Society, Technology

Making a Dent in the Universe

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.
– Dwight Eisenhower

We all strive to make our dent in the universe. And while too much concentrated power is certainly a bad thing, nobody wants to be entirely powerless.

If power is the ability or capacity to influence the state of the world, then being able to influence the physical world (stones, trees, rivers) may be the primary form of power. The archetypal lone cowboy is always certain to have enough power to provide food for himself and defend himself. But influence over the physical part of our world is a rather crude form of power, compared to the ability to influence the social part of our world – people.

Technology is usually primariliy considered in its capacity to influence the physical world (e.g. building a dam) rather than the social world. But since the invention of mass media technologies – starting with the printing press, then radio, television and now the internet – this has changed a lot. While not requiring all the same skills as mastering other kinds of technology, mastering a certain communications medium (e.g. writing books, blogs or filming) has become a very effective skill in influencing the world. Even more so in the highly connected and collaborative world we live in today.

A very simple form of the ability to influence people is “getting them to do what you want them to”. There seem to be mainly two strategies to this end. Either, you convince them that your idea is so great that they voluntarily invest their time in its support, or you simply pay them to do so. Or you do both.

In an industrialized society, where every year a larger part of the simple mechanical work can be done by machines, your are dependent upon motivated people that don’t simply execute what you paid them for, but actually understand and believe in your idea and want to actively be part of making it a reality. But in our current society, people also need money to get by.

So you’d think convincing them of your idea and paying them at the same time would be the smartest thing to do. But alas, whenever you introduce money as a motivator, things get more complicated. The warm and fuzzy feeling people get when doing some good for free might fade, you have to decide whether to give some people more money than others, etc.

So what do you do? It might very well be that either the state will provide a basic income to all its citizens, or that companies will do so for their employees – as long as they seem to be doing something broadly in the interest of the company. In the meantime, you can hope to find or found a company doing something close to that, or roll your own and look for some crowd funding.

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