Years back, students graduated from schools with no real awareness of the awful inequities in the world – the appalling disparities of health, and wealth, and opportunity that condemn millions of people to lives of despair.
40/50 years back, graduates left campuses knowing little about the millions of young people cheated out of educational opportunities around the world and knowing nothing about the millions of people living in unspeakable poverty and disease in developing countries.
They learnt a lot at campuses about new ideas in economics and politics and exposed to the big advances being made in science and technology.
But humanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries – but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity, reducing inequity is the highest human achievement.
These were the days gone by. But how about the now – 21st century.
Thanks to advances in technology (TV, internet etc) students know or should know more about the world’s inequities than the classes who came before them and they should be taught to think – about how in this age of accelerating technology, they can take on inequities in the world and solved them.
Millions of children are dying every year in developing countries from diseases (Measles, malaria, pneumonia, hepatitis B, and yellow fever) that had long ago made harmless in developed countries. If every life has equal value then some lives should not be seen as worth saving and others not. All lives deserve the priority of the world.
The question we have to ask ourselves is how come that the world is not able to save these children with all the resources at its disposal. The answer is simple albeit harsh. Market forces do not reward saving the lives of these children, and governments did not subsidize it. So children die because their mothers and their fathers had no power in the market and no voice in the system.
So the next question is how can we face this challenge? How can we as nations do the most good for the greatest number of people with the resources we have at our disposal?
We can make market forces work better for the poor if we can develop a more creative capitalism – if we can stretch the reach of market forces so that more people can make a profit, or at least make a living, serving people who are suffering from the worst inequities. We also can press governments around the world to spend taxpayer money in ways that better reflect the values of the people who pay the taxes.
If we can find approaches that meet the needs of the poor in ways that generate profits for business and votes for politicians, we will have found a sustainable way to reduce inequity in the world. This task is open-ended. But a conscious effort to answer this challenge will change the world.
Complexity – Barrier to Change
The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity. Complexity makes it hard to mark a path of action for everyone who cares — and that makes it hard for their caring to matter. To turn caring into action, we need to see a problem, see a solution, and see the impact.
If we can really see a problem, which is the first step, we come to the second step: cutting through the complexity to find a solution.
Cutting through complexity to find a solution runs through four predictable stages: determine a goal, find the highest-leverage approach, discover the ideal technology for that approach, and making the smartest application of the technology.
Sharing to Inspire
The final step – after seeing the problem and finding an approach – is to measure the impact of our work and share our successes and failures so that others learn from your efforts.
But if we want to inspire more people to participate; we have to convey the human impact of the work – so people can feel what saving a life means to the families affected.
We can’t get people excited unless we can help them see and feel the impact.
Yes, inequity has been with us forever, but the new tools we have to cut through complexity have not been with us forever. They are new – they can help us make the most of our caring – and that’s why the future can be different from the past.
The defining and ongoing innovations of this age – biotechnology, the computer, the Internet – give us a chance we’ve never had before to end extreme poverty and end death from preventable disease.
We can use the growing power of the Internet to get informed, find others with the same interests, see the barriers, and find ways to cut through them. We shouldn’t let complexity stop us.
We have technology that earlier generations never had. We have awareness of global inequity, which earlier generations did not have. And with that awareness, we also have an informed conscience that will torment us if we abandon these people whose lives we could change with very little effort.
We have more than they had; We must start sooner, and carry on longer.
Knowing what we know, how could we not?