"It makes more sense for me to ask what I can do. My acts might fit into a larger pattern or they may remain gestures, but at least they will be concrete.My problem with this thought is : why should we choose ? Why should it be impossible to combine abstract generalities with the awareness of concrete realities ? If it seems impossible, I would say, it is only because, until now, ideas of people trying to change the world have usually been split between both sides. They usually only cared to articulate one side of the problem at a time, and did not manage to properly combine any works on both sides. The only ideas they could find on each side did not seem possibly connected to the other side. My answer is that it is not because it is not possible to connect both sides, but only that works on this field remained works of amateurs, no matter if institutions called them "experts". They were not done seriously enough to properly connect the sides, which is however possible as I discovered the way to do.
But What Can I Do About It?
So at last we reach a question which has been in my mind as I worked through the preceding material. This question would probably occur to most people in any discussion of this sort. Amidst many grand questions, it is a humble question. Any proposed answer must necessarily specify measures too small to impact the problems. The compensating virtue of the question is that it brings my thinking into the concrete reality around me. Grand solutions, whatever they may be for others, remain only fantasies for me."
"we can rely only on human character and motivations as we now find them, and we can rely only on normal improvements in technology."It depends what is meant by "normal improvements in technology", in a context where the main problem of humanity is that it happens to be locked in a pitiful way of wasting its development efforts in crazily sophisticated ideas that are in fact useless (see for example the official research in electronic voting systems, and also Bitcoin and Google Wave) while crucial but relatively simpler "low-tech" developments are missed just because nobody pays attention to the real needs and how relatively simple solutions can fit. The really extraordinary technological revolution beyond so-called "normal improvements" may come from the understanding of the simple problems and the presence of low-hanging fruits of relatively simple, low-tech possible advances that were missed because "experts" were too busy dreaming about absurdly complicated remote dreams to see them.
Nonsense : while I agree that the resolution of a given problem requires more general changes that would result in solving other problems as well, the problem is that the usual human psychology is so flawed that the more you focus people's attention to a specific problem, the less people will be able to figure out and work on the general change that is actually needed even to solve this particular problem. Because there is a long way from the means to the goal and people are usually unable to figure out both sides at the same time : even if means and goals should be friends in the ideal, i.e. as would be understood by a truly intelligent being, the problem with most humans is that they are not truly intelligent beings so that the means and the goals are concrete enemies competing against each other for people's attention. For example see the case of austerity policy, discussed below. (Never mind : we don't need to draw people's attention to anything, but only to find a few programmers to implement the solution!). How strange to see this error in the same text which then comes to declare that "Grand solutions, whatever they may be for others, remain only fantasies for me.", thus concluding himself that his focus on the particular problem leads him to reject any idea of more general indirect solutions.
"Tentatively, I would suggest that climate change be taken as the top priority on the global human agenda. I have several reasons for this selection. (...) First, I do not believe that we can solve the problem of climate change without also making progress on many other natural and social problems that humanity faces. This is because wasteful and inefficient uses of energy are embedded in current economic structures, and the former cannot be reduced without modifying the latter. Therefore, working on climate change leverages our efforts so as to work on several problems concurrently. The second not-so-obvious advantage is that a global effort focused on one serious problem (i.e., climate change) will put in place both institutional structures and habits of mind that will be required for many other tasks in the coming decades."