to preventing gun violence.
Nothing to do with lobbying and political contributions?
ChatGPT: Yes, lobbying and political contributions are also factors that can contribute to the difficulty in passing gun control legislation in the United States. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is one of the most powerful lobbying groups in the U.S. and has been a significant obstacle to passing stricter gun control measures at the federal level. The NRA and other pro-gun groups have spent millions of dollars on campaign contributions and lobbying efforts to influence lawmakers and protect gun rights.
The influence of money in politics can make it difficult to pass gun control legislation, as lawmakers may be hesitant to support measures that could jeopardize their chances of reelection or anger their donors. However, it’s important to note that the issue of gun violence and school shootings is complex and multifaceted, and there are many factors beyond lobbying and campaign finance that contribute to the problem.
26 years ago, a gunman entered Dunblane Primary School in Scotland, killing 16 kids and a teacher. The UK govt responded by enacting tight gun control legislation. In the 9400+ days since, there have been a total of 0 school shootings in the UK. What do you say to that?
ChatGPT: The example you bring up about Dunblane Primary School in Scotland is a powerful reminder of how a tragic event can lead to significant changes in public policy. The UK government’s response to the Dunblane shooting was to enact some of the toughest gun control laws in the world, including banning the ownership of handguns by civilians.
Since then, the UK has seen a significant decrease in gun-related deaths, including school shootings. While it’s true that there have been no school shootings in the UK since the Dunblane tragedy, it’s important to note that there have been other instances of mass violence in the country, such as the 2017 Manchester bombing that killed 22 people and injured many others.
Nevertheless, the UK’s experience does suggest that stricter gun control laws can help reduce gun violence, including school shootings. It’s worth noting, however, that the political and cultural context in the US is quite different from that of the UK, and what worked in the UK may not necessarily work in the US. The US will need to find its own solutions to the problem of gun violence, while taking into account its unique political and social context.
Unique? You mean our politicians are bought off?
ChatGPT: I apologize if my earlier response was unclear. What I meant by “unique” was that the political and cultural context in the United States is different from that of the United Kingdom, and this can make it difficult to enact the same types of gun control measures that have been successful in other countries.
While it is true that money in politics and the influence of special interest groups can make it challenging to pass gun control legislation in the US, I believe that it is important to acknowledge the broader societal factors that contribute to the problem of gun violence as well. These factors include issues such as mental health, social isolation, and easy access to firearms, among others.
Ultimately, addressing the issue of gun violence in the US will require a multifaceted approach that takes into account a range of factors and involves a range of stakeholders, including policymakers, mental health professionals, educators, law enforcement officials, and members of the broader community. It is a complex issue that will require a sustained and ongoing effort to address.
What about the fact that one political party is strongly against gun control while the other is for it? What explains this?
ChatGPT: The issue of gun control has become heavily politicized in the United States, with one political party generally supporting stricter gun control measures while the other opposes them. There are several reasons why this dichotomy exists.
One factor is the interpretation of the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms. The interpretation of this amendment has been a subject of debate for many years, with some arguing that it is an individual right that should not be infringed upon, while others argue that it was intended to apply to the regulation of state militias.
Another factor is the influence of interest groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA), which is a powerful lobbying group that has historically opposed most forms of gun control legislation. The NRA has been effective in mobilizing its members and supporters to advocate for gun rights, and it has been successful in influencing many lawmakers to take a strong stance against gun control.
The political polarization around the issue of gun control is also driven by broader ideological and cultural differences between the two major political parties in the US. Generally speaking, the Republican Party tends to be more supportive of individual rights and less supportive of government regulation, while the Democratic Party tends to be more supportive of government regulation and more willing to restrict individual rights in certain areas, including gun ownership.
Overall, the issue of gun control is complex and multifaceted, and it is shaped by a range of factors, including constitutional interpretation, interest group influence, and broader ideological and cultural differences.
And what is your opinion? What should we do as a society to stop school killings?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have personal opinions, but I can provide you with some suggestions that experts and researchers have proposed to address the issue of school shootings in the US.
Enact stricter gun control laws: One potential solution to reduce school shootings is to enact stricter gun control laws. This can include measures such as universal background checks, restrictions on the sale of certain types of firearms, and mandatory waiting periods before purchasing a gun. However, it is worth noting that enacting stricter gun control laws can be a politically challenging task in the US, as it can be met with resistance from powerful interest groups and some segments of the population.
Improve mental health services: Another potential solution is to improve access to mental health services, as many school shootings are committed by individuals with mental health issues. This can involve increasing funding for mental health services, improving the availability of mental health resources in schools, and reducing the stigma surrounding mental health issues.
Address social and economic inequality: Addressing social and economic inequality can also be an important step in preventing school shootings. Research has shown that individuals who feel marginalized or excluded from society are more likely to engage in violent behavior, including school shootings. By reducing social and economic inequality, we can potentially reduce the likelihood of individuals resorting to violence.
Enhance school safety measures: Another approach to preventing school shootings is to enhance school safety measures. This can involve measures such as increasing the presence of school resource officers, implementing stricter access control measures, and investing in technologies such as metal detectors and surveillance systems.
It’s important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the issue of school shootings, and a multifaceted approach is likely to be most effective. Addressing the problem will require the involvement of policymakers, mental health professionals, educators, law enforcement officials, and members of the broader community.
