Philip Rosedale created a virtual world called Second Life beginning in 1998. “I’m not building a game. I’m building a new continent” is what he says describing the initiative which seeks to create a virtual economy inside a virtual society.
At any moment 80,000 users are on Second Life. Everyday an average of US$1.3 million dollars. Pretty amazing and awesome development. Check out the video below (it goes for 28 minutes).
So is this a world without problems and poverty? I have logged into Second Life a few years ago and haven’t visited recently, and when I was there I have never actually looked for extreme poverty. You can ‘get pregnant’ and ‘have a baby’ in Second Life, although I can only imagine there was no code built in for the tragedy of child mortality in Second Life. Need there be any inclusion of tragedy? A recreated and perfect world.
Is Second Life pure escapism from our real world? Simply an exercise in consumption? How do we make sense of this when extreme poverty is so pronounced in the real world? I am not proposing a neo-Luddite intervention to wreck or change Second Life, and I agree to a point with Rosedale that the “conceit” of exploration as he describes it has real benefits.
Creating a world where anything is possible…. The only catch is we just can’t solve this one out first. 24,000 children dying daily, most from preventable illness is an inconvenient reality of this life, our real life.
A shameless exercise of utopian self-indulgence? Opening our minds to new possibilities for currently unseen benefit? What do you think?
What few people, including Bob Geldof, saw coming was the global financial crisis. As we draw close to the end of 2010, I was looking back on what people had to say about poverty in Africa in 2005. Bob Geldof for example, the aclaimed organiser of Live Aid and Live 8, who at the end of 2005 wrote for The Economist on how he “sees signs of progress in Africa” projecting a vision of the world from 2006 and beyond.
Bob Geldof is something of a paradox: once punk-rocker, and now elder-statesman of rock-royalty. We should celebrate people having the ability to change. If change wasn’t possible, it would be thoroughly depressing…just imagine what this would mean about Africa’s future and the burden the world would forever need to carry.
The key source of hope in Geldof’s article rested on the flurry of activity that came out of 2005 with promises of change. These included Tony Blair’s Commission for Africa, Band Aid 20, Live 8, Make Poverty History and the jewel in the crown: the Gleneagles G8 Summit.
His caution seemed almost unnecessary, but now reads prophetic:
We must worry that the G8 governments, especially the Germans and Italians, do not backslide on their promises. So much also depends on the willingness of African governments to use the new resources effectively. It is a matter of urgency that both of these contingencies are monitored and reported on.
Despite its earlier rhetoric, the G8 (“Group of Eight” major economies) has fallen short of its pledges made at Gleneagles in 2005 to increase the quality and quantity of their aid and “keeps failing the tests it [the G8] sets itself” as was observed in September 2010 by Jeffrey Sachs and Steve Killelea in a report titled Holding G8 Accountability to Account. Just over 40% of the US$25 billion promised to Africa has been met. To put that into perspective, more money was spent on stimulus packages to ailing banks in the US during the 2007-2010 global financial crisis than has been delivered in aid to Africa across history.
The United Nations has unique convening power but has been seen many times over the last 60 years as unable to enforce commitments. Will the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) present a similar disappointment to the outcome of the 2009 Copenhagen United Nations Climate Change Conference? What will happen in 2016 if the 2015 time horizon for the MDG is failed to be achieved?
As 2010 draws to a close, how ought we to respond? Are the challenges insurmountable? Impossible? We need more than just hope to be able to report in 2015 that we are “starting to make poverty history”.
The bridge is an important metaphor for joining people, institutions, conversations, ideas, communities and places together. The bridge is a universal metaphor. Everyone understands the purpose of a bridge is and how it is used. A bridge has multiple functions, including:
- Crosses a gap. Overcomes differences.
- Joins two or more communities that otherwise are separated.
- Gives more options.
- Makes travel easier.
- Connects cultures, ideas, differences.
- Requires work from both sides for it to be structurally sound.
- Good foundations needed, along with spans of the right material and length, as well as stable supports.
- Allows help to be given. Allows someone to accept help when offered.
We seek to build a bridge between the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG) (specifically Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality) and the G20 (19 largest economic nations and the EU). This bridge requires the participation of many people to make this happen.
Alan Kay is a genius. Here in this video he is speaking on “Why does computer-based teaching fail?”
Does this have anything to do with poverty? Not directly, but the idea is relevant. In fact, I would argue that through this argument we can see why aid is not the starting point to solve extreme poverty.
This is not the same as to argue for or against aid. It is a question of design. “We should design in order to think”, so says Tim Brown from IDEO. This is a similar argument that Kay presents here.
We should start with the idea, and then use aid as necessary to address the problem leveraging the idea. Ideas should be the start point. Not aid.
In the process of gathering 24,000 of ‘human bridge’ photographs during the 10 City Bridge Run, might it be possible to stumble across a few good ideas that could better leverage aid? Let’s hope so.
She observes the most important thing is our human connectedness. Participation. Collaboration. Bridge building.
Elsewhere in her book titled The Blue Sweater, Novogratz tells a story which symbolises how we are all connected.
This clip gives five pragmatic actions anyone can participate in to make a difference. Her sense of urgency and passion for this situation is evident.
The ability of the individual to influence extreme poverty is what the 10 City Bridge Run seeks to address. Not with lone souls fighting against poverty, but rather together building bridges to make a difference through collective action.
Stop and ask yourself now, yes now, seriously- stop and ask yourself:
What can I do?
Can we criticise Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim (the Mexican billionaire listed by Forbes as the world’s richest man) for his perspective on what makes change happen:
The only way to fight poverty is with employment. Trillions of dollars have been given to charity in the last 50 years, and they don’t solve anything. … To give 50 percent, 40 percent, that does nothing. There is a saying that we should leave a better country to our children. But it’s more important to leave better children to our country.
His comment was in relation to the “Giving Pledge” promoted by Bill and Melinda Gates (that those with loads of money should give away half). Carlos has given a considerable amount already to the Gates Foundation. This was reported in the Wall Street Journal after Carlos’ comments in Sydney recently, and commented as a post on the blog Good by Patrick James.
I don’t think it is a simple as saying he is right or wrong, or that rich people should give more because they have more to give. Ethically, can we determine how someone should use their discretionary money any more than we should with each of our time (the one resource we all have in common).
Personally, I disagree with the proposition. We have confused the word ‘charity’ which is supposed to be a verb meaning to help others with its more contemporary use as a noun defining an organisational status. “A charity” doesn’t solve anything. People do. And how do people do this? Through charity. By being charitable, by showing love to others less fortunate than themselves. This is the only way to change the world.
Money is just a means to an end.