An essay I posted on Slashdot in reply to a discussion (Hacking the
on how to spend technology wealth effectively. Basically it's a
discussion related to a dot com (Netscape) millionaire deciding to open
a nightclub as a way to make the world a better place.
Here are a dozen worthwhile project areas which could use more
assistance whether money or time:
1. Open source library of knowledge for developing nations (making the
world's intellectual wealth available to all)
2. Open source knowledge management systems
3. Self-replicating space habitats (support trillions of humans in style
without overrunning the earth)
4. Pursue the "Ecocity Berkley" vision in the book by that name by
Richard Register and look for related
visions of sustainable development
5. Work towards ending the drug war and pardoning hundreds of thousands
of Americans imprisoned on non-violent drug charges. (I believe drug use
is wrong and should be avoided, and by all means as it is now illegal,
so don't do drugs! But as with alcohol and tobacco and caffeine, drug
abuse should be considered a medical problem, not a legal one (except
when like DUI it hurts or puts at risk others directly)).
6. Teaching tolerance and compassion
7. Open source educational simulations and simulation construction
toolkits (one of the most meaningful ways to use computers in the
8. Preserving biodiversity (when it's gone, it's gone forever)
9. Develop any specific sustainable technology in energy (e.g. solar),
recycling (e.g. recycle computers), materials (e.g. plastics from
starch), society (e.g. participatory democracy & social justice).
10. Make corporations more accountable to human needs
Previous link vanished, try instead:
11. Reform the "Intellectual property" laws and their related
organizations, perhaps so that copyrights are for a couple decades and
most patents are for a dozen years and only for true innovations. Ensure
that any IP developed with any government money is immediately put into
the public domain.
(Lots of other Slashot links!)
12. If you don't want to get you hands dirty volunteering your own time,
look around and find good people (not organizations, although the people
may be in organizations) already doing good things. Pick people with a
track record of years of fighting for the common good or who have
already made a major accomplishment demonstrating commitment and just
anonymously give them $100K without strings attached. Example: Marty
Johnson at Isles, Inc.
Find people just starting a career of public service or a charitable
venture and struggling to do good things and give them $20K and tell
them you believe in their promise and cause. Expect a bunch of the money
to be wasted but give it anyway and learn how to give effectively. For
ideas, look at the grantees list of any foundation. Then ask those
people who they know who are just starting out and trying to do a good
When I was about thirteen, I got about seven books out of the library on
money thinking I wanted to become a millionaire. Six told me how to get
rich (start a business and run it well.) One of them asked me "why do
you want to be rich?" That is the one whose name I remember and the
ideas in it have changed my life. For advice on setting a direction of
what to do with wealth, read the Book "The Seven Laws of Money" by
Michael Phillips and Sally Raspberry, especially the chapter on how
foundations fail in their mission and how grants go to people who sound
good but usually can't deliver (i.e. how hard it is to give money away).
My wife and I are working on a few of these issues ourselves (and a few
example links are to our stuff). We make money contracting and spend it
to "buy" our own time for making quality software the market can't or
doesn't seem to want to pay for. Even without IPO riches, any competent
software developer can make $75K-100K in today's market. Graduate
students can live on $20K a year, and so can many software developers
(kids make it harder) if they follow the path of Voluntary Simplicity.
It's a question of priorities.
Voluntary simplicity leaves a lot of funds for doing good deeds - even
if they are done on your own time by using your own money to take time
off and develop open source software or do other worthwhile ventures. Or
take a job that doesn't pay as well but involves helping an organization
that you believe in.
There are awesome things happening over the next twenty to forty years.
According to Moore's law, desktop computers in twenty or so years will
be a million times faster than today's. Already computers can drive cars
somewhat well and identify vegetable better than humans.
Other breakthrough innovations are happening in technological areas like
energy, materials, nanotechnology, communications, agriculture,
biotechnology, and robotics. Use your wealth to think deeply about what
all this means and do something to ensure human survival with style.
It is saddening to see people spend so much money on less important
stuff (another night club in this case). Now if it was a night club
where these issues are discussed, then maybe it makes sense.
Capitalism without charity is evil, because capitalism only meets the
needs of people with money.
Developers of custom software and educational simulations
Creators of the Garden with Insight(TM) garden simulator
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