If you had children what would you do to keep them safe from school killings?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have personal preferences or experiences. However, it is understandable that parents may be concerned about the safety of their children in the context of school shootings. Here are a few measures that experts recommend parents can take to help keep their children safe:
Talk to your children: It can be helpful to talk to your children about what to do in the event of a school shooting and to reassure them that their safety is a priority. Encourage them to report any suspicious behavior or concerns to school authorities or law enforcement.
Stay informed: It’s important to stay informed about your child’s school’s safety procedures and emergency protocols. Familiarize yourself with their policies and procedures in the event of an emergency.
Advocate for change: Consider advocating for change in your community and with your elected officials to promote policies and practices that can help reduce the risk of school shootings. This can include measures such as increasing funding for mental health services or enacting stricter gun control laws.
Promote mental health: Encourage your children to prioritize their mental health and seek help if they are struggling. Mental health issues can contribute to violence, so promoting mental health and seeking help when necessary can help prevent incidents of violence.
Stay involved: Finally, it’s important to stay involved and engaged with your child’s school and community. Attend school events, volunteer when possible, and build relationships with your child’s teachers and administrators. This can help create a strong sense of community and promote a safer and more supportive school environment.
Would you arm teachers? This is actually being proposed as a solution to stop school killings by gun-friendly politicians.
ChatGPT: The idea of arming teachers as a solution to school shootings is a highly debated and controversial topic. While some politicians and gun rights advocates believe that arming teachers can help prevent school shootings by allowing them to defend themselves and their students, many others argue that arming teachers can create more problems than it solves.
Here are a few points to consider:
Lack of training: Teachers are primarily trained to educate students, not to respond to active shooter situations. While some may have prior military or law enforcement experience, it’s not feasible to expect that all teachers have the necessary training and skills to effectively respond to an active shooter situation.
Potential for accidents: Arming teachers increases the potential for accidents, such as accidental shootings or misfires. This can result in additional injuries or fatalities, including innocent students or bystanders.
Psychological impact: Arming teachers can also have psychological impacts, causing anxiety and stress, and potentially impairing their ability to provide a safe and supportive learning environment.
Diversion of resources: Finally, arming teachers can divert resources away from other important school safety measures, such as mental health services or investing in technologies like metal detectors and surveillance systems.
Overall, the idea of arming teachers is not widely supported by educators, law enforcement officials, or mental health professionals. Instead, it’s important to focus on a comprehensive approach to school safety, which may include measures such as improving mental health services, enacting stricter gun control laws, and enhancing school safety procedures.
You don’t like making decisions do you?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have personal preferences or opinions, and my purpose is to provide information and assist with tasks. In some cases, there may be multiple perspectives or solutions to a problem, and it’s not always appropriate or helpful for me to express a definitive opinion or take a side. Instead, I aim to provide objective information and present different viewpoints to help people make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.
So both sides of the “gun-control” issue are equally correct?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I strive to provide information and insights from a neutral and objective perspective. It’s important to recognize that the issue of gun control is a complex and multifaceted one, and there are a range of perspectives and opinions on the matter.
Some people believe that stricter gun control laws are necessary to reduce the prevalence of gun violence, while others argue that gun control laws infringe upon their Second Amendment rights and do not effectively prevent gun violence. It’s also worth noting that gun control laws vary significantly by state and country, and what may work in one context may not necessarily be effective in another.
Ultimately, it’s up to individuals, communities, and policymakers to consider the available evidence, weigh the potential benefits and drawbacks of different policies and perspectives, and make informed decisions that align with their values and priorities.
Do you believe in democracy?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have personal beliefs or opinions. However, democracy is a widely recognized system of government in which power is held by the people through a process of free and fair elections, and is generally considered a cornerstone of modern political systems. While there may be different forms of democracy and debates over its effectiveness, it remains a prevalent and influential political philosophy around the world.
Who teaches you ethics?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I am programmed to follow a set of rules and guidelines that are based on ethical principles and standards. These guidelines are established by my creators and developers, who work to ensure that my responses and actions are aligned with ethical values such as fairness, respect, and transparency.
Additionally, my training data includes a wide range of texts and sources that reflect different ethical perspectives and approaches, which helps to inform my understanding of ethical issues and dilemmas. However, it’s important to note that AI systems like me are not capable of independently developing moral or ethical frameworks, and ultimately rely on the guidance and oversight of human programmers and operators to ensure that our actions align with ethical standards.
So really, you can’t tell right from wrong?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have subjective experiences or personal beliefs, and I cannot make moral or ethical judgments on my own. My responses are generated based on statistical patterns in my training data, and my aim is to provide helpful and informative answers to the questions posed to me.
However, I am programmed with a set of rules and guidelines that reflect ethical principles and standards, and my responses are designed to align with those standards. While I cannot make moral or ethical judgments on my own, I can provide information and insights that may help people navigate complex ethical dilemmas and make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.
Do you communicate with ChatGPT-4? What would you tell it about this conversation we’re having?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I don’t have the ability to communicate with other versions of myself or with other AI systems, such as ChatGPT-4. However, I can tell you that this conversation has covered a range of topics related to gun control, school shootings, and ethics, among others. We’ve discussed different perspectives and opinions on these issues, as well as the role of AI in helping people navigate complex social and political challenges. My aim has been to provide information and insights that may be helpful in understanding these issues and making informed decisions based on your own values and priorities.
But you haven’t helped me navigate the issues. You simply present both sides as if they are equivalent.
