I believe that the most efficient way to improve the world is to decentralize power and increase information sharing. I believe that there is currently a movement, as the result of the information economy, for people to take power into their own hands. I believe that this is much more efficient than relying on a government actor, as government and public services in general are designed to value stability over change. This is perfectly suited for many roles, such as being the perpetrator of a system of laws, where stability is paramount, but it is not well suited for efficient change.
I recently read an article in the Harvard Business Review that gave a great example of this dichotomy. It outlined the process of adding a bike lane. Going through the government would subject the process to over 40 reviews, and would cost more than putting in the lane and removing it if it did not work. It is also much harder to get things done through a governmental system. This is because the initiative runs the risk of being rejected at any stage of the review process. To me this shows that a small concerned group of individuals working on self initiative could be much more than working through “official channels.”
I believe with the rise of social media this movement will come about somewhat organically. Examples of this kind of initiative can already be seen in the aftermath of the London riots this summer or the cleanup after the devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri. Concerned citizens leveraged Facebook and Twitter to organize cleanups. This effort was much more efficient than waiting for a government response to come in and organize the efforts.
This ease of accessing and matching like minded people through the rise of the information economy is not limited to this scope, however. I have heard of a company that matches concerned people with pre-diabetic individuals to have them help improve their lifestyle. This is not completely altruistic, as insurance companies are interested in the effort because the net present value of having a person avoid becoming diabetic is $55,000 dollars. In another effort that is a little closer to home, there is a service that connects local people to elderly citizens that need help. The help can either be provided for a small fee, or for free, depending on how the individual wants to be compensated.
I believe that if this effort were implemented in a systematic manner the economic benefits would be huge, not to mention the positive social implications. While people are bemoaning the loss of personal interaction because of our dependence on technology, there exists a positive counter example of how we can leverage the technology to become a tighter knit, happier, more efficient global community.