I was born in Bangladesh, a lush country that was torn by war during its struggle for liberation in 1971 with millions of people uprooted and subjugated to immense suffering. Learning about the destruction & atrocities over the nine months of the war, I’ve often wondered why the superpowers of the world that purport to support freedom and democracy acted in opposition to these values. A half-century later, in the year 2022, the suppressions, oppressions & wars waged across the world continue to raise the same question. And despite the posturing of pundits and politicians, endless suffering is being visited on humankind by its own.
In the face of such arduous circumstances that we face, what can I do to help? My approach to aiding in solving the challenges we face as a global civilization are derived from my background in the realm of creating, making and developing technological solutions.
Technology ("science of craft", from Greek τέχνη, techne, "art, skill, cunning of hand"; and -λογία, -logia) is the sum of any techniques, skills, methods, and processes used in the production of goods or services or in the accomplishment of objectives, such as scientific investigation.
Technology in its many forms have been the key to alleviating the many pains we have faced over the centuries. It shaped and elevated societies out of decades of poverty, sickness and wars. Unfortunately though, we lost our way and as Peter Theil puts it, "We live in a financial and capitalist age, not a scientific or technological age, [we have seen] innovation in the world of bits, but not in the world of atoms." While there is no doubt that software has been extremely beneficial technology, I believe we are seeing diminishing returns from our continued focus on it.
The focus needs to shift to developing technology in the world of atoms and kick-off another age of exploration and revolutionary solutions.
Make Democracy Direct
Between the handling of the global pandemic, rising political divisiveness and international conflict it’s clear that governments and their systems have continuously been reactive and failed to achieve results that benefit the people they are meant to serve. And given the retaliatory approach of governments towards the people who give them power, it’s patently obvious that these structures are far too comfortable, bloated and corrupt.
A technological approach to government is necessary to give people the power to truly govern themselves, as was the envisioning of democracy. With the scale at which software is able to operate today, there is no hurdle to bringing direct democracy to fruition. If we believe that an electorate is capable of selecting representatives based on stated policies, the same electorate can determine policies for themselves. As for execution of policies, real-time accountability must be deployed across the executing agencies that are funded by the taxes levied on the people.
While it’s unrealistic that such a change will happen overnight, entrepreneurs can take advantage of the inefficiencies in the processes governments have deployed. Instead of operating within the bounds of bureaucracy, entrepreneurs should operate, at scale, to intermediate bureaucracy. Entrepreneurs & makers should create a layer for people to use as an accessible frontend.
Be your Own Bank
The Loch Ness Monster was first sighted in 1934 and while that’s been debunked as a hoax, what I find even more incredible is the fact that the bulk of United States financial system in 2022 is regulated using laws made in 1934 as well. Though these laws have been incrementally changed over the years, their arcane nature has only obfuscated the system and enabled crimes in broad daylight on Wall Street.
The stark difference in wealth, the tacit destruction of companies and the endless extraction from the people have to stop. It is not an expression of human wellbeing to have to work three jobs to make ends meet and it is unbecoming of our “modern” civilization that it requires people to do so.
It is necessary for us, the people, to take control of the mechanism used to exert power over us — banking. There was a time when banks facilitated the movement of money and provided access to the many. Unfortunately, that time has long gone. Now, banks are in the business of generating wealth through “any means necessary.” This means taking immense risk with people’s money, trading against their own customers and relying on the people’s taxes to save them when they fail.
Technologies like the Loopring ecosystem of smart wallets, guardians, automated market-making and low-cost distributed public blockchain have opened the possibilities for individuals to digitally own all of their money and transact without needing to access a traditional, centralized bank.
The movement to this approach has already began and it is unlikely that the incumbent banks will survive the next financial collapse.
Take Back Art, Science & Engineering
Much of the art, science and engineering that moved technology forward was realized by the individual creator & maker. Over the past century institutions have co-opted the practices of making great art, radical scientific experimentation and inventive engineering. The story of Herbert Needleman is no anomaly and will read far too familiar in this system that encourages conformity over exploration.
While creation of art has exploded on the internet, a similar movement of independent scientists and engineers engaged in self-study, experimentation & invention — in the world of atoms — must be reignited. The Ocean Cleanup exemplifies this story of an independent inventor creating a solution that transcends the decades of ineffective attempts of institutions funded by the public. In Canada alone, $60 billion was spent from 2015 to 2020 to build a clean economy but the results have been far from radical and disappointing at best.
Ultimately the dearth of movement from the institutions of old is a call to us, the individual artist, scientist & engineer, to find the inspiration and manifest another revolutionary scientific and technological age.
I leave the last word to the polymath & symbol of Bengali renaissance:
“We can look upon a road from two different points of view. One regards it as dividing us from the object of our desire; in that case we count every step of our journey over it as something attained by force in the face of obstruction. The other sees it as the road which leads us to our destination; and as such it is part of our goal.” — Rabindranath Tagore, Sadhana : The Realisation of Life