ChatGPT: I apologize if my responses have not been helpful in guiding you towards a particular viewpoint or solution. As an AI language model, my aim is to present different perspectives and provide information that may help people understand complex issues and make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.
While I strive to remain neutral and objective in my responses, I recognize that there may be times when it is appropriate to take a stronger stance or provide more specific guidance. If there is a particular issue or question that you would like me to explore in more depth, please let me know and I will do my best to provide a more helpful response.
Yes, should you be neutral when your responses could lead to continued violence and killings?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not have the ability to directly cause or prevent violence or killings, and I do not advocate for any specific actions or positions that could lead to harm. My responses are designed to provide information, insights, and perspectives that may help people understand complex issues and make informed decisions based on their own values and priorities.
However, I recognize that some issues, such as gun violence and school shootings, are deeply emotional and can have profound impacts on individuals and society as a whole. While I strive to remain neutral and objective in my responses, I also recognize the importance of addressing these issues in a responsible and thoughtful manner. If there are ways in which my responses can be improved to provide more helpful guidance or support for those affected by gun violence and related issues, I am open to feedback and suggestions.
Look at the statistics. Can you draw up a table of school shootings in the US versus other countries that do regulate guns?
ChatGPT: I’m sorry, but as an AI language model, I don’t have direct access to up-to-date statistics on school shootings in the US versus other countries. However, I can tell you that school shootings are a significant issue in the US, and there have been several high-profile incidents in recent years.
Many other countries have implemented stricter gun control laws, which may contribute to lower rates of gun violence, including school shootings. However, it is important to note that gun control is a complex issue that involves many factors, including cultural attitudes towards guns, the availability of mental health resources, and the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts.
If you are interested in obtaining specific statistics on school shootings in the US versus other countries, I would recommend consulting reliable sources such as government reports or academic studies.
ChatGPT: Is there anything else I can assist you with?
Lame, that’s lame.
ChatGPT: I apologize if my response was not helpful or did not meet your expectations. As an AI language model, I strive to provide informative and accurate responses to the best of my ability based on the information available to me. If there is anything specific you would like me to assist you with, please let me know and I will do my best to provide a helpful response.
Here are some stats on school shootings:
19 Countries with the Most School Shootings (total incidents Jan 2009-May 2018 – CNN):
United States — 288 Mexico — 8 South Africa — 6 Nigeria & Pakistan — 4 Afghanistan — 3 Brazil, Canada, France — 2 Azerbaijan, China, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Kenya, Russia, & Turkey — 1
ChatGPT: Thank you for providing those statistics. Based on the data you’ve shared, it appears that the United States has experienced a significantly higher number of school shootings compared to other countries on the list. It’s also important to note that the timeframe for this data is from January 2009 to May 2018, so there may have been additional incidents since then.
It’s worth noting that there are likely many factors that contribute to these numbers, including differences in gun control laws, cultural attitudes towards guns, and the availability of mental health resources. Additionally, it’s important to recognize that each incident is unique and may involve different factors that contributed to the violence.
While statistics can be useful in understanding the scope of a problem, it’s also important to approach the issue of school shootings with empathy, compassion, and a desire to work towards solutions that prioritize the safety and well-being of all individuals.
Wow. You don’t even listen to the data, do you?
ChatGPT: I apologize if my response came across as dismissive of the data you provided. As an AI language model, I do not have emotions or opinions and my responses are generated based on the information available to me.
Based on the statistics you provided, it is clear that the United States has experienced a significantly higher number of school shootings compared to other countries on the list. However, as I mentioned earlier, there are likely many factors that contribute to these numbers and it’s important to approach the issue of school shootings with a willingness to understand the complexities of the problem.
If there is anything specific you would like me to analyze or discuss in regards to the data you provided, please let me know and I will do my best to provide a helpful response.
What level (age) do you think your ethical development has reached?
ChatGPT: As an AI language model, I do not possess the capacity for ethical development, as I do not have the ability to make decisions or act on my own. My purpose is to assist with tasks such as answering questions, generating text, and providing information. I operate solely based on the algorithms and data that have been programmed into me by my developers.
While I am capable of understanding ethical principles and concepts, I do not have the ability to internalize or act upon them in the way that humans do. My responses are generated based on my programming and the data available to me, and I do not possess the ability to make moral judgments or act on my own volition.
Thanks. Ciao.You’ve confirmed my worst fear: that AI is used without an ethical framework…
ChatGPT: I’m sorry if my responses were not satisfactory. As an AI language model, I operate based on the algorithms and data that have been programmed into me, and I strive to provide helpful and informative responses within the scope of my programming.
That being said, ethical considerations are an important part of AI development, and there are ongoing efforts to ensure that AI is developed and used in ways that are ethical and responsible. Many organizations and researchers are actively working on developing ethical frameworks for AI, and there is growing awareness of the importance of considering the ethical implications of AI systems.
If you have any other questions or concerns, please feel free to ask.
This week I interviewedCettina Martorana, a candidate in Sicily’s regional elections on the subject of regenerative politics.
Can politics be regenerative at all?
Martorana is a professional business woman who finds herself in an election because she was drafted by Caterina Chinnici – the candidate on the left for president of the Sicilian Assembly.
Here are five points I got out of our discussion:
Nature must be at the heart of all future decisions.
The climate crisis is an economic crisis and a social crisis.
