Inventing for Humanity: a Collaborative Strategy for Global Survival

Poor naked wretches, wheresoe’er you are,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your looped and windowed raggedness defend you
From seasons such as these?  O’ I have ta’en
Too little care of this. 

King Lear, III. iv. Shakespeare

If present trends continue, most of humanity over the next decade will descend into greater poverty, hunger, disease, illiteracy, environmental destruction, and violence. This could happen despite all our wealth and knowledge. The challenges we face are deeply complex because: 1. The problems are linked systemically, so that suffering in one area is compounded by another; 2. Experts converse mainly with other experts in their own disciplines, but the problems and their solutions lie at the interstices of disciplines; 3. The free market and its supporting laws and regulations create powerful disincentives for effective solutions. Vast resources are allocated to greatest commercial profit not necessarily for highest humanitarian returns; and 4. We are losing our capacity to adapt to a world where change is becoming exponential.

This article charts a steady course through this sea of chaos and suffering. Within the circles of misery there are “domains of leverage,” where even a modest investment of funds and talent can produce extraordinary humanitarian returns. By refocusing our efforts, we can still turn the tides.

I. Systemic Thinking: A Model

On August 14, 2003 a minor power failure at a few lines managed by the First Energy Corporation in Ohio exploded in nine seconds into a massive blackout affecting millions of people in the Midwest, New England, New York, and parts of Canada. The blackout cost consumers millions of dollars. The critical questions now being investigated are: 1. What was the root cause? The inquiry must disentangle over 10,000 discrete system events; 2. Why did protective schemes, which should have localized the impact of the various events, fail?; and 3. Why was preventive action not taken, since the system was known to be unreliable and vulnerable? (1)

In his classic analysis of complex systems and risk assessment, Normal Accidents (1999), Professor Charles Perrow introduces the idea of tight coupling, which refers to the absence of slack or buffer that enables loosely coupled systems to incorporate shocks and failures without destabilization. He notes: “In complex (tightly coupled) systems, not only are unanticipated interdependencies more likely to emerge because of a failure of a part or a unit, but those operating the system (or managing it) are less likely, because of specialized roles and knowledge, to predict, note, or be able to diagnose the interdependency before the incident escalates into an accident.” 

The implications of Normal Accidents for the above three questions are: 1. We may never precisely identify the true root cause of the blackout; 2. Protective systems might have identified and corrected the impact, but then again they might not have; and 3. Negligence or indifferent management may not be the sole reason why remedial action was not taken. The problems may be embedded in the intrinsic nature of tightly coupled systems. In fact, devastating accidents of this type may be inevitable, unpreventable, and normal.

Tightly coupled systems also devolve toward a critical state, a condition of sudden and tumultuous changes, which arise naturally when a system is pushed from equilibrium. A pile of sand illustrates the point. The pile grows in a symmetrical and predictable manner. However, when we add the next grain, the pile tips and re-establishes equilibrium in an avalanche. A few years ago physicists viewed the problems of the critical state as a special condition. Recent research suggests that the riddling lines of instability may be far more common in nature than previously thought. In fact the critical state may be ubiquitous. (2)

Still another way of gauging the stability of systems is by the level of their integrity. The integrity of a system can be measured by the extent to which it satisfies four basic conditions: 1. wholeness, 2. coherence, 3. connectedness, and 4. adaptability. In other words, when a system, a biological system, a human being, an organization, an alliance, a community, or a network of communities is internally connected, when one action bears a close and meaningful relationship to another, and where the system as a whole can respond vitally and creatively to any kind of stress or change, the system displays a high degree of integrity.(3) Applying this idea to the recent power failure, it is reported that the integrity of the system had been severely compromised by numerous power surges, which crisscrossed the transmission lines, especially during several previous summers.(4)

Integrity and Complex Systems

The collapse of the integrity of the power system in the Midwestern United States and Canada provides a useful metaphor for inquiring into the vulnerability of larger systems. For example, how tightly coupled are present world economic and financial networks? How near are we to a critical state by our consumption of non-sustainable fossil fuels? How far has the integrity of the biosphere been compromised by pollution and constant exploitation? And when we consider that each of these systems may itself be externally linked to all other global systems, could an adverse event in one cascade into others with unpredictable consequences? 

On a happier note, networks can also display a surprising robustness (integrity), despite enormous levels of stress. In some networks certain nodes attract huge numbers of preferential linkages, while the majority of nodes have only a few connections. An example is an airline hub.  The hubs with the highest degree of connectivity appear to maintain robustness under conditions of great stress (an airplane crash, for example), while the remainder of the network may be compromised. The resilience of the network appears independent of its size. Robust networks have been found to be highly resistant to accidental failures, but are very vulnerable to deliberate acts of sabotage. (5)

A crucial question is: How can old networks be reengineered and new networks designed to optimize their robustness? In the next section we explore the idea of leverage and compounding leverage; how to rebuild the integrity of long compromised systems, and where to refocus our energies.

II. Sources of Compounding Misery

In his recently published book, High Noon: 20 Global Problems, 20 Years to Solve Them (2002), J.F. Rischard provides statistics on domains of misery and also begins to trace the linkages among them. It is useful to organize his data from the perspective of the strains on each separate system.

Poverty. One-sixth of humanity lives on less than $1 per day.  The worst affected are children, the sick, women, and the elderly. According to the most recent report of the United Nations Human Settlements Program one-sixth of the population of the world about one billion people lives in slums and the number may double by 2030. 

Hunger. 800 million people in the world today are hungry and malnourished. 

Disease. One-third of the world is currently infected with tuberculosis, which will kill 40 million people over the next twenty years. There are now over 300 million clinical cases of malaria each year, 90% in Sub-Saharan Africa. One hundred million people are infected with lymphatic filariasis (elephantiasis) and over a billion people are at risk. Forty million people currently are suffering from AIDS.  In South Africa alone 40 million children are projected to be orphaned by 2010.  With the destruction of the rain forests and the ease of modern travel, many previously isolated, dangerous viruses and bacteria are entering the industrialized world.  An increasing trend of drug resistant mutations from overuse of antibiotics has also been documented.(6) 

Illiteracy. According to UNESCO over one-quarter of the world’s adult population is illiterate, of which 98% live in developing countries.  Two-thirds are women.  Africa has a literacy rate of less than 60%. 

Environmental Destruction and Pollution

The statistics of pollution and losses in biodiversity are grim: One-sixth of humanity lacks access to safe drinking water; one-third does not have basic sanitation.  At the current rate of loss in biodiversity, one-fifth of mammal and bird species is threatened, which is 100 to 1000 times the normal extinction rates.  Tropical forests are receding at 1% per year.  The oceans, which cover 70% of the planet, are probably under greater stress than we are able to gauge. Sixty percent of coral reefs are threatened.  Fisheries are being depleted twice as fast as they can be sustained. 

Ninety percent of California’s historic wetlands, a critical part of the ecosystem, has been destroyed. California’s loss of wetlands reflects a global trend.  

Energy Consumption

By 2020 Rischard estimates power consumption based on fossil fuels will rise fivefold. Carbon emissions in the Third World from burning gas, oil, coal, and wood will reach levels of the industrialized world. In some developing countries energy consumption will double and even triple present levels.

