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Innovation and economics – radical innovation needs radical change

A question by Curt Carlson 

 I can’t imagine that a society where 85% of the people don’t work would be a good thing.  Work is at the heart of being human — ones identity and self worth depend on it.   It seems unstable and likely to collapse from terrible policies that the 85% would impose on the 15%.  How do you think about that?

Response by Jordan Greenhall 

The key to creating an effective innovative economy is to get legacy systems and legacy habits out of the way while making people feel secure that their needs will still be met!

This can be done only with effective communication, connecting and collaboration! 

Changing the mindset and creating an innovative economy starts with education – and changing the way our education system links in with our economic institutions. 

These linkages make it nearly impossible to radically innovate in jobs without also radically innovating in education.   

Human beings don’t need work.   They need more fundamental things like agency,  creativity,  community,  a sense of material safety,  etc.   Mileage will vary,  but my go to here is Max Neef on human needs.   

As it turns out, our civilization model has pushed a great number of these needs into “work”.   Increasingly so over the past four centuries.   Indeed,  a big cause of the modern ennui is the fact that work is a poor satisfier for many of the needs that are being piled upon it.   Even really creative work,  but particularly the kind of stuff that usually goes under the heading “work”. 

Now,  clearly,  we can not simply delete work.   85% of the population “just sitting around”  is a disaster.   What we must do is innovate entirely new satisfiers.   Optimally satisfiers that meet human needs much more effectively than our legacy approaches and do so much more efficiently.   Neef calls the best of these “synergistic satisfiers”.   

Obviously a challenge for the ages,  but my sense is that we are very well positioned to meet it.   To me,  the hard part is doing it in the face of and in the midst of the broad institutional dysfunction that is characteristic of the current environment.   

For example,  take education.   When nearly every child,  teacher and parent is fully tapped day in and day out by the legacy system,  there isn’t a lot of room for innovation.   Let alone radical innovation.   

But, if by some circumstance,  the entire educational system shut down all at once and,  as a consequence,  got out of the way; we would develop a dozen new models that are at least as effective in months.   And in a year we’d be well on our way to a set of satisfiers that are 10x more effective.   

In general,  a move like this is unwise.   New is usually a dangerous choice.   But as i believe that a decomposition of the legacy system is coming one way or another….. To create a radicL innovative economy one needs radical innovative ideas and action! 

Response by David Michaelis

We need to redefine WORK and its meaning. The writing of Hanna Arendt in the Human Condition might be relevant to this challenge. 

Arendt theorizes that the “human condition” is tri-partite, that is, composed of three dimensions: labor, work, and action.  To reduce the human condition to labor (as Marx did) and/or to work (as capitalism does), she argues, is to deny the fundamentally significant work that human beings can engage in, namely, action.  Understanding this, she believes, makes it possible to understand better how this allows political and economic systems to enslave human beings. 

Posted on August 26, 2015

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