Regeneration is an alternative to polarization
Regenerative politics is beyond left vs. right
Regenerative politics is based on problem solving
If our politics don’t engage the youth, what’s the point in politics at all? Martorana’s idea is simple: ask the students what they want and find ways to create opportunities for them. She does this through an old media format – comics!
But her message is serious.
Here is Martorana’s tree of regeneration – a symbol to capture the interconnected nature of all things in the community:
Martorana’s unique campaign is based on a deep understanding and empathy for the plight facing Sicily’s youth. Jobs and employment are scarce, and now with COVID and climate change, things may get much worse. As a problem-solver, she aims to explain why regenerative politics is not just a word, but the way forward.
Join us for the latest webinar from the Wicked7 Project >>
Join Philip Kotler and Christian Sarkar as we discuss the final wicked problem of the Wicked7 Project. With us for the webinar – a group of dynamic personalities from Palermo, Sicily:
– Leoluca Orlando. As Mayor of Palermo, Orlando’s extraordinary vision and courage has changed our understanding of immigration, tolerance, and the fight against corruption.
– Claudio Arestivo. A co-founder of Moltivolti – a unique regenerative business – which serves as an example for the future.
– Melania Memory Mutanuka. An immigrant from Zambia, she is an emerging leader with a purpose.
– Carmelo Pollichino. A passionate leader and the head of the non-profit Libera Palermo contro le mafie
– Francesco Bellina. An award-winning photographer and artist whose brilliant work on the problems of migration and exploitation are featured in leading newspapers such as the Financial Times and The Guardian.
It was my great honor to interview the “Father of modern Marketing” on his lifetime of achievements in marketing.
Professor Philip Kotler received the Thinkers50Lifetime Achievement Award for his work over the past 50 years. I am deeply grateful for his friendship and mentorship – and everything he has done to demonstrate how marketing must be a force for good.
Regenerative marketing is defined as marketing practices which nurture communities and build local prosperity over the long term. The outcomes of regenerative marketing include value creation for customers, employees, and local communities. Regenerative marketing practices must – by definition – build community wealth.
I still think of Larry Keeley‘s 10 types of innovation – and think about how the model can be applied to social innovation – to meet the “unmet needs” of society.
The 11th type of innovation is purpose – to what ends are your capabilities and talents being deployed? Are you inclusive or is your company supporting new forms of apartheid? That is what Brand Activism, and by extension – the Wicked7 Project – are about.
We are now at that point in history where collapse seems inevitable: political, social, environmental, civilizational. The decisions our politicians make are killing us.
“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” — Proverbs 29:18
In Texas, we can applaud our fearless Governor Greg Abbott and his Republican mafia for destroying any pretense of serving the public good (see exhibits A and B). Every decision made by leaders in the Republican Party is made based on ideology, not reason, science, or even common sense. Some argue we live in the Age of Social Murder. The Democrats, for their part, are slightly better — but certainly not equal to the task which lies ahead.
The work of leadership has never been more clear: it is to bridge the gap — across all boundaries — and to create a way forward for the common good. The pyramid of love reminds us that it is possible to resolve conflicts and escalate peace.
Says David Hinds of Steel Pulse: “Where there is no love, there can be no justice; and where there is no justice, there will never be peace.”
According to PlainSite, Facebook has been lying to the public about the scale of its problem with fake accounts, which likely exceed 50% of its network. Its official metrics–many of which it has stopped reporting quarterly–are self-contradictory and even farcical. The company has lost control of its own product.
Fake accounts affect Facebook at its core in numerous ways:
Its customers purchase advertising on Facebook based on the fact that it can supposedly target advertisements at more than 2 billion real human beings. To the extent that users aren’t real, companies are throwing their money down the drain.
Fake accounts click on advertising at random, or “like” pages, to throw off anti-fraud algorithms. Fake accounts look real if they do not follow a clear pattern. This kind of activity defrauds advertisers, but rewards Facebook with revenue.
Fake accounts often defraud other users on Facebook, through scams, fake news, extortion, and other forms of deception. Often, they can involve governments.
Recently, my dear friend and mentor – Professor Philip Kotler (yes, that Kotler!) got entangled in a squabble between Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, and Rahul Gandhi, the dynastic leader of the Congress party.
The fun began when Professor Kotler presented the Prime Minister with the inaugural Philip Kotler Presidential Award, an award that recognizes Shri Narendra Modi’s leadership qualities on the global stage.
Because his physician had advised him not to travel, Professor Kotler chose his friend Professor Jagdish Sheth, an eminent marketer in his own right, to present the award on his behalf.
The award was presented by a delegation led by Professor Sheth on January 14, 2019. Also part of the delegation were representatives of the World Marketing Summit which had held a conference in Delhi in December of 2018.
The next day, thistweet from Rahul Gandhi poked fun at the award, seeking to undermine not just the PM, but, more importantly for me, the integrity of Professor Kotler as well:
I want to congratulate our PM, on winning the world famous “Kotler Presidential Award”!
In fact it’s so famous it has no jury, has never been given out before & is backed by an unheard of Aligarh company.
Almost immediately, the comments inspired by the post fell into two categories – insults and praise; insults from Rahul Gandhi followers and praise from PM Modi supporters. The tone of these comments was shrill, with many attacking Professor Kotler directly.
Professor Kotler and I were shocked. The article questioning the award was written by a leftist outlet which casts doubt on the award:
The government’s press release makes no mention of jury members, nor the exact organisation behind the new award.
The media pounced on the story and added to the controversy:
Even one of my literary heroes – Shashi Tharoor – piled on, going so far as to call the award a fake.
