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Spreading ideas in the age of ideas

Spreading Ideas in the Age of Ideas – Here’s a crazy idea: why don’t we try to use the internet for something more altruistic than laughing at poorly spelled English signs in foreign countries? It turns out there’s no shortage of alternatives.

We all know the internet is an excellent place to promote our business, read the news, do our banking, trade shares, make travel arrangements, upload baby photos, catch up with old school friends, steal music, watch porn and laugh at kittens. But can the Web be useful for something more beneficial to everyone, not just ourselves?

After a lifetime of being marketed to, I am as self-absorbed and hedonistic as anyone else. But something yearns for a higher purpose that seeks to contribute to the common good, not just my primal urges. I can hear the cynics among you say, “How selfish is that? If you help the world, you really benefit yourself in the end.” Marketing people take note of this elegant paradox. Working toward the common good is, well, good. Enter the new networked world of ideas.

The internet is the perfect place to spread ideas. Whether it is an opinion, a way of seeing things, or some highly complex scientific breakthrough, the idea explodes through the Web as it does in our own minds. Right now we need ideas more than ever – so praise the Flying Spaghetti Monster that memes, movements, and methodologies are permeating every corner of cyberspace.

  • globalideasbank.org – It predates the internet, but since launching online in 1995 has collected over 4000 ideas. Anything from ‘seed embedded fertilizer paper’ to ‘training barbers in the early detection of melanomas’, GIB is our planet’s suggestion box, and you are invited to pitch in.
  • openarchitecturenetwork.org – Architects are now uploading and making building plans available to the third world. With a focus on affordability, sustainability, and helping local communities, this excellent resource provides direct access to the world’s best architects and their blueprints to the world’s remotest villages. Ideas are popping up everywhere in the form of houses, schools, hospitals and community centers.
  • worldchanging.com – The domain name says it all. From political ideas to alternative power generation, this site is devoted to making a real difference. Sign up, print out a few pages, and march to your local council right now.
  • bigthink.com – “We are what you think”. This is like YouTube with a brain. No LonelyGirl15 around here, just experts and opinion leaders expounding their viewpoints on all manner of topics. Got something worth saying? Why not join in?
  • longnow.org – Some of the internet’s big guns are building a 10,000 year clock and reconfiguring our human time scale. After all, we are all going to be someone’s ancestors, we may as well get used to it and start thinking about how we might be remembered.
  • ted.com – This famed festival of “ideas worth spreading” provides an endless stream of amazing ideas, breakthroughs, perspectives and inspiration, from biomimicry to cosmology, computer origami to alternative energy, with a few comedy and musical presentations thrown in. I am desperately squeezing my creative juices to come up with my own TED talk. So far all I can come up with is a rather droll exploration of the delicate interplay between magazine deadlines, writing quality and editor wrath.

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