A few days ago, Tom Craver asked what, other than food, would I put on a list of basic life needs.
Here's my initial list of manufactured things I'd like to see everyone on earth have access to:
- Clean water
- Weatherproof and burglar-resistant housing
- Light at night
- The Web and voice communication
- Mosquito nets with long-lasting insecticide
- Optional birth control
- Clean cookstoves and/or solar cookers
Many of these things are available today, at a cost where the world could afford to supply them to everyone... if we all got together and really tried. Some of these things are quite inexpensive, on a global scale. For example, the UN says that everyone could have clean water for $20 billion per year, which seems like a lot... but we spend somewhere around $20-$100 billion per year on bottled water.
There's already significant movement in this direction, as seen in these Google proposals:
As manufacturing gets less and less expensive (in large part, thanks to nanotechnology), it will be more and more possible for private individuals to make a world-class difference. According to The Soul of Money by Lynne Twist, Buckminster Fuller said in the 1970s that the planet now has the ability to provide for everyone, but it would take 50 years for us to fully act on it. In another ten years, a basic web appliance (with display, or maybe full voice interface) might cost $10 instead of $100. Likewise for a water filter. Adequate lighting might cost $3 instead of $30.
I'm not talking charity, nor communism, but simply preferring to live in a world where a small expenditure of money can give the world a billion fewer "poor people" and a billion more productive, participating citizens.Some important things that didn't make the list:
- Clothing: Depends on individual taste; already available in most areas
- Medical care: Can't be automated and manufactured (yet)
- Food: Grown, not manufactured; should be produced locally
- Education: Some comes with the Web; some requires major human resources
- Sanitation: Probably more about education, water, and habits than manufactured stuff
- Employment opportunities
- Healthy social structures
- Decent government (information can help keep governments accountable)