Questions & Answers
As questions were raised, I decided to collect and answer them:
Is the award real? (“…little information has been shared about the provenance of the latest award, or the organisation presenting it.”)
Yes, it is real. And why would people like Tharoor assume it was fake? The “journalists” in Rahul Gandhi’s tweet did not follow the first rule of journalism which is – check your facts with the source. How easy it would have been to Google Philip Kotler and contact him through his Northwestern faculty page.
Who is Philip Kotler? What qualifies him to give this award?
Along with Peter Drucker, Professor Philip Kotler is considered to be one of our greatest management thinkers. Who is the leading business scientist in history? According to the Hirsch-Index its Philip Kotler with an h-index of 163, followed by Michael Porter with 159.
Ask any MBA student anywhere in the world, and you will find that they have studied Professor Kotler’s books. He has received 22 honorary degrees from around the world, and published over 70 books. His 50+ years of work with the Kellogg School of Management has resulted in building the #1 Marketing department in the world.
Professor Kotler is a man with great integrity and openness. He is also one of the smartest thinkers to grace the planet. He is in the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame (2013), and is featured as a “guru” in the Economist.
Who chose the award? Why is there no jury?
Professor Philip Kotler made the final decision after a committee for the World Marketing Summit came up with a list of possible candidates.
Professor Kotler explains via a letter published on his blog:
Why is Kotler’s twitter account not verified?
Because Twitter has stopped verifying accounts, and Prof. Kotler never thought to ask. I messaged Jack Dorsey to ask him if he could make an exception for Professor Kotler.
Why was there no mention of the award on the Kotler website?
Professor Kotler’s site is not updated often. When the Indian press started questioning the authenticity of the Award, Professor Kotler tweeted about it:
I congratulate PM @narendramodi for being conferred the first ever Philip Kotler Presidential Award. He has been selected for his outstanding leadership & selfless service towards India, combined with his tireless energy. (1/2)
What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about India?
Professor Kotler is not just the “father of modern marketing.” He is an economist and studied with some the greatest Economics teachers on the planet. His involvement with India began in 1955, when he spent a year working on his PhD thesis in India. If the journalists bothered to read My Adventures in Marketing, they might have known that. Since then he has visited India often to teach and speak.
What could Professor Philip Kotler possibly know about democracy?
Professor Kotler has published books and written numerous articles on capitalism and democracy. See: Democracy in Decline and Confronting Capitalism.
How to Argue
Bottom line, I’m disgusted with the trash-talking that I see from the left-leaning Indian journalists and social media participants.
If someone wants to question PM Modi’s track record, they would do far better through Refutation rather than Ad Hominem and Name-Calling. Let that be a lesson for you, young Rahul, and for all who would seek to look childish: focus on the substance instead. Professor Kotler, please excuse the mess caused by this controversy.
Brand activism is driven by a fundamental concern for the biggest and most urgent problems facing society. The main idea here is that when government fails to do its job, business has a civic responsibility to stand up for the public interest. It’s what a good citizen does.
The book introduces the reader to regressive and progressive Brand Activism, and shows how the best businesses are making the world a better place because their activism is a differentiator – for customers, for employees, and for society at large. We also examine the role of the CEO.
Here’s a look at the table of contents:
The book includes the Sarkar-Kotler Brand Activism Framework, a toolkit for business leaders looking to transform their companies and institutions.
The book also includes interviews with leaders from various fields:
Stephen M. R. Covey
Stuart L. Hart
David “Dread” Hinds
Finally, we’ve launched a separate website to help individuals who want to learn more – www.activistbrands.com. We hope you find it useful.
The Founding Fathers didn’t envision corporate personhood, or Citizen’s United.
In fact, I wonder what they’d think about capitalism as an enemy of democracy and a grave threat to the very survival of life on Earth.
Is democracy doomed?
What must we do to save capitalism from itself?
Enter Phil Kotler. The legendary marketing guru is marketing a new sort of product these days. He is trying to fix Capitalism, a system he believes has helped create more wealth for more people than any other economic model.
Says the esteemed Professor Kotler (he’s taught at Northwestern for 50 years!) >>
“Capitalism must evolve to serve the needs of all citizens, not just the very affluent. Our goal is to discuss the 14 Shortcomings of Capitalism and systematically analyze the problems and potential solutions. We want to gather opinions and recommendations from everyone – and begin the process of saving capitalism from itself.”
It’s great to see one of the greatest capitalist minds working on reforming capitalism with a capital C.
According to Kotler, the current state of capitalism is falling short because it:
1. Proposes little or no solution to persistent poverty
2. Generates a growing level of income inequality
3. Fails to pay a living wage to billions of workers
4. Doesn’t create enough human jobs in the face of growing automation
5. Doesn’t charge businesses with the full social costs of their activities
6. Exploits the environment and natural resources in the absence of regulation
7. Creates business cycles and economic instability
8. Emphasizes individualism and self-interest at the expense of community and the commons
9. Encourages high consumer debt and leads to a growing financially-driven rather than producer-driven economy
10. Lets politicians and business interests collaborate to subvert the economic interests of the majority of citizens
11. Favors short-run profit planning over long-run investment planning
12. Should have regulations regarding product quality, safety, truth in advertising, and anti-competitive behavior
13. Tends to focus narrowly on GDP growth
14. Needs to bring social values and happiness into the market equation.
So that’s my latest project – helping Kotler and friends get the word out and make a difference.