Fragility and Volatility of the Global Financial System

Rischard describes the recent volatility and fragility in the financial markets. An example is the financial crisis in Thailand in 1997. Seasoned observers, he writes, were stunned by the speed and channels of the contagion capital flight, banks withdrawing their funds, declining commodity prices, abrupt and indiscriminate portfolio readjustments away from emerging markets, highly leveraged (in terms of debt) funds suddenly reversing gears. As usual, poor people suffered most. No system is in place today to restore the integrity of global financial networks during a meltdown.

Compounding Forces

Population Population pressure may neutralize the gains of even the most promising initiatives. The world’s population has increased from 5 billion people in 1990 to 6 billion today, and will increase to about 8 billion by 2020-2025–a rise of 33% in less than a generation.  The added stresses on food and energy supplies, potable water, clean air, and sustainable forest and ocean habitats are unprecedented. 

Rules of Disempowerment As Tina Rosenberg writes in The New York Times Magazine (August 18, 2002) the present system of rules and institutions of international trade for example, the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization perpetuate and deepen the disparities between the excessively rich and the remainder of humanity, most of whom live in austerity, helplessness, and despair.(7) 

Time Acceleration – A Dangerous Gap The language of the computer age provides the metaphors of a new (virtual) reality: fast time, data and time compression, multitask, hard and power drive, super-charged, bits and bytes, encryption, next generation. We are so busy and preoccupied that we no longer have time to attend to what really matters.(8)

We are entering an era of exponential change, which is a dramatic shift from the gradual pace of most of human history. We are poorly adapted psychologically and emotionally for this shift. As Diagram # 1 illustrates, the resilience of existing systems is even more challenged by the prevalence of weapons of mass destruction and the many apocalyptic groups determined to use them.

Circles of Misery

The sources of suffering and the forces compounding them are connected in circles of misery. The following are the most crucial examples.

Poverty-Hunger-Ignorance-Illiteracy: Ethnic and Religious Intolerance—Violence  and Terrorism

Poverty, hunger, illiteracy, ignorance, ethnic and religious intolerance and violence are linked in a macabre dance of hopelessness, one feeding upon the other. How likely is this vicious circle to reach a critical state? More concretely, what is the probability, sometime in the next ten years, of a terrorist (mega-death) attack, spawned by this circle of misery, involving the use of weapons of mass destruction against a major population center? The probability seems today unsettlingly large, when we consider: 1. the number of members of apocalyptic terrorist organizations who are dedicated to indiscriminate murder and mayhem ; 2. their apparent indifference to death, indeed the glorification of martyrdom; 3. the accessibility of weapons of mass destruction and the materials for manufacturing them; 4. the number of countries that currently possess, or are urgently trying to acquire, biological, and other weapons of mass destruction; 5.  the number of countries and terrorist organizations that have actually used biological weapons and hope to use them in order to wreak maximum havoc; 6. the relative ease of using genetic engineering to customize biological weapons on demand;  7. the vulnerability of most population centers (especially ports) and the large number of  targets; and 8. the continuing ineptitude, arrogance, and indifference of most governments in dealing effectively with the danger.(9)

Environmental Destruction (Pollution, Loss of Habitat, etc.)—Hunger-Disease—Poverty

The linkages between pollution and the food supply, specifically the depletion of fisheries, have been well documented.  Less recognized is the connection of global environmental changes, in particular global warming, directly and indirectly to disease and poverty.  Poor people throughout the world will be the least able to adapt.  Some consequences are: 1. a decrease in the supply of potable water; 2. a decrease in agricultural productivity, especially in tropical and sub-tropical areas; and 3. an increase in mortality due to insect-borne diseases (malaria) and water-borne diseases (cholera). A well-known malaria specialist estimates that 50% of Thailand could die in a year from a mutant malaria parasite, caused by increased radiation from depletion in the ozone barrier. (10)

Population—Energy Consumption—Pollution

Rischard-s calculations of energy demand are predicated on present rates and do not account for the multiplied demand, resulting from a 33% increase in population in the same time period.  Sharp increases in worldwide energy consumption, coupled with dramatic population increases, especially in the developing world, may be the precipitating factors which will set in motion the downward spirals noted above.

The linkages described above are illustrated in Diagram # 2

Unintended Secondary Consequences

Saving lives may actually compound our problems. If we develop an effective vaccine for malaria, for example, 300 million people in the Third World could be saved. But who will house and feed them? What will be their impact on energy consumption or environmental stress? The repercussions of beneficial actions are real and must be addressed in any effective solution.


From the perspective of the forgoing discussion, the integrity of each of the basic systems–the economy, finance, environment, energy, and the psychological and emotional stability of large numbers of people, is steadily being compromised. Although it is hard to ascertain whether any of these systems has as yet reached a critical state, the important point is when this happens, a trivial event can tip the balance. As these systems are becoming increasingly coupled, the impairment of one will weaken the integrity of another. All systems together, or sequentially, may begin to fail. The difficulty of identifying the root cause of the power failure at First Energy Corporation suggests the virtual impossibility of accurately tracking and predicting these more complex dynamics.

III. Toward a Remedy: Focused Leverage

The world’s economic system is failing massively to produce the goods and services, which are most desperately needed, and to distribute them equitably. 

How long can such a system endure? A system whose captains, a few thousand CEOs, are rewarded yearly for their indifference, negligence, even corruption, earning $ billions in salaries, stock options, restricted stock, and bogus pensions, while so many, especially the weakest and poorest, are dying? (11) Is it too late to heal? Can the earth’s integrity be rebuilt and sustained? Can so many years of folly be redeemed? 

The core idea of this paper is that the remedy lies in focused leverage. Archimedes observed, Give me a lever and place to stand upon, and I will move the world. As will be explained in Parts III-V, leverage has many forms.

A good place to begin is to understand why most businesses pursue narrow commercial goals when so many people around the world are in such desperate need of their knowledge, technology, and capital. A partial answer lies in the nature of public goods. According to economic theory, markets do not establish prices, or send accurate signals, for the true social value of some goods and services. National defense is an example. The commercial risks of supplying this service are too great for a single firm, or even a consortium of companies, while the beneficiaries (the public) lack the means to pay for it. Therefore governments pay for these services. However, as described below, networks of alliances among private companies, foundations, and governments are now creating new business structures, which can spread these risks intelligently and help to build infrastructure and markets, especially in Third World countries. If the public goods problem can be solved, the greatest humanitarian applications of most technologies may turn out to be their most profitable uses. (12) How to create wealth and to distribute it more equitably, building upon the strengths of the free market system, is a core discovery.  

Although the trends appear relentlessly grim, there are in fact many available resources, which can turn the tide toward a more abundant, more equitable world for everyone. As explained, the humanitarian potentialities of many of these resources and strategies are not widely recognized.

At times leverage can be gained through certain economically strategic technologies and industries, which function as engines of economic growth. A current example is the Internet, a strategic instrumentality that drives innovation and increases productivity in every industry which depends on it.  In this sense the Internet functions like the canals and railroads in 18th and 19th century Europe and the United States, or Japan’s post-war trigger industries– steel, autos, household electronics, semiconductors, computers, telecommunications, robotics, new materials, and biotechnology. Governments can play a constructive role in supporting the next generation of economically strategic technologies and industries, such as those underlying a Hydrogen Economy (IV/Case # 5), which can usher in a new era of economic prosperity. (13)

Once leverage is gained, the next question is where and how to focus it? Part IV develops a New Model of Collaborative Discovery and Innovation which shows how focus can be sharpened to the precision of a needle’s point. 

