There is no shortage of serious problems facing humanity. One of the biggest is that so many people ignore such problems, or deny they exist. For instance, some say global warming is unproven; some claim it’s a hoax.
Others grant the existence of great problems, but feel powerless to help solve them. The demands of a busy life leave little time. Even if there is time, it is hard to imagine one person among billions making any substantial difference, when the problems are so big and an individual person is, in the overall scheme of things, so small. Consequently, it may seem that anyone with the audacity to try to solve major world problems must be crazy.
Without denying the immensity of the challenge, we believe that not trying to solve major problems is more crazy. The YouSA offers a framework for people who care about the future of humanity to collaborate on efforts to improve it.
At the outset we’re focusing on entrepreneurial educational projects that encourage critical thinking about critical issues. Despite the difficulty of dealing with the global warming and despite the imperfections of democracy, significant progress can be made in reducing harm from climate change once people become sufficiently aware of the issues and sufficiently understand what needs to be done. Awareness of global warming will grow, and the ranks of those who dispute the existence of climate change will diminish. What remains to be seen is how bad the problem must become before there is sufficient recognition and understanding to drive a serious effort to solve it. Effective educational efforts can accelerate progress toward the needed understanding, resulting in serious steps being taken to address the problem sooner rather than later, reducing damage.
Global warming may be the most obvious example of a major world problem, but there are many others, including increasing antibiotic resistance, another case in which recognition of the problem is sure to increase as the problem gets worse, and educational efforts can improve the future of humanity by accelerating that recognition.
In addition to problems such as antibiotic resistance and global warming, the YouSA is especially interested in metaproblems, problems which impede solution of other problems. Examples include ignorance, stupidity, shortsightedness, apathy, and greed. Here again, education can help.
Given the importance of education, how can it be accomplished? While not entirely ineffective, processing people through traditional schools is problematic, as suggested by Mark Twain’s quip, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education,” and by William Bryan’s observation that “Education is one of the few things a person is willing to pay for and not get.” Schools tend to focus too much on filling heads with facts, an endeavor whose limitations are suggested by Einstein’s comment that “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”
The YouSA aims to create effective educational artifacts, in a broad sense including systems and infrastructures as well as objects. For instance, we want to create thought-provoking writing so interesting and entertaining people will take time to read it, and so persuasive it will persuade them to help improve the world. (To see an attempt, look at Report from Earth.) Of course, as distractions proliferate getting people to read anything substantial is increasingly difficult, but it’s not impossible.
Though our aim is to improve the world, rather than to maximize profits, we view profits (in the basic sense of revenues in excess of expenses) as the most effective way to create a sustainable and successful world improvement enterprise. Donations may be needed to prime the pump, but the key to large scale success is generation of revenue that serves to sustain and expand worthwhile projects. The YouSA is best understood as an incubator, an ideal environment for growing ideas for world improvement projects from conception to fruition. A major share of net revenue will be used to support collaboration on such projects. (We have several interesting project ideas under development, and new project ideas are welcome.)
A priority of the YouSA is engaging underemployed intelligent people in world improvement efforts in ways that provide them suitable financial support. Having over 30,000 Ph.D.’s in America on food stamps or other public assistance, as was the case in 2010, is an indication something has gone wrong. One thing that could be wrong, of course, considering all the logical possibilities, is that those impoverished Ph.D.’s might be lazy fools who have little or nothing to contribute to society. If so, there’s something very wrong with American education — unless the root problem is that these advanced degree holders are so fundamentally defective that even the best conceivable education could not possibly make them productive, in which case American education is at fault for awarding them undeserved advanced degrees. Alternatively, the problem might lie in America’s job creation system.
An essential part of many jobs is getting paid, and when creating a new job finding funding for such payment may take exceptional creativity. A fallback, these days, is the unpaid internship, a widespread arrangement in which a student may be able to get useful experience and valuable education. The availability of internships is likely to decrease in the wake of a successful lawsuit by unpaid interns who worked on the set of the movie Black Swan, claiming Fox Searchlight Pictures illegally exploited them by making them do menial work such as taking lunch orders and making photocopies, thereby violating federal labor guidelines that allow for-profit companies to employ unpaid interns only if the arrangement is for the intern’s benefit and the employer “receives no immediate advantage from the activities” of the intern. (In other words, during the internship the intern must practice being unproductive. Did it never occur to those who created this requirement that such an exercise in minimizing productivity might not be the best way to train the country’s future workforce?) Contributing to the crackdown on unpaid internships, Columbia University, for example, will no longer offer undergraduates credit for internship experience, making it harder for employers to claim unpaid internships offered to Columbia students are educational.
The YouSA is bucking the anti-unpaid-internship trend by providing opportunities to participate in internships designed to significantly benefit the intern. Interns, along with others in the YouSA, seek ways to arrange for the projects they work on to generate revenue, and when projects generate sufficient revenue unpaid internships can be transformed into paid positions. Some students will think accomplishing this is not feasible. Others will conclude that with enough creative intelligence it can be done. It ultimately depends on the talent and determination of the student attempting it. As Henry Ford said, “If you think you can do a thing or think you can’t do a thing, you’re right.”
If you’d like to learn more about the YouSA, please explore our site and read our Humanifesto.
As of May 2019, this website remains rudimentary; we look forward to improving it in the coming months.