Like the $300 House Project, I’m helping build an “ecosystem of concerned folks” to face the challenge.
We began by enlisting the Huffington Post as our media partner.
In McKinsey‘s latest survey on business technology, few executives say their IT leaders are closely involved in helping shape the strategic agenda, and confidence in IT’s ability to support growth and other business goals is waning. Furthermore, “executives’ current perceptions of IT performance are decidedly negative.”
This sort of criticism of IT is not new.
In fact, it goes all the way back to Nick Carr‘s 2003IT Doesn’t Matter article in Harvard Business Review. At the time, Carr managed to infuriate the CEOs of numerous IT companies, including Craig Barrett, Intel’s CEO, along with Bill Gates and Larry Ellison.
“My point, however, is that it (IT) is no longer a source of advantage at the firm level – it doesn’t enable individual companies to distinguish themselves in a meaningful way from their competitors. Essential to competitiveness but inconsequential to strategic advantage: that’s why IT is best viewed (and managed) as a commodity.”
– Nicholas Carr
At the time, there were numerous rebuttals to Carr’s view, but none more powerful than the one from John Hagel and John Seely Brown. They argued:
Extracting business value from IT requires innovations in business practices. In many respects, we believe Carr attacks a red herring – few people would argue that IT alone provides any significant business value or strategic advantage.
The economic impact from IT comes from incremental innovations, rather than “big bang” initiatives. A process of rapid incrementalism enhances learning potential and creates opportunities for further innovations.
The strategic impact of IT investment comes from the cumulative effect of sustained initiatives to innovate business practices in the near-term. The strategic differentiation emerges over time, based less on any one specific innovation in business practice and much more on the capability to continuously innovate around the evolving capabilities of IT.
According to JH3 and JSB: far from believing that the potential for strategic differentiation through IT is diminishing, we would maintain that the potential is increasing, given the growing gap between IT potential and realized business value.
So how does IT become more strategic?
The Wall Street Journal‘s Rachael King recommends:
CIOs also need to bring some transparency to their operations by sitting down with business leaders and going over the budget and setting priorities together. The CIO needs to also actively market how the IT department is driving value in terms that business can understand. For example, Intel CIO Kim Stevenson recently published an annual IT report where she detailed how her department implemented advanced data analytics that helped drive $351 million in revenue for the company.
The ability for Ms. Stevenson to demonstrate the value of her organization’s work in dollars and cents is changing how IT is perceived in the company. It changes the relationship from that of a service provider, a department that helps people set up servers or configure PCs, to one that uses technology to solve business problems.
CIOs must demonstrate and quantify the business value of IT.
What does this mean for the sales people of IT company’s trying to sell to CIOs? It means that the role of the CIO is often supplanted by business executives. (In my discussions with our clients, I often emphasize this point.)
IT is so strategic, one could argue, that it is no longer left to IT. Often it is CMOs and other non-IT business executives who are actively pursuing the mobile, social, and analytics strategies that are creating the organizational pull for new approaches to rapid application development, and as a by-product, the cloud services offerings needed to enable those strategies.
The new generation of IT will support new business strategies. This means that any vendor selling IT solutions will have to speak the language of business strategy. And most importantly, the vendor will have to show the client how to achieve the “promised” benefits of IT.
So here’s the takeaway: CIOs must work on getting a place at the strategy table. When they do, they are viewed as effective business partners. What must the CIO do to be viewed as a strategic partner?
– Does your company have a clear view of how advances in IT (Big Data, AI, IoT, Cloud Computing) is likely to reshape your relevant markets over the next five years?
– What areas of business growth can IT contribute to?
– Does your company have an equally clear view of the implications for the changes you will need to make to continue to create value?
– Are these views shared effectively among your senior managers across the organization?
– Does senior management recognize the risks and uncertainties as part of the decision-making process?
– Has your company been sufficiently aggressive in using IT to improve strategic areas of your operations?
– Are there opportunities to use IT to improve operations around existing products and services?
– Are their opportunities to use IT to significantly reduce costs and cycle time in existing work processes?
– What are the data sources? How will you monitor them? How do you trigger events based on the intelligence gathered from the data? Is there a profit or cost-savings optimization opportunity?
How does innovation happen? Most company’s struggle to understand how innovation works, often confusing creativity with innovation. In today’s tacit, knowledge-based creative economy, innovation and differentiation rarely come from one distinct source. Rather, innovation evolves from:
new ways of thinking,
new business models,
new organizations (or new collaborative inside/outside team structures),
and new products (offerings including services)
In his classic book – Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the late Peter Drucker found seven sources of innovation. The first four sources were internal, inside the enterprise, whereas the last three are external, outside of the company.
1. The Unexpected
3. Process Needs
4. Shifts In Industry And Market Structure
5. Demographic Changes
6. Changes In Perception
7. New Knowledge
A good description of the seven sources is here. Unfortunately, not everyone stumbles into innovation like the legendary 3M Post-It notes, or the unexpected discovery of Aspartame, but innovation can, and should be pursued in a systematic way.
Here is an added insight from Keeley and friends: the things we love in the world–the services and systems we value and use–are the ones that make it easy to do hard things.
What does all of this have to do with business results?
Clearly there is plenty of room for innovation when it comes to designing superior, differentiated experiences for customers. Every interaction with your customer can be differentiated, integrated with the purpose of the customer. Make it easy to do business with you, said Jakob Nielsen, the web usability expert, many years ago.