Domains of Leverage

Comprehensive Framework of Discovery There is a great body of techniques and methods, which have already been tested and proved in business, on how to solve problems creatively, engineer discoveries, and accelerate innovations. Some examples are: Synectics development of self-diagnostic appliances; Lead-User innovations in the prevention of infectious diseases associated with surgical procedures; and i-Triz solutions for the health care industry.(14) Our goal should be to organize the best of these techniques, along with the new field of computer-aided invention and discovery, into a Comprehensive Framework of Discovery or Discovery Engine and to focus this system on accelerating breakthroughs in the domains of greatest human suffering. 

Public/Private Alliances as Engines of Innovation There is already an extensive body of knowledge in business on how to negotiate, structure, track, measure, and manage strategic alliances.(15)  We are also learning how to organize and manage global consortia for humanity involving diverse public and private entities. Some examples are: the Global AIDS Alliance, the African Malaria Partnership, the Initiative on Public/Private Partnerships for Health, and many other international consortia to mitigate, and eventually eradicate, tuberculosis, malaria, lymphatic filiariae, and other scourges. These global alliances have been spearheaded by the Gates and other foundations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, and major pharmaceutical companies such as GlaxoSmithKline, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, Merck, and Boehringer Ingelheim.

Private companies are coming to recognize that they can gain competitive advantage and leverage by aligning their charitable activities with their strategic business objectives. Under this emerging model of strategic philanthropy, the business risks are shared by foundations, international and governmental agencies, while companies leverage their technology and experience in developing huge new markets.(16)  An example of this public/private partnership is the alliance formed by Pfizer and the Gates Foundation to eradicate the eye disease, trachoma, in West Africa. Many other examples are documented in a recent prize winning article in the Harvard Business Review by Michael Porter and Mark Kramer, The Competitive Advantage of Corporate Philanthropy. (17)

Alliances can act as powerful drivers of innovation. They reduce costs, add assets, and generate fresh ideas by the diverse perspectives of the participants. The Advanced Technology Program (ATP) within the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S. Commerce Department ( now has a $ billion portfolio of several thousand innovations, which it has fostered in new materials, fuel cells, biotechnology, electronics, and other high technology areas. ATP not only provides funding for these projects, but also acts as an alliance integrator, helping the parties to persevere during the long months when discoveries are incubating. At times ATP even serves as a neutral alliance mediator, harmonizing interests and promoting collaboration. (18)  Recent research on the microelectronics industry by Professor Ard-Peter de Mann of the University of Eindehoven in the Netherlands suggests that competitive advantage through innovation may no longer depend on managing a single alliance, but on how successfully a company manages its networks of alliances. (19)

It is only a matter of time when these two fieldspublic/private alliances and innovation– converge. The need is there; the corporate interest is there; the markets are there; the technology is there; and national governments and international organizations are recognizing the urgency for generating innovations on a global scale. With this perspective the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) has just established a new Council on Alliances for Corporate Social Responsibility, which will publish the best practices, beginning with the challenging problem of how to measure and to balance the economic (ROI) and humanitarian (HROI) returns from these public/private investments.

Village Earth: A Successful Model for Sustainable Community-Based Development In contrast to the top-down model, where international development agencies dispense money and other aid, requiring enforced  austerity, Village Earth, an experiment currently underway in Nepal, India, and Indonesia, proceeds from the opposite direction. (See The basic premise is local communities in poor countries currently possess a wealth of untapped creative resources and energies. The key strategy is to liberate this indigenous capability and to link these communities to health, educational, informational and other resources, which they identify as critical. In Village Earth, trained participatory practitioners help communities generate their own creative vision of how to deal with poverty, disease, hunger, illiteracy, and other miseries. Once a vision and plan is in place, the facilitators assist communities in discovering how to make best use of Village Earth’s extensive computer-based Resource Directory. The strategy has these combined virtues: 1.It is self-generated and owned by the community. 2. It is less costly to implement than current development strategies. 3. Communities address all domains of suffering simultaneously, rather than through piecemeal, uncoordinated efforts. 4. The Humanitarian Return on Investment (HROI) appears far greater than alternative strategies.(20)

Internet Strategies for Development and the Pursuit of Happiness In his excellent article, Internet Strategies for the Development of Very Poor Societies, Professor Richard L. Meier, of the University of California, proposes a new development strategy based on the effective use of information and access to the Internet.  Once an initial threshold of per capita income (i.e., $10,000-$15,000 per year) is reached, the focus would shift to optimizing Happiness as a superior objective to the accumulation of wealth and power.  According to Professor Meier, societies that report themselves as being very happy or happy share in common a recent history of investment in quality information, education, public order, health, quality environment, nourishing relationships, and tolerance.  Their consumption patterns are only 20% of those of highly developed societies. Professor Meier’s article is important as it redefines the basic mission of international assistance efforts: increasing happiness not necessarily accelerating growth.(21)

Accelerating the Transition to a Hydrogen Economy The rapid transition to the Hydrogen Economy is a Point of Leverage because: 1. It will substitute a sustainable energy source for the present high polluting and energy intensive one (oil); 2. It will reduce the dependence of the industrialized world, and also most poor countries, on expensive foreign oil imports; 3. It will render unnecessary a U.S. military presence in the oil producing countries, which is widely resented; 4. It will directly relieve most of the sources of misery noted above, providing the developing world with a practical way to attain self-sufficiency in its supplies of energy.(22)  A strategy for accelerating this transition is presented in Section IV.

Compounding Leverage

The concept of compounding leverage can be visualized as a four-dimensional matrix, where one domain is layered upon another, each multiplying the benefits of all.

Geographical Leverage–The above Points of Leverage can be concentrated together and focused on specific geographic areas or regions to yield Compounding Leverage. For example, although the United States has less than 5% of the world’s population, its people consumes 25% of the world’s energy and generates over 25% of the world’s emissions of carbon dioxide.  The United States itself is thus a significant Point of Leverage!  Focusing the development of alternative energy in the coastal zones of the United States and other countries will also exert compound leverage, because the coastal zones are the areas of highest population density and greatest environmental damage. The coastal zones have the potential to become treasure troves of human invention, and are ideal locations for the Internet-based learning networks described above.(23)

Lead User Leverage—Compounding Leverage can also be achieved when breakthroughs in one domain of leverage become “lead users” of learning for others. For example, learning how to accelerate humanitarian discoveries through public/private alliances will be highly synergistic with all other applications; inventing more effective ways of mobilizing the media to support humanitarian action will reinforce all other initiatives.(24)

Empowering Women Initiatives that empower women and increase their self-esteem offer unique opportunities to compound leverage. A successful example is Kerala, India, which has achieved high literacy rates and high standards of living within a surrounding sea of poverty, thanks largely to its productive work force of women. The Kerala data are reinforced by similar reports from Village Earth communities and micro-credit programs.(25)

Wisdom as a Learned Skill

As we enter a period of great social and psychological upheaval, our collective wisdom will become our primary survival skill. Wisdom slows things down and focuses our attention on what is really important. In a world obsessed with acquiring and consuming, wisdom is more interested in emptying and letting go. Wisdom discovers beauty and richness even in calamity and suffering. Ultimately, wisdom is about freedom from the rattle of the external world and the grip of our fears and vanity. Therefore, the Bible counsels get wisdom and understanding.for her price is greater than rubies.(26)

