Friday, April 28, 2017

Three Challenges

I am working on an idea of building a community of 150 people. I want to simplify what seems like a bottomless pit of issues to something that feels manageable. Here are three challenges I am chewing on.

1) Scalability

The traditional tool to solve big problems has been Government. I have grown a little cynical at our ability to gain consensus for big groups. We don't come at the problem with a recognition that we are searching for common ground. Instead, voting tends to be about picking the candidate who represents our view, and mandating them to fight for our interests. As soon as groups become very big, this becomes incredibly difficult. That is why I like the idea of focusing on a small, holey group. However the idea takes shape, it still needs to be easy to copy, and likely to be copied, for it to be of 'big' value. The benefit of Big Government is its scale. It might be slow to move, but when it does, it can have a big impact. For better or worse. A bottom up idea can better control for unintended consequences, but needs to be catchy and easy to spread.

2) Common Ground

Most communities grow around a feeling of having deep common ground with people. There are lots of examples of functional communities that are incredibly powerful. My concern is the lack of understanding, conflict between, and inequality of opportunities between communities. If what I want to build is, by definition, a community that is built on the idea of challenging a lack of common ground, then that becomes incredibly difficult to build around. Poking our bubbles is uncomfortable, and something that requires deep wells of discipline. There may be some people who push deep into stressful territory to build strength, but most people take the path of least resistance. For ideas to spread, they can't just be the right thing to do. They also have to be a nice thing to do. The preferred thing to do. Easy common ground feels good.

3) Selection

Who gets help when so many need help? I find the Universal part of the idea of Universal Basic Income very appealing. It is a bit of a misnomer in the sense that the target is not people with money already. It is universal because 'means testing' (1) costs/wastes money, and (2) adds a stigma with recipients having to prove they need help in order to get help. If I manage to figure out how to fund 150 UBIs, the vast majority would not getting anything. It could be funded in part through Capital and in part through voluntary contributions. For the idea to be scalable, how that money is raised has to represent willingness of people to be a part of the idea. Otherwise it is just a vanity project. For something to truly be universal, it needs to be very simple and be something we recognise, and buy into. Selecting those in need may be easy, but selecting those who will help can't give false hope.
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