On March 26th, James Cameron impressed me. Using an innovative submersible, he dove to the bottom of the ocean – a place we’ve explored less than we’ve explored space. A mega-millionaire funded an effort to expand our understanding and risked his life rather than anyone else’s. Wealth can produce good things. There are plenty of role models out there. I suspect that will continue and increase. Wealth is exploring new frontiers.
Is stereotyping just a word that describes typing with two hands? Stereo + typing = get it? No. Stereotyping is something humans do with great ease and regularity. Not every member of the 1% is a clone of the Koch Brothers, using their money for power and influence. Take a look at the list of people who have “pledged to give the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.”
I bought lottery tickets last night. Powerball is worth $50,000,000. Mega-Millions is worth $500,000,000. The odds of winning the jackpots are very small, but infinitely greater than if I hadn’t bought a ticket. If nothing else, I bought dreams. Isn’t that what the majority of lottery tickets sales purchase, the inspiration to dream, and dream big? As an entertainment value, lottery tickets can be better than many movies.
James Cameron’s Deepsea Challenger vehicle and expedition happened because he and others wanted it to happen. From what I can tell, governments were not involved. The project operated secretly and successfully, and the closest thing to a tax was the money we spent on his movies. We paid for entertainment which paid for exploration which may result in a better understanding of our world.
He is not alone. Elon Musk, Paul Allen, and Jeff Bezos are all pursuing space transportation. Our computer expenses are funding a return to space that is circumventing governmental efforts. Nathan Myhrvold is taking his Microsoft money and diving into innovation and invention (to some people’s great consternation) and also having a bit of serious fun investigating food science at a phenomenally new level. The most entertaining entrepreneur and innovator is probably Richard Branson whose efforts are touching deep oceans, outer space, and undoubtedly whatever he can fit into a day.
Alvin Toffler, the author of Future Shock, wrote a book called Powershift that has strongly influenced my world view. As I understand it, as information travels faster and farther borders and boundaries become less important. Governments are identified with nations and nations are defined by their geographical borders. Until recently, a government could control what happened within its lands and population because a nation was largely self-contained. Peasants never had to consider much beyond the borders of the king’s kingdom. But as information gains importance and spills past the borders, individual’s perceptions expand, and as perceptions and trade expands, a person may identify with a much larger community. They may even be less concerned about their immediate physical community. Governments, that identify themselves with property, may find that power is accumulating around information, ideologies, and resources. As civilization enters an information age, governments may become less important and may seem anachronistic. Is it happening? Ask a historian in a hundred years or so.
I do notice though that impressive feats are being undertaken. A few decades ago they would have been championed by the NOAA and NASA, but the non-DoD parts of the government are strapped for cash and under great budgetary scrutiny. They don’t dare make a mistake and be accused of wasting money.
People can take risks. Wealthy people can take greater risks. For me, buying a lottery ticket felt risky. From what I can gather, the US DoD is spending about $78,000,000 per hour. Most of these incredibly wealthy people are worth less than the DoD’s daily budget, and look at what they can accomplish. It is possible that power is shifting to those who are willing and able to take risks, and are doing so more efficiently than governments.
As an inventor, innovator, entrepreneur, and optimist I cheer them. As an investor, I am somewhat dismayed. Each of the ventures are designed with possible profit in mind, which I applaud because they become self-sustaining, but they are almost all private and inaccessible to outside investors like me. At least I have one avenue available because I have a Masters in Aerospace and Ocean Engineering. Hey folks, need any help?
As a member of society and a citizen, I wonder if we’ll return to statesmen (statesfolk?) managing and leading the country instead of politicians bickering and bullying the other party.
Progress is being made. And it is good to see that many multi-millionaires and billionaires are actually trying to do something more than win seats of power. James Cameron took ultimate responsibility by risking his own life. He deserves the accolades. Imagine if he had suggested someone else take his place, and then there was a problem. At that depth there is death. He couldn’t let someone else take that risk. People willing to take risks are what spread our species across the globe. Now we are reaching into the planet’s depths (at least in the oceans), and reaching beyond its safe and comfortable bounds. When we aren’t shackled by bureaucracy and fear we can do amazing things.
And if I win tens or hundreds of millions of dollars, ah, pardon me as I unshackle my dreams. First there is some tidying up to do in the Pacific, and then there are a few inventions I want to pursue, and then, and then . . . I’ll never stop dreaming.