Philanthropy! A few ideas …

Today’s news coverage by NPR of the cadre of billionaires making a pledge to be forever philanthropic makes us all feel good.  Fortune Magazine also blogged about it.

Thank you Bill Gates!

Lots of money and charity can do a lot of good.

It’s fun to see such successful people serve as archetypes for the good.  Spending their resources planning world salvation.  The contrast with Hollywood folklore, especially (ahem) Star Wars, where massive fortunes are used to rule the universe and destroy planets gives me a chuckle.

With this group establishing pledges to charity, what’s left?  Finding good people who have their priorities in the right place to make it all work.  That’s what’s left.

So, I would like to, for my own amusement, put aside the fact that the billionaires who have made the pledge have the ability to hire to smartest people in the world to come up with really innovative ways to help society.

I consider myself pretty smart, so here’s a few ideas I had:

  1. Perpetuate your own charity. The first thing you want to be certain of is that the money doesn’t just become a flash in the pocket book wonder.  You want to do things to make the money grow indefinitely.  This means hiring good people to manage the money and keep it growing.  There are ways to make this happen, all the while doing good for people.
  2. Give people the chance to educate and innovate. Inventors and artists save civilizations.  How about scouring the countries of the world looking for the new inventors who are smart, but just need a good school to study in, and a challenge to meet.  Many agree that “brain drain” and a general lack of invention, engineering and post-graduate education is a threat to national security.  There’s a chance here to make a huge difference.
  3. Build new cities. Detroit, New York, and other large cities were created around particular industries.  Much of their present design shows influences of those past industries.  Those industries shaped city-scapes across the country.  Here in Seattle it was logging.  With information technology and new types of offices, can we start a “new kind of city”?  Vegas did it around the entertainment industry.  So, why not other types of newer industries, such as IT.  I have seen the Microsoft campus.  How about a city that could be described as “tech campus meets Detroit?”
  4. Keep people working. There’s no such thing as a permanent job anymore.  And, when people need jobs, it means they need a transition in their own lives.  What about keeping the unemployed working?  Retraining, etc?  Helping them get through the difficult time of an employment transition.  There’s a business model that could be developed which involves charity and commerce in a sustainable way.
  5. Education and high-tech apprenticeship. Mr. Gates has done a great job exploring alternative educational systems.  I’d keep that going, and look at bringing back mentors and apprenticeship in the modern era.
  6. Space exploration and space mining. Our solar system is full of great things to take advantage of, without even polluting the earth’s atmosphere.  Why not take mining operations out into space, and bring finished raw materials back to earth?  I know … I tend to think big.
  7. Industrialize imagination. Actors do great things for society.  So do the set designers and props people who come up with fantastic worlds for actors to tell stories in.  Why not expand on that and create a very creative think tank?  Patents, and research papers are great things, and I think scientists working in conjunction with other creative types to invent new ideas and materialize them is a great thing.