A New Approach to Old Problems

Issues related to scarcity, education, and the environment have persisted throughout history - just browse a bible, or examine a cave painting for that matter, to understand the challenges that have defined our society for ages. Judging by the current state of affairs, maybe the time has come to develop a new approach to old problems.

So what would be different today? Two things: we have advanced tech tools (the internet is a big one) and even more importantly, we have an advanced awareness of ourselves and of our place in the world. No longer do we face the cave wall, unidentifiable shadows dancing before us. We now use our great knowledge to fly around in outer space, to collide the smallest atomic particles, and...to exchange photos of cats.

Yes, mainly, we use our high tech tools to talk about cats. Cats are hilarious. Cats are cute. Cats are extremely photogenic. Everyone knows what a cat is, even our babies love them. The funny thing is, humans have shared cat pictures since the Paleolithic. Why? Humans viewed predator cats as avatars of themselves, and painted their adventures on cave walls in order to communicate their own human stories. Kind of like we do on Instagram. So in fact, all those social media cats are a reminder of our unique ability to communicate complex thoughts and feelings.

I'm not a scientist, although I believe that science is one of our most vital inventions. What I most enjoy is seeing people communicate, especially when their perspectives and backgrounds vary greatly from each other. Which is why I try to find ways for people to exchange their opinions, their stories, and their knowledge.

So back to cats. Can you think of any concerns that are more important to our wellbeing than cats? Other than the royal baby, I mean. It's true that while everyone will come up with a different list, many concerns will be ones we all share. I propose that we apply our modern tools not just to chatting publicly about felines, but to tackling the many other important issues we face as a society.

I believe that the way we publicly communicate about our challenges is our first challenge. Most social issues -from neighborhood safety to the climate - are strategized by elected and other community leaders behind closed doors. Once a decision has been made, it is often too late for the many other thoughtful citizens out there to contribute either their knowledge or their material resources. While town halls, Twitter and Facebook do provide government with feedback from the public, I would argue that these platforms rarely facilitate an in-depth, productive dialogue. In other words, too many smart people are being left out of the official process of putting great ideas into action.

Can we catalyze more substantive conversations with a greater number of people? Can we convert those conversations into more collaborative problem solving? Sure we can. There are so many great minds in the world. Let's put them together and see what we come up with.