Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Do Good

I'm going to go way off topic here and write a bit about the power of the internet to do good in this world. If you haven't been introduced to any of the sites listed below, do yourself a favor and visit at least one (or all).

To start off, this morning a good friend of mine Ken Schachter (studio manager at Gameloft Montreal) suggested I watch a few videos from the TED conference. I had seen these TED talks lectures discussed on many of the sites I frequent (boingboing, for example) but had always put off watching a lecture all the way through. Today, based off of the strong recommendation of a trusted friend, I decided to be more patient and sit right through one -- I ended up watching 3 back to back (and have barely scratched the surface).

One talk I found interesting (in particular for its somewhat counterintuitive claim that combatting global warming should not be the world's top priority right now) was given by Bjorn Lomberg. I found a youtube version of it which you can watch below if interested.

The email thread in which Ken suggested TED had started out with him pointing me to a project started recently by a couple of friends of his called Gifter. The 'About' section of Gifter reads:

Gifter is a community experiment in social generosity.We want to see if we can
collect a million wishes from the Internet community and match those wishes with a million dollars of charitable donations.

Gifter is the brainchild of (amongst others) Austin Hill, founder of Zero Knowledge. Austin runs a blog called BillionsWithZeroKnowledge that talks a lot about his current passions: social entrepreneurship, philanthropy and online communities. One of his most recent posts was an interview with Tom Williams, a fellow Canadian entrepreneur who founded a company called GiveMeaning.

GiveMeaning is an amazing idea. Sort of a natural extension of the Microloans concept that won 2006's Nobel Peace Prize: when a lot of people give a small amount of money to those in need, some amazing things can happen.

Following the points brought up by Bjorn in his TED talk, I have used GiveMeaning to make a donation to one of the several HIV/AIDS charities listed.

I love the fact that a link in an email I recieved this morning led me on this chain of discovery culminating in a donation to cause in a form and fashion I feel good about. Today I used the web to Do Good.


Anonymous Patrick said...

Here's a post that's close to my heart and my brain. If I manage to get rich in the games business I'd like to devote my money and energy to investing in what I see as shepherding humanity into the transhuman era. I don't know if you're familiar with the Singularity idea, but my take on it is that the best form the Singularity could take (in the sense of the emergence of greater than human intelligence, not in the sense of infinite acceleration, which is much harder to quantify) is through a harnessing of collective intelligence through some kind of AGI mediator platform, over the internet/grid.

Consider if everyone had access to the information they need to make better decisions, and how the means to transmit that information is percolating all over the world.

The lecture's future projections are far too conservative in my view, I'm thinking we'll see a huge paradigmatic shift in intelligence sometime in the next few decades, but the idea of prioritizing, being pragmatically ethical, is basically where I'm at.

You might want to check out the work of Ben Goertzel, he's making an AGI, and has some very interesting philosophical ideas.

By the way, have you read that LA times expose on the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation? Talk about poor prioritization.

2:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Other must sees:

5:09 PM  
Blogger Ben Mattes said...

Thanks for the recommendations, Kim. I'm download both TED talks and putting them on my iPod now. I'll watch them this weekend.

By the way -- welcome back. :) I hope your family is doing well after the latest addition.

6:35 PM  

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