The Guggenheim Museum in NYC asked me to write something on progress for one of their exhibitions:
2009 had cooler cell phones than 2008. 2010 has cooler cell phones than 2009. 2011 will have even cooler cell phones than 2010.
That won't be progress. Year in, year out, we have cooler cell phones. If it's the same year in, year out, how can it be progress? Because it's not actually progress. It's more of the same.
Ho hum. Another year goes by. Ho hum. Another year where some of the human race's best minds concentrate on making better cell phones.
What would constitute real progress?
Far away from us, one billion people in the world have no access to clean drinking water. Because of this, far away from us, a child dies of diarrhea every 15 seconds.
If I could choose, I would give up my Blackberry Curve and any other cell phone I've had or will have if it would mean no one died of thirst. I think most people feel that way. People have big hearts.
Ask the average person: Do you want to watch TV on your cell phone or save the world's children from dying of diarrhea? I know what they'd say. People are good.
Yet: The people we are proud of for having the smartest brains work, not on water, but on bringing us still better cell phones.
What would be real progress?
When we find a way to put our brains where our hearts are. When we find a way use our big brains to facilitate the desires of our big hearts.
When we find a way to concentrate on bringing clean drinking water to the billion people who don't have it instead of looking for a way to bring better TV reception to our cell phones.
That would be progress.