During Saturday night's "nerd prom" in DC, Larry Wilmore, after roasting almost everyone in the room, turned serious for a few moments. He remarked to President Obama:
When I was a kid, I lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. Now think about that. A black man was thought by his mere color not good enough to lead a football team. And now, to live in your time Mr. President, when a black man can lead the entire free world.
This isn't just a statement about justice and race in the United States. It is also an example of progress to unleash humanity's capacity to contribute.
Regeneration implies that humans contribute more than we take. Making these contributions will require lots of human capacity and on a global scale. We're going to have to pay attention, plan, test, innovate, and execute at levels we've never before experienced. Where will we get these resources?
Fortunately, we're dramatically increasing our capacity to contribute along at least three dimensions:
First, As Wilmore's example highlights, arbitrary barriers based on race or gender are falling, allowing large groups of people to better contribute.
Second, more individuals have more personal capacity. Lots of people around the world are healthier and live longer. They are better fed, better educated and better connected. They can do more, more easily.
Third, social infrastructure is improving so that people are better able to work together. The last few decades have seen important improvements up and down what I call the "social technology stack" including managing the economy, running participatory governments, making joint decisions, managing conflict, organizing finance, innovating and producing new products, and that's not to mention leaps from science and technology.
One of my favorite examples of these improvements is free and open source software. It represents advancement of several sectors - technology, of course, but also management, economics, and business. Day-by-day, improvements to software improve products and services around the world cheaply and more quickly than could have imagined even 30 years ago.
This isn't to say all change is "improvement" or that there isn't room for more improvement. Just that we have three big multipliers that will help increase the contributions we need to build a regenerative economy. Let's use them!
Have examples of other ways to increase our capacity to contribute? Please share!