How might we gather humanity’s collective wisdom and render it immediately usable for dealing with today’s crises?  The principle of integrity provides a clue. Some years ago I discovered that systems whether of individuals, organizations, or communities, which embody integrity tend to make wise decisions. I began to study and then to list the attributes of integrity, especially as they pertain to adaptability in emergencies. A number of categories immediately presented themselves: the principle of fearlessness; the ability to ask and to derive answers from your integrity; the capacity to let go and to breathe; the skill of dropping assumptions and expectations, and focusing with rapt attention simply on what is happening in the moment. Other examples are: the art of finding advantage and opportunity inside adversity; the principle of lightness, resilience, and bounce; and the skill of seeing the world, without distortion, exactly as it is. By generating these and other categories of integrity, it is possible to discover the wisdom genome of the greatest figures in history, literature, and the arts and to enlist them, along with any other person whose wisdom would be helpful, as mentors in one’s personal and professional journey. This same strategy can be used to solve any problem where wisdom and sound judgment are important. (27)

Is it possible to track and even to measure wisdom? An essential quality of wisdom is the capacity to be field independent, in other words, the ability to maintain equilibrium (integrity), despite external or inner turbulence. One way to construct this Personal Gyroscope is to trace throughout the day, hour-by-hour, at times by minutes, our response to external events and the associated thoughts and emotions. For example, we watch our tendency to invent catastrophe when none has occurred, or how our will to combat helplessness can falter with external circumstance. The distinct wave form of a day, or a longer sequence of time, emerges. I have found that in the beginning we tend to go up and down with the flux of the outer world. But with practice we can maintain equipoise when the world is chaotic, and even more interesting, sudden beneficial shifts can occur in the outer world when we turn our attention inward to the steadfast cultivation of our personal integrity. (28) 

IV. A New Model of Collaborative Discovery and Innovation

The principal lesson of the recent SARS epidemic is that in times of emergency even highly competitive organizations will put aside their differences and work effectively together. By collaborating closely and sharply focusing on the problem, rival laboratories around the world were able to discover the SARS pathogen in a month and its DNA structure in the next. We can build on such precedents to design a practical model of collaborative discovery and innovation. 

Here are its elements.

Discovery Teams A major impediment today for breakthrough discoveries is the tendency of experts to converse mainly with other experts in their own disciplines. This narrows the discourse and excludes ideas that do not conform to the existing paradigm. We want to enrich the inquiry by building new kinds of Discovery Teams, (29) which will include diversely imaginative people. For example, patients and customers, problem solvers of all kinds, entrepreneurs, inventors, software designers, science writers, artists and musicians.

Core Discovery Puzzle The next task is to frame the inventive challenge or Core Discovery Puzzle.  The puzzle is then continuously refined, and becomes the focus of inquiry of the Discovery Teams.(30)

Discovery Engine The Discovery Engine has been discussed earlier. The key idea is to use the tools of invention and innovation not only to solve the puzzle but also to boost the teams, overall powers of discovery. In this way the productivity of the enterprise is continuously enhanced.

Translation  The Core Discovery Puzzle is then translated into language and imagery which will enable any curious person to grasp it quickly.(31) By democratizing the process, we can enlist the creative energies of large numbers of people who might welcome the opportunity to become co-discoverers and innovators for humanity.

Strategic Alliances It will be important to gain leverage for the Expeditions through alliances with corporations, foundations, and other organizations. These alliances can bring added funds, brainpower, computer, and other resources. 

Learning Networks and Communities The ability of citizens to discover, invent, and solve problems creatively is a precious community asset. Although we know how to build teams and learning organizations, (32) there is much less research on learning networks and communities. In the projects discussed below, we will introduce the skills of creative problem solving and innovation to many non-experts in Santa Barbara and seek to inspire them to work with us in Inventing for Humanity. The participants will contribute their brainpower to solving the Core Discovery Puzzles, while learning valuable skills, which they can use in every aspect of their lives. 

Open Source, Discovery Communities, and the Internet One of the principal lessons of 9/11 is that virtually all the critical information on the terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center was already known by the intelligence community.  The government failed to connect the dots! The U.S. government is still ill-prepared for the next crisis, as is the rest of the international community.  No infrastructure is in place to mobilize large numbers of people in solving such problems. Since it may be unwise to rely solely on governments to respond rapidly and effectively to a serious public health, energy, or terrorist emergency, it is urgent that we build a framework for collaborative discovery before the next crisis occurs.

What legal structure is most conducive to enabling large numbers of people to work in synergy? One option is the open-source license devised by Linux, which entitles users to contribute and to modify the basic operating system. Under the Linux agreement innovators can patent derivative inventions. This strategy has worked well for a comparatively narrow application like Linux, where it is confined to a discrete community of users (originally computer hackers). (33)

There may, however, be significant managerial problems when extending the Linux licensing strategy to a collaborative framework for discovery involving thousands of diverse participants. A more realistic strategy is to place all ideas and discoveries, with full attribution to the contributors, in the public domain. The legal distinction is important. Under the Linux system there is an intellectual property right, which is created and protected by the license. Under the proposed open source arrangement, all inventions and discoveries, which are generated by the community as a whole, would become part of an intellectual commons for humanity.  At the same time, entrepreneurs and inventors would still be free to use this common platform to build their own proprietary, patentable inventions. This strategy may be more effective in inducing discoverers and inventors to contribute their ideas, especially during national or international emergencies. (34)

Open source strategies are becoming a trend. (35)  The Human Genome Project and various NASA programs are organized on open-source principles. Other examples are Design that Matters and Think Cycle, which are groups of engineers and designers collaborating in the public interest; and CAMBIA, the Center for the Application of Molecular Biology in Agriculture, which has built an exhaustive open source data base of 300,000 patents in agricultural genomics.(36)  Eli Lilly has recently established InnoCentive Corporation, which under an open source structure is offering a bounty to any interested member of the public who will assist Eli Lilly in solving its own core discovery puzzles in the life sciences.(37)

Many of the basic tools to support the building of a new Collaborative Discovery Infrastructure on the Internet also already exist, although they are principally being used for commercial applications. The best of these current Internet systems are: The Brain, Inxight, Muse, Geofusion, Groxis, Many One, and Environmental Sciences Research Inc. (ESRI). (38)

Five Cases of Collaborative Discovery and Innovation

During the Age of Exploration in the 15th and 16th centuries kingdoms and principalities launched Discovery Expeditions to capture the treasures of the New World. We are at the threshold of a Second Age of Exploration. Today’s Expeditions will explore the farthest reaches of the Mind, and the treasures we will bring home will be breakthroughs for humanity. Amateurs (in the original sense of the word, one who loves) will play a critical part.(39) The first two cases illustrate how the collaborative framework described can be used to accelerate new discoveries and inventions.  The second two examples indicate how alliances can help to disseminate the benefits of existing discoveries. The final example is an innovative legislative initiative, which can accelerate the shift toward the Hydrogen Economy.

Our strategy is to aim first, in the metaphor of baseball, for singles before home runs. There is much skepticism in the world, which always rises, like antibodies, in reaction against anything new, bold, and untested. The more ambitious the enterprise, the stronger is society’s immune reaction. The strategy of hitting singles before home runs is designed to address this concern, and to differentiate the present enterprise from so many other well-meaning ventures, which go awry despite the best of intentions. Once a few base hits are achieved, our hope is others will be encouraged to experiment, and the strategy will be further validated. An autocatalytic process will begin, building on its own energy and momentum. The keys to our strategy are sharp focus, leverage, and scalability.