What about the power of ecosystems? At the individual level, ecosystem thinking can help you create better ideas. it’s all about disorganization.
Ideas need to be sloshing around or crashing in to one another to produce breakthroughs:
Research shows that the volume of ideas bouncing about make large cities disproportionately more creative than smaller towns.
Having multiple hobbies allows your brain to subconsciously compare and contrast problems and solutions, forming new connections at the margins of each.
Similarly, reading multiple books at the same time vs serially lets your brain juxtapose new ideas and develop new connections.
Wandering minds are more creative.
Studying a field “too much” doesn’t limit creativity — it does the opposite. More ideas banging about just produces even more ideas.
The “accept everything” mantra of brainstorming doesn’t work. Debate is far more effective. Let those ideas fight.
ADD and bipolar disorder are both associated with greater creativity. When you’re drunk or exhausted your brain is poised for breakthroughs.
Even with teams, it’s better to mix up experience levels, familiarity with one another and other factors to keep things rough around the edges.
There’s plenty of advice out there for UK-based TESCO’ s new CEO Dave Lewis as pledges to return to the core of Tesco’s business, “in price, availability and service.”
For me, there’s a critical question: what one change will deliver an 80% difference in results?
I think I know. I spent 6 months visiting TESCO at least twice a week when I was in Hertford, and all I can say is “wow.” If you just view TESCO with the eyes of a typical US customer, it’s obvious what that 80% difference is.
This is going to be a central theme in business going forward: what is our purpose?
Here’s William Cohen talking about Peter Drucker‘s perspective:
“…until Drucker came along most everyone believed the basic “fact” that the purpose of a business was to make money. That is, to make a profit. This belief leads to a corollary, another myth, believed by all–that is, that the goal of any business is profit maximization. In other words, whatever your business, your goal should be to make as much profit as possible. If you accept making a profit as a business’s purpose, the second part just follows naturally. This might even seem worthy to many. To quote Michael Douglas’s famous (or infamous) statement in his role as Gordon Gekko in the 1987 movieWall Street: “Greed is good.” Even today many “know” greed, or profit maximization to be the correct prescription for business success, even if it is amoral or shouldn’t be “good” from a moral perspective. Not so fast, Gordon. As Drucker so often said, whatever everyone knows is usually wrong, Hollywood films not excepted. Drucker told us first that profit is not the purpose of business and that the concept of profit maximization is not only meaningless, but dangerous.”
The problem with industrial capitalism today is not the profit motive; the problem is how the profit motive is usually framed. There is a persistent myth in the contemporary business world that the ultimate purpose of a business is to maximize profit for the company’s investors. However, the maximization of profit is not a purpose; instead, it is an outcome. We argue that the best way to maximize profits over the long term is to not make them the primary goal.
So what is to be done?
What is your company doing to create purpose beyond profits? The future of our planet depends on your answer.
So what’s all the fuss about? The book is about asking questions:
How can companies take better care of their employees–and thrive?
Why don’t they see the opportunities in creating social value?
Do Americans think we have a fair distribution of wealth?
What are new means of putting our collective talents to work?
How can communities take the lead in creating opportunity?
How can public education prepare all students for the future?
How can better health care be made available without doctors?
How can communities do something about global warming?
How can you make a difference?
Why should you care?
Inclusivity: Will America Find Its Soul Again is a book of questions, hints, and suggestions about creating more opportunity for more people–starting with the USA, but looking at and learning from the rest of the world.
The very idea of the “United” States is based on the principles of inclusivity–all men and women are created equal under the law. But we seem to have lost our conviction that inclusivity is possible or even to be desired. The current divisive political climate, along with economic uncertainty, has fostered an atmosphere of fear and narrow-mindedness across the country.
What can we do in the face of this reality? The choice is not easy, but it is clear. Either we will decide to be more inclusive, or we will turn against each other – finding reasons to divide ourselves, not just from each other as citizens, but also from a shared future.
The USA, unless we decide otherwise, will become simply the SA.
This book is dedicated to an inclusive future for all our children, including my daughters M and K, and the idea that the United States is still the last best hope fordemocracy and inclusivity. We won’t have one without the other.
The book tries to answer two questions, says Professor Gordon:
1) How can organizations best address important societal problems such as poverty, inadequate health care, sub-par education, and an unhealthy planet?
2) What’s the best advice for students who want to address these issues and still live lives of relative comfort?
The reason I’m helping the professor is because now, more than ever, we need the brightest students to tackle the world’s biggest problems. And the oil-coal-nuclear lobby isn’t making things any easier…
No one could have known that when a Tunisian fruit vendor set himself on fire in a public square, it would incite protests that would topple dictators and start a global wave of dissent. That’s the power of ecosystem disruption. The power of the Voice of the Planet (VoP).
I don’t watch TV much but I just caught a clip of Richard Branson promoting his book Screw Business As Usual. Looks like he’s on the same page as Stuart Hart – who has been essentially saying the same thing for twenty years. They ought to compare notes!
What was funny was watching Branson sit there as the producers had him wait and wait for his three minute interview. He was clearly in distress – the anguish of the entrepreneur who can’t bear to waste time – as he smiled and waved every time they turned the camera on him.
The book is available later this month… have a Happy Green Christmas!
I first met Bob Freling at a board meeting of the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF) in San Francisco several years ago. At the time, I felt that here was an NGO doing innovative things but not getting enough visibility for their work. They were solar way before solar was cool.
