We all know the Internet is an excellent place to promote our business, read the news, do our banking, trade shares, make travel arrangements, upload baby photos, catch up with old school friends, steal music, watch porn and laugh at kittens — but how often do we stop and wonder whether the Web might actually be useful for something a little more beneficial to everyone, not just ourselves?
I have to admit that after a lifetime of being marketed to, I am as self-absorbed and hedonistic as anyone else in this post-modern, super-capitalistic world we live in. But something lurking in the deeper recesses of my conscience had me yearning for a higher purpose, seeking to contribute to the common good, not just my primal urges. Perhaps an even deeper primal urge had begun to surface – an urge to share, to co-operate, to work towards the improvement of this poor planet’s well-being and the well-being of every living thing on it.
I can hear the cynics among you saying “How selfish is that? Of course, if you help the world, you are really benefiting yourself in the end.” Marketing people take note of this elegant paradox. Working toward the common good is, well, good. Enter the new networked world of ideas.
The Internet is the perfect place to spread ideas. Whether it is an opinion, a way of seeing things or some highly complex scientific breakthrough, the idea explodes through the Web like it does in our own mind. Right now we need ideas more than ever – so praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster that memes, movements and methodologies are permeating every corner of cyberspace.
www.globalideasbank.org – pre-dates the Internet, but since launching on-line in 1995 has collected over 4,000 ideas. Anything from ‘seed embedded fertilizer paper’ to ‘training barbers in the early detection of melanomas’, GIB is our planet’s suggestion box, and you are invited to pitch in. Social enterprise is on the rise – get in on the ground floor.
www.openarchitecturenetwork.org – taking file sharing to the next level, architects are now uploading and making building plans available to the third world. With a focus on affordability, sustainability and helping local communities, this excellent resource provides direct access to the world’s best architects to the world's remotest villages. Ideas are literally popping up everywhere in the form of houses, schools, hospitals and community centres.
www.worldchanging.com – the domain name says it all really. From political ideas to alternative power generation, this site is devoted to making a real difference. Their philosophy is that most of the ideas already exist, it is just a matter of getting them going. Sign up, print out a few pages, and march down to your local council right now.
www.bigthink.com – ‘We are what you think’ – This is like YouTube with a brain. No 'LonelyGirl15' around here. Experts and opinion leaders expound their viewpoints on all manner of topics.
www.longnow.org – 10,000 years is a long time…or is it? Some of the Internet’s big guns – Stewart Brand, Kevin Kelly and a bunch of others are building a 10,000-year clock, and re-configuring our human time-scale. After all, we are all going to be someone’s ancestors, we may as well get used to it and start thinking about how we might be remembered. Were we the ones who consumed ourselves into oblivion, or created ourselves into utopia?
www.ted.com – This famed festival of ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’ provides an endless stream of amazing ideas, breakthroughs, perspectives and inspiration. There is a huge library of past presentations, from bio-mimicry to cosmology, computer origami to alternative energy, with a few comedy and musical presentations thrown in. This is one of my favourite sites, and I am desperately squeezing my creative juices to come up with my own TED talk. So far all I can come up with is a rather droll exploration of the delicate interplay between magazine deadlines, writing quality and editor wrath.
Any better ideas?
‘til next month…