As noted, the first task is to frame the inventive challenge or Core Discovery Puzzle. The second step is to translate the puzzle into language and imagery that can be easily grasped. Democratizing the process will enable any imaginative person to contribute to the Expedition. The core puzzle is continuously revised and refined as the search for solutions proceeds.

Case # 1 Meeting the Challenge of World Blindness by Collaborative Innovation

By 2020 40 million people will be blind from cataracts, mainly in the Third World, most of them elderly and children. Cataracts are an affliction, which in most cases can be completely cured in thirty minutes by a surgical procedure costing $100. During the past twenty-nine years Surgical Expeditions International (S.E.E. International/ has built a network of surgeons and clinics in over 90 countries, which has restored sight to over 100,000 people. A remaining challenge is the cost of high quality surgical sets, now $2500, which is economically prohibitive for virtually all these countries. Our mission is to invent a surgical set of equivalent quality, priced around $10, and to distribute these sets to the surgeons throughout the S.E.E. network and other channels, who are desperately waiting for them. By discovering a way to produce high quality, inexpensive sets for cataract surgery, we may also develop an innovative, low cost solution for many other types of medical instruments.

Our initial goal (base hit) has been to develop a delicate instrument (cataract surgery employs cutting, moveable, and non-moveable instruments), the Colibri forceps, at a fraction of its present cost, approximately $200. In collaboration with S.E.E. International, Alliances for Discovery organized a Discovery Team, including engineer, John Lynch, who agreed to explore the feasibility of achieving our objective, and if possible to develop an initial prototype.

We proceeded on two premises:

1. It might be possible to produce a prototype version of 90% of the Colibri forceps, using photochemical etching, based on schematics provided by S.E.E.’s founder and Chairman, Dr. Harry Brown. Our challenge will be the delicate grasping portion of the instrument (at a level of 0.15 mm), which photochemical etching most likely will not be sufficiently sensitive to replicate.

2. Once 90% of the instrument is fashioned, there may be several strategies to shape the remaining 10%. The first is punch and die processing. This strategy is fast and inexpensive. (Although there is a high capital cost of the machinery, once in place prototypes can be mass produced at low costs.)  The critical technical question is will the instrument will break under the great physical pressure of processing? On November 19, 2003 the Discovery Team, now increased in numbers by several internationally renowned eye surgeons and inventors, met in Santa Barbara to hear Mr. Lynch’s report and to formulate a plan of action.


1. Mr. Lynch presented a workable prototype, which he produced with the assistance of a local California company within our target cost by means of photochemical machining.

2. To our great surprise and delight, Mr. Lynch reported in his opinion, as well as that of the manufacturer, the entire set of the most essential instruments could be produced within the desired price range, by some combination of photochemical machining and punch and die processing, IF the high initial cost of the capital equipment (the punch presses) could somehow be defrayed. By his calculation 200,000 parts could be manufactured by this process within thirty-three hours.

Implications and Next Steps

1. Mr. Lynch’s report astounded us. For ten years Dr. Brown has struggled to find a solution to the instrument bottleneck. Now within a month, with the right combination of people, deeply motivated to finding a solution, a solution appears to have found us.

2. If there is a way to cover the initial capital cost of the presses, the implications of Mr. Lynch’s report are: 1. Depending on the availability of skilled doctors, a million people can be cured from blindness in thirty minutes at a cost of less than $15 million. 2. Three hundred million dollars will enable the entire present world population of the blind to be free of cataracts. 3. The cost of curing present world blindness from cataracts is well less than the annual salaries of ten U.S. CEOs described in an April 2003 Fortune Magazine article (f.n.11). 4. The economic gains to the world will be in the tens of $ billions. (40) 

3. What at first seemed an inventive challenge has now turned into an alliance challenge:  test the feasibility of our strategy with other delicate instruments (scissors, for example), and, if it holds, prepare a compelling business case to assemble the resources required for the task.

Case # 2– Accelerating a Cure for Types 1 & 2 Diabetes

There are approximately 150 million people around the world who currently suffer from Type 2, adult onset, diabetes mellitus and over 9 million children afflicted with the autoimmune disease, Type 1, childhood onset, diabetes mellitus. No cure as yet has been achieved for either of these debilitating, life-depriving, and at times fatal illnesses. 

Toward the end of the afternoon of November 14, 2003 at a conference at The University of California-Santa Barbara on glucose sensing and insulin delivery, which was sponsored by the Sansum Diabetes Research Institute, Alliances for Discovery, and the University of California’s Discovery Grant Program, Dr. Randall Barton, a Senior Scientist from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals presented his group’s findings concerning a new strategy that was developed in collaboration with Dr. William Osborne at the University  of Washington. Dr. Barton reported that his team was able to induce human cells, engineered with the pro-insulin gene, to secrete mature insulin in response to glucose in an animal, by a catalytic reaction involving the enzyme, furin.  Dr. Barton demonstrated how the cells could be housed in a small, external capsule, which by a proprietary technique would insulate them from rejection by the animal’s normal immune cells.  Dr. Barton’s presentation was a fresh perspective in a day, otherwise focused mainly on the science and mechanics of glucose sensing and insulin delivery. For if this invention proves to be effective and safe for human use a very significant if indeed we would be able to bypass the needles, the sensors, the inhalants, the dermal patches, and the elaborate prosthesis of an artificial pancreas, and have at last, essentially, a cure. 

1. A base hit will be to understand under laboratory conditions (in vitro) how much furin is required to catalyze different levels of insulin, and to develop protocols of calibration. 

2. A grand slam will be to demonstrate in clinical trials that the technology a. can generate insulin measurably and sensitively in response to actual metabolic changes, specifically to be able to release a spike of insulin mimicking the first phase of insulin secretion; b. can produce sufficient insulin to normalize blood glucose in a volume that can be easily implanted into the body; and c. is safe for patient use (i.e. does not predispose to infections and/or severe hypo or hyperglycemia.) 


We are forming a network of alliances to focus corporate, university, and government resources in expediting answers to these basic questions.

Case # 3 Sustaining Agricultural Productivity in the Third World

Each year drought, pests, salt, and at times frost extract a huge cost from basic agriculture, particularly in the world’s poorest countries. For example, according to the United Nations Environmental Program, the scarcity of fresh water is the second gravest environmental problem after global climate change. The problem is especially acute in Sub-Saharan Africa where it is estimated that fourteen African countries stand at the brink of mass starvation as a result of persistent droughts and water shortages.

FuturaGene is an Indiana-based start-up company, based on an alliance among researchers at Purdue, and the Universities of Arizona, Illinois (Champlain-Urbana) and Barcelona (Spain), all leaders in agricultural science. The alliance has succeeded in isolating the plant genes, which control tolerance to drought, salt, cold, and various fungi. FuturaGene has negotiated an exclusive license from the participating universities. FuturaGene believes its technology represents the beginning of eco-friendly applications of genetic engineering. The procedure involves the amplification and expression of a natural capacity of plants, and not the horizontal transference of genes across species, which has raised much worldwide concern and protest. FuturaGene has initially targeted tomatoes, soybeans, cotton, rice, corn, wheat, potatoes, alfalfa, strawberries, and beans. The applications of the technology are almost unlimited.