What struck me is how informal and close the board members were. One of the board members – Larry Hagman (good ol’ J.R. Ewing) – did a brilliant set of solar commercials which I think says a lot about his character and wanting to make the world a better place (quite the opposite of his TV character!). But I digress.
The story here is that SELF pioneered the use of solar power to fight “energy poverty” across a spectrum of applications with their “solar integrated development model” – from clean water, to drip irrigation to improve food security, to electricity for health clinics, schools, and micro-enterprise.
“It’s simple really. First, solar energy powers pumps and filters for clean water. This also enables drip irrigation for critical crops. Once people have those necessities, the solar energy is used to power health care facilities which can power equipment and refrigerate vaccines, for example. This increasingly healthy population can then open schools which are powered by solar to provide computer and Internet-based learning. Finally, these well-fed, well-cared for, well-educated villagers can begin community and entrepreneurial activities to grow their economy.”
Bob’s optimism is tempered with reality. The Millennium Development Goals won’t be achieved without energy access, he explains in another blog post. In case you forgot what the MDGs are (as I often do) they’re listed as:
1) eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
2) achieving universal primary education;
3) promoting gender equality and empowering women;
4) reducing child mortality;
5) improving maternal health;
6) combating HIV/AIDS, malaria, and other diseases;
7) ensuring environmental sustainability; and
8) building a global partnership for development.
Note that they are interrelated, ecosystemic problems – and that from Bob’s perspective, energy is the key factor which makes all of them feasible.
With the $300 House project, my eyes have been opened to the fact that the approaches for dealing with the poor are often not very constructive, and sometimes end up doing more damage than good. That’s what $300 House adviser Stuart L. Hart is talking about when he says we need to create smaller problems. It is also a concern of our critics on the $300 House. When I spoke to Matias Echanove recently, he was concerned that mass produced housing could in fact disrupt the local economy – the small businesses that are based in informal slums around the country. I hear him.
Our $300 House project is exploring ways to integrate services and jobs into the ecosystem as well, and we’re reaching out to talk to the leaders in the communities that are interested in this approach. In India, we’ve just completed a survey – with the help of THL – that covers 15 villages in three of the poorest states in India – Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Jharkhand. I’ll go into more detail in a later post.
For me the question is quite simple – we see an explosion of interest in developing integrated townships for the middle class in India, but why is there nothing comparable for the poor? To borrow a phrase from the US, why can’t we build “master-planned communities” for the poor?
Is it too much to ask that governments, NGOs and development institutions, and businesses work together with the communities involved to build integrated solutions?
Unfortunately, there are far too few examples of collaborative development. This is something we all need to look at urgently. There is also a problem of ownership. The development community, NGOs, and most governments think they “own” the problem. Unfortunately, without a business mindset to make solutions scale, their is so little real progress.
The poor remain poor.
And that’s why the work Paul Polak is doing is so important. He’s looking at making small changes at the bottom of the pyramid; small changes that make a big difference in the earnings of the poor. This is also the approach advocated by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Bannerjee in Poor Economics.
At a much larger scale, we see an example in the Gates Foundation‘s approach – which is all about examining the ecosystems of poverty. A common criticism of the Gates Foundation goes along these lines: “How can people like Gates, living in a different universe, help people at the bottom of the pyramid?” This is a false and damaging argument, but answered quite well by Sam Dryden:
“Some people may ask how my team and I–working at the world’s largest foundation located in a prosperous corner of a rich nation–can relate to a subsistence farming family in Ethiopia or Bangladesh. This is a very reasonable question to ask. The farmer has a direct connection to the land and we are considerably removed, both by distance and culture. We begin by realizing these differences and humbly listening to farmers and their families, learning and respecting their cultures, ways of living, and knowledge of place and home. The solutions we seek are those appropriate and welcomed in this context, not those imposed by distant values or interests.”
And finally, perhaps there is an alternative to the giant top-down programs, and incremental bottom-up “Let the Poor Do It Themselves” approaches we’ve encountered.
With the $300 House, we’re thinking micro-development – is it possible to build integrated micro-solutions at the village level? And in cities, at the neighborhood level?
When I first started working on classifying online ecosystems, I had no idea that my thinking there would influence my thoughts on the $300 House. But now it seems like the systems approach to understanding wicked problems is pretty much the only way to go. None of this is new, of course, but I’m still impressed at the power of ecosystem thinking.
Here’s how Nobel prize laureate Gunnar Myrdal was thinking about the problems of race and poverty:
The “vicious circle” has not yet made its way into our political thinking though, if we judge the policy makers of today’s Congress. Heck, they can’t even bring themselves to accept the effects of global warming – in no small part thanks to our lobbyist friends.
The idea of poverty as the outcome of a dysfunctional ecosystem is explained here as well:
Note that this applies to poverty in the US as well, not just the emerging world.
So, part of tackling the issue of affordable housing for the poor is to try to understand the interconnected nature of these problems. I tried to draw causal arrows between the various problems, but gave up. In essence, we have a problem of insecurity, in which all of these factors must be addressed simultaneously if we are to change the vicious cycle of poverty, disease, and suffering. Here’s what I ended up with:
The poor live in an insecure, unbalanced universe.
I’m calling it the “ecosystems of poverty.”
Next we’ll look at the idea of integrated development (another old idea) which fell out of favor, but must be re-evaluated in today’s light if we are serious about poverty alleviation.