Since 1985, London's Institute for Social Inventions has been gathering ideas, projects, and proposals from people around the world to improve the health and well-being of the planet and its diverse peoples. This "peoples' think tank" provides a fine and necessary antidote to the elite think tanks of corporations and special interest groups.As Brian Eno notes in the foreword, "Just as cheetahs have a talent for speed, humans have a talent for imagining for wondering how else things might be. This means that, unique among animals, we can rethink our social arrangements. . . . We can't withdraw from the imagining game, just as cheetahs can't withdraw from the running game. It's our niche, our living."
This playful, innovative, and wide-ranging encyclopedia of social inventions has something for everyone with its cornucopia of ideas and proposals. They range from practical suggestions related to urban life to planetary schemes. Let's start with a few small ones that spoke to some of our pet peeves. How about restaurant reviews that include decibel levels? Ever notice how you can't talk any more over a meal because the noise is so overwhelming? There's a reason: many restaurants are now designed to accentuate noise so people feel they're eating at a hot spot. Another one that intrigued us was the suggestion that couples go camping together before marriage testing their patience and love quotient in a stressful situation.
Now on a different level, here are two that speak to our sense of justice. Let's require politicians in Washington to wear suits with sponsors' logos so we all can know who pays for influence. And how about the idea of forcing industry executives to drink their effluent discharges?
On the highest level of planetary well-being, we firmly back a declaration of the rights of nature and a declaration of the rights of posterity. Both ought to help put the breaks on short-sighted social policies. Many other proposals and ideas can be found on www.globalideasbank.org.