Core Discovery Puzzle The simplest and most elegant demonstration of how an alliance can accelerate this innovation would be to demonstrate the technology with the tomato plant in the laboratory. The next step is to harvest the resultant seeds in a pilot plot in a country or countries where agricultural productivity is greatly reduced by droughts and salt-damage (Egypt and Israel, for example).

Status As this article goes to press we are arranging for this experiment to be performed. 

Case # 4: Breakthroughs in the Delivery of Clean Drinking Water

Over 1.1 billion people today lack access to reliable, safe, affordable drinking water.  Eighty percent of all diseases in developing countries are waterborne.  Three to ten million people die annually from these diseases, most of them children. A Seattle-based company, Vanson/Halosource is pioneering the commercial application of important discoveries originally made twenty years ago at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama, on the antimicrobial properties of the N-halamine molecule. Vanson/Halosource has now available two products, a Halopure Bead Cartridge and Ultra-Low Cost Funnel-Shaped Purifier, which can immediately save lives in poor countries.  The result will be the delivery of EPA-quality drinking water to households throughout the world at a fraction of a penny.  

Core Discovery Puzzle Many households in the developing world store drinking water on their roof tops.  A dependable water supply is for these poor families a symbol of security and self-sufficiency, which is as important as its cost saving. The problem with roof storage is biological contamination. The innovative challenge for Vanson/Halosource is to prove the effectiveness of its technology within a community of users and then to work with them in refining and developing the product. 

The Vanson/Halsource challenge perfectly illustrates the public good dilemma discussed earlier and the case for effective alliances for innovation: a breakthrough technology which can save millions of lives; a substantial risk to the entrepreneurs who do not possess the funds or manpower to service this gigantic market; hundreds of millions of people (consumers) who cannot afford to pay for the benefits they could receive.

Status Alliances for Discovery is helping the parties identify the user communities, arrange for financing, and structure their alliance. 

Case # 5: Model Strategic Hydrogen Alliances Act: A Crucible for Discovery (41)

The world is poised for a transformation as great as that from coal to oil in the 18th and 19th centuries. We are far closer to a Hydrogen Economy than most people imagine. At a recent meeting of the California Hydrogen Business Council several presentations demonstrated that retrofitting the internal combustion engine to run as a hybrid hydrogen vehicle is both technologically and economically feasible. The necessary hydrogen infrastructure can be built with immediately available technology, which will also accelerate longer term breakthroughs in hydrogen storage, fuel cell design, and distributed generation.  A public will to act is palpable. Auspicious public/private combinations will light the spark.

The rationale for government involvement both at the state and federal levels in the development of the hydrogen economy is not simply to avoid rising energy costs or to increase the tax base, which are standard and unexceptional justifications.  The more interesting explanation is that the Hydrogen Economy, especially as it gathers steam through the convergence of economically strategic technologies, offers an extraordinary opportunity for government to participate, as a founding equity partner, in a self-sustaining financial venture that could last for centuries. (42)

A Model Strategic Hydrogen Alliances Act (SHAA) can serve as a practical way to build these auspicious combinations. The first step is to prepare a draft statute on how government can use its procurement, fiscal and other powers to build market-based incentives. The draft would incorporate the most successful innovations in public/private alliances and ideas from environmental, energy, and other areas of law. California is an excellent venue, because of the high concentration of U.S. and foreign companies engaged in hydrogen businesses in the state and Governor-Elect Arnold Schwarzenegger’s commitment to build hydrogen fueling stations every 20 miles on California’s interstate highways.  Local governments are also taking the initiative to act as public venture capitalists and build public entrepreneurial networks which are financially self-sustaining. An example is the Sunlight Transit Agency’s successful introduction of a fleet of buses, fueled by compressed natural gas (CNG), in Thousand Palms near Palm Springs. (43)

The draft would first be circulated to a small group of representative stakeholders from the energy and automobile industries, the environmental community, the military, consumer groups, and government agencies. Based on their comments the Single Alliance-Building Text would be revised and refined. At the appropriate time it could be posted on the Internet with an invitation to interested persons to contribute. When the draft is ready and the timing is right, it would be presented for formal public hearings at the state and/or federal levels. In spirit the enterprise must be neutral and non-partisan; in fact it would provide a much needed service in contemporary American political life of keeping the national and international humanitarian interest foremost. 

If the legislation survives in tact from the political infighting and positioning, which will likely surround it, a significant shift in political consciousness will have happened. However, even if it is not enacted in the form of a comprehensive statute, it will help to align many of the critical interests and will serve as a crucible of discovery and innovation. If sufficient momentum develops, many of its proposals will likely be incorporated into other laws and regulations, and in this sense, the process will be self-executing. (44)

V. A Sustainable Dialogue

If ideas can propagate like viruses, and if the strategy outlined in this article has merit, the question is how to render it contagious? The art of unleashing virtuous epidemics itself is a point of leverage. In his best seller, The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell identifies three agents of change: The Law of the Few, the Stickiness Factor, and the Power of Context. Briefly stated: 1. a tiny percentage of people, particularly those who are connected and have energy and enthusiasm, can exert enormous and disproportionate leverage; 2. how the content is packaged can make it memorable and irresistible; 3. some situations are so symbolically compelling they can override society’s natural immunity to important inventions and innovations.(45)

My hope is this article will stimulate inquiry and discovery. The Internet affords an ideal means to explore the premises of the strategy, to refine its methods, and to enrich the number of examples, which will build an empirical and reproducible record of results. Every contribution will be recognized and fully credited. In this way the document soon becomes a public resource.

How can the process gain momentum? Here are some milestones. One task is to create an inventory of critical Core Discovery Puzzles, which can challenge imaginative thinkers and social inventors around the world.(46) As we have seen, simply to focus the collaborative mind on a problem will increase the probability of its solution.  A second task is to take stock of the existing breakthrough discoveries and inventions, which are lying fallow in some university laboratory, (47) or are wasting assets of an innovative company that has run out of funds. There may even be inventions of great value that have been ignored since antiquity. (48) It would be also useful to create a separate directory of how nature-the greatest of all “lead users” has itself solved many of these Core Discovery Puzzles.(49) There is a cornucopia of solutions to humanity’s dilemmas just waiting to be applied if we will only care to explore. We might also recognize and reward the skills of social entrepreneurship, inventiveness, and creative collaboration by national and international competitions. (50) Some day there may be an international Olympics on Inventing for Humanity!

If we had world enough and time, this might all happen naturally and at its own vegetable pace. But we do not have world enough or time. Therefore strategic alliances will be essential to provide leverage and to accelerate the process of diffusion. As noted, powerful Internet-based collaborative tools are already in place. The challenge is to couple the strategy and processes proposed here to these capabilities.

Conclusion: Rediscovery of Heart

In Stave One of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol when Scrooge first encounters Marley’s Ghost, the Ghost asks: Man of the worldly mind, do you believe in me or not? I do, I must, Scrooge replies, but why do spirits walk the earth and why do they come to me? 

The Ghost answers him: It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world and witness what it cannot share on earth and turn to happiness! 

But you were always a good man of business, falters Scrooge, trying to console the Ghost.

Business! cries the Ghost, wringing its hands. Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop in the water of the great ocean of my business.

The world is topsy-turvy and the stresses are mounting on rich and poor alike. It is unsure whether or when a critical state will be reached, but an emerging science of networks and the patterns of statistics themselves suggest it is likely. We are psychologically unprepared for upheavals on this scale. 

Is it yet possible to turn the Wheel for better?

The heavy hand will not do it. Nor can keen intelligence alone succeed. We must rediscover heart in the business of this earth, and with a sharp eye and a skillful hand, together turn the Wheel. Then we will uncover wonders vaster than ever dreamed of in our philosophy.



I express my appreciation to The Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian and the National Collegiate Inventors and Innovators Alliance (NCIIA), which sponsored the conference in December 2002 on which the article is based. The Report does not reflect the policies or views of these organizations, and any errors or omissions are solely the author’s responsibility. I also acknowledge with gratitude the thoughts and constructive comments of the following friends and colleagues, who read earlier drafts of this article: Dr. Elmer Green, Dr. John Tarrant, Dr. James A. Cusumano, Professor Peter L. Murray, Dr. Jeff Williams, Professor Oliver Oldman, Dr. Glenn Olds, Joyce Maughan, T.W. Kang, Stanley C. Hatch, Dr. Harry Brown, Professor Maury Albertson, William Moulton, Yasuhiko Genku Kimura, Dr. Randall Barton, Dr. Lois Jovanovic, and my dearest friend and wife, Angela Marasco Gresser.


1. New York Times, Saturday August 16, 2003, B4. For an excellent introduction to the science of networks, see Duncan J. Watts, Six Degrees (2003).

2.  See Mark Buchanan, Ubiquity (2000) p.20.

3.  See Julian Gresser, Piloting Through Chaos-Wise Leadership/Effective Negotiation for the 21st Century (1996).

4.  In the Chinese and Japanese languages, integrity (te in Chinese, toku in Japanese) is written by a complex ideograph (), which combines four independent characters: the eye (discovery, intelligence), the hand (action), and the heart (compassion), which all held in balance. In other words, integrity is a state of dynamic balance, where the head, the hand, and the heart work harmoniously together. The principle of integrity contains a clue to where most deeply we have gone astray and how to regain the way. 
During the past twenty years I have shown in my consulting practice that integrity is a skill, which individual and teams of negotiators can quickly learn by diligent practice. My experience in this area suggests that wisdom, which derives from integrity, may also be a learned skill, as well as an art. 

5. Scale-free behavior occurs in a diverse range of situations from airline hubs to Internet routers to cellular metabolism and protein synthesis. See Albert-Laslo Barabasi and Eric Bonabeau, Scale-Free Networks in Scientific American, May 2003, p.60. See also Albert-Laslo Barabasi, Linked: The New Science of Networks (2002).

6. (See: Laurie Garrett, The Coming Plague; also Richard Preston, The Hot Zone.) The history of collaborative efforts to eradicate disease is grim.  Of all the famous eradication programs, which have included smallpox, polio, measles, and rubella, only smallpox can be counted an unequivocal success.  In the case of smallpox not only was there a powerful political commitment and resources and cooperation to back it, smallpox may have been unique in its comparative ease of detection and containment, in the fact that permanent immunity is possible, and in that there exists no carrier state or animal reservoir.  The smallpox vaccine also has many advantageous properties. It is heat stable, inexpensive, and protection is obtained with one inoculation. (See: Considerations for Viral Disease Education: Lessons Learned and Future Strategies (2002), Major Efforts for Disease Eradication.

At the Smithsonian meeting Professor Martin Melosi (University of Houston) pointed out early collaborative efforts in the 19th Century toward sanitation progressed when sanitation was regarded as an urgent public necessity, but soon after became quickly fragmented and piecemeal, and the field of sanitation was demoted to a problem to be handled by technicians.

7. At the Smithsonian meeting Dr. Iqbal Quadir (Harvard University, Kennedy School) pointed out that many well-meaning efforts may produce more harm than good when they further concentrate power in the hands of the few.  He suggests that this become a critical test of any humanitarian initiative: Will it concentrate or will it de-concentrate power?  In his view this question is generally unexamined and is an important failing of many aid programs.

8.  From the author’s experiments during the past twenty years with brainwave biofeedback it is apparent that this continuing time acceleration is creating enormous pressures, which keep most people in a perpetual beta state. This is an externally focused state of consciousness, which is characterized by the large production of beta brain waves in the range of 8-15 herz. Beta states are often associated with high excitation of the sympathetic nervous system, or the fight or flight syndrome. It is likely that the entire population of the industrialized world increasingly is in this highly agitated state. There is also an interesting parallel in the emerging field of psychoacoustics. There is evidence that raucous noise can override or entrain the normal rhythms of the body. In the same way, the increasing cacophony of the world today may be driving more and more people into high gear and disharmony.

9.  See Rohan Gunaratna, Inside Al Qaeda; Madeline Drexler, Secret Agents: The Menace of Emerging Infections; Charles Perrow, Normal Accidents; James T. Reason, Human Error; James Chiles, Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology: An Inside Look at Catastrophes and Why They Happen; and Martin Rees, Our Final Hour, 2003.)  In its March 11, 2002 issue Time Magazine’s lead article, Can We Stop the Next?, reports that a mercurial agent, code-named, Dragonfire, had warned that someone had smuggled a 10-kiloton nuclear device into New York City, capable of killing 100,000 civilians and irradiating 700,000 more, within a half mile diameter. 

10.  See interview with Dr. Kyle Webster at Expeditions/Malaria. At the annual Summit of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) in Seattle in October 2003, it was pointed out that in various parts of India over 5% of the population is currently testing positively for HIV without any remedy or controls in sight.  There is currently much concern that this trend could act as a trigger point_ not only in India, but in other countries as well.

11.  See Jerry Useem, Have They No Shame? Fortune Magazine, April 28, 2003. 

12. A strong argument can be made that collaborative investments by wealthy countries toward enhancing the capacity of poor countries to discover better ways to enhance well being and happiness, and to address more effectively the deep sources of misery, are themselves public goods, because significant benefits inure to many people outside the recipient country’s borders, who do not pay for these benefits. An important reference is the World Health Organization’s Macroeconomics and Health: Investing in Health for Economic Development.The Report develops the idea of a global program that contributes funds to improve the health of less fortunate countries as a Global Public Good, defined as public goods that are underprovided by local and national governments, since the benefits accrue beyond a country’s borders. See also J. Sachs, The Strategic Significance of Global Inequality, The Washington Quarterly, Summer: 191; and also the World Health Grid Project at Rice University (contact: Dr. Charles Henry, See also C.K. Prahalad and Allen Hammond, Serving the World’s Poor, Profitably, Harvard Business Review, September 1, 2002.

13. See generally Julian Gresser, Partners in Prosperity-Strategic Industries of the United States and Japan.  Partners in Prosperity presents historical case studies of strategic industries such as machine tools in 19th century New England, clock making in Switzerland and England in the 18th century, German chemical dyes in the 19th century, and Japan’s post World War II trigger industries. The book introduces the Trigger Method, a way of determining which technologies and industries in any time and place are, or will be, economically strategic.

14.  For a discussion of the Russian invention technology i-Triz see ; (contact Zion Barel @ Tel: 1-248-353-1313.); for information on discovery engineering contact Discovery Engineering International (; or contact Rex Hartzell @ Tel: 1-785-272-3781); for information on Synectics, see Jeff Mauzy and Richard Harriman, Creativity Inc.: Building an Inventive Organization (2003); (contact Rick Harriman @ Tel: 1-617-868-6530). An excellent book on enhancing the power of discovery is Win Wenger and Richard Poe, The Einstein Factor (1996); also William Miller, Flash of Brilliance: Inspiring Creativity Where You Work (1999), and John Kao, Jamming (1996). Julian Gresser, Invention Can Be Learned in the early Proceedings of the National Inventive Thinking Association. See also Eric von Hippel, Stephan Thomke and Mary Sonnack, Creating Breakthroughs at 3M Harvard Business Review, September-October (1999). For cases studies on organizing the creative process, see Warren Bennis, Organizing Genius (1997).

15. A strategic alliance is a business organization involving some degree of integration of strategy and operations between two or more parties, where the parties contribute assets for a common business or humanitarian purpose. Many strategic alliances are created simply by contract. Others are organized as separate equity companies, joint ventures, or business partnerships. IBM is reported to maintain about 100 strategic alliances in the area of web services and data management, estimated to generate 4.5 billion in sales. IBM estimates one-third of its total revenues, more than $20 billion now comes from alliances. The Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP/ .) is documenting the best international alliance practices. 

16. In some cases foundations participate in the profits, or in other ways share the benefits, from the scientific and technological breakthroughs they help to support. This alternative model is currently being explored by the Goldman Foundation and Milken Foundation in its support of research to accelerate a cure for multiple myeloma. The author negotiated a similar partnership with the Fetzer Foundation about twenty years ago for its seed support of discovery engineering technology.

17. Harvard Business Review, December 2002. A fascinating example of a complete merger of strategic philanthropy and corporate strategy is Media Logic’s social venture. Media Logic, a Seattle-based information technology company, redirects its profit streams in Information Technology Consulting entirely back to the community, building leverage through partnerships with the Gates Foundation, Social Venture partners, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and many faith-based charities. Media Logic’s President and CEO reported at ASAP’s October, 2003 Summit in Seattle that the company has grown at a rate of 30% during the last few years.

18. Because of its position of authority, provision of funding, and clarity of mission (i.e., the success of the alliance) Advanced Technology Program is in especially favored position to act as a neutral, unbiased third party mediator. In this sense the ATP Program’s role resembles closely that of the Japanese Ministry of Trade and Industry in the development of the Very Large Scale Integration (VLSI) Program during the 1960s. For a general discussion of the new field of alliance mediation, see Julian Gresser, Strategic Alliance Mediation: Creating Value from Difference and Discord in Global Business, in the Internationalization of the Practice of Law, 2002, J. Drolshammer and M. Pfeifer (eds.).

19.  Presentation by Professor Ard-Peter de Mann at the ASAP Summit in Seattle, Washington, October 27-30, 2003.

20.  At the Smithsonian meeting Professor Maury Albertson (Colorado State University) explained the basic questions by which the participatory practitioners help the Village Earth Communities discover their path out of poverty: 1. What is your vision for what you would like different in the next five years? 2. What is keeping you from achieving your vision? 3. How do you think you can overcome these barriers? 4. What resources do you require to accomplishing your vision? I am indebted to Professor Maury Albertson for this explanation. An important next step in Village Earth is actually to document and quantify the social return on investment (SROI), which may help to hasten its broader adoption. Professor Albertson has also proposed an International Peace Corps as a way of enlisting young people from around the world in service. Professor Albertson can be reached at:; Tel: 1-970-491-5753.

21.  Professor Meier identifies the following steps of highest priority: 1. free the Internet from public monopolies; 2. expand the non-profit sector; 3. prepare for the World Wide Web; 4. set up bulletin boards of opportunities; 5. establish clinic and emergency services; 6. expand systems for micro-credit and banking; 7. launch telecommunications kiosk franchises; 8. establish digitized transport and delivery agencies; 9. expand community planning organized around web sites; 10. create linkages to music and entertainment; 11. locate business offices and general administration on the Web; and 12. use the Web for celebrations, fun, and diversion. 

22. See generally, Jeremy Rifkin, The Hydrogen Economy, 2002. 

23.   Dr. John Craven and the Common Heritage Corporation on the Big Island of Hawaii have developed a way of using Deep Ocean Water to control dormancy, produce crops year round, and reduce irrigation rates by as much as 80%.  Deep ocean water is pumped and condensed in a Hurricane Tower and then delivered to plants at temperatures below the dew point, while the fruit is exposed to strong tropical sunlight.  Dr. Craven believes his discovery of the thermodynamics of plant growth is fundamental and can help create sustainable habitats and agricultural communities in arid and desert coastal zones.  (See ) Sometimes symbolic facilities can also serve as Points of Leverage. For example, given its historic significance, the new Library in Alexandria, restored and open for business on October 16, 2002 after more than a millennium, can serve, along with its nearby ancient Light House, as a beacon of New Learning in the Arab world and as a Center of Exploration and Discovery. Some geographic areas of the world may at a given time and place present Points of Leverage. TW Kang, one of the world’s leading experts on East Asian business transactions, observes that the United States, Japan, China, and South Korea have a unique historical opportunity today to end North Korea’s isolation and to develop the Korean Peninsula through a New Economic Alliance.

24.  For a discussion of lead user methodologies see Eric von Hippel, Stefan Thomke, and Mary Sonnack, Creating Breakthroughs at 3M, Harvard Business Review, September-October 1999. Professor Von Hippel’s core idea is that somewhere, someone has faced the same creative challenge and has solved your problem, although most likely in an entirely different situation. Using the best practices of investigative journalism (a lead user demonstration in itself!), he locates these lead users, and reports they are often very willing to share their know-how with non-competitive applications. As noted, lead user methodologies for innovation have rarely been systematically and deliberately deployed to accelerate innovations or inventions for humanity. See also:

25. I am indebted to Dr. Viji Melnick (Georgetown University Medical Center) for making this point strongly at the Smithsonian meeting in December 2002. An account of how one extraordinary woman helped to change the politics and economics of the Middle East is Jehan Sadat’s, A Woman of Egypt (1987).

26. Job: 28:18.

27. Based on these and other discoveries I invented a software program, The Artful Navigator, initially to solve the fall-off problem, the tendency of new skills to lapse after a while without continuing practice and coaching. In addition to encoding the wisdom of some of the masters, the Artful Navigator also helps users keep a record of their discoveries; track their expenditures of time, effort, funds, and creativity; and identify the best next move. The software includes an Integrity Puzzle Solver (IPSO), which is basically a set of instructions on how to transpose many issues into wisdom riddles and then to solve them with a combination of logic and common sense, using the data base of mentors to prompt intuitive insights. I view the Artful Navigator as an early prototype of future wisdom expert systems. See . The Artful Navigator can also help a company or organization record its wisdom profile so that it can make better use of this precious asset. An example of a highly successful company, which scored high on the Artful Navigator wisdom analysis, is described in Jack Stack, The Great Game of Business (1992).

28. This finding is consistent with Chapter 34 of the Chinese Book of Changes (I-Ching), which counsels that in times of adversity the superior person turns attention inward and cultivates character. It is interesting that the Greek philosopher, Heracletus, also observed, Character is Destiny. The destiny of the world may thus depend on the steady cultivation of character.  Any interested reader can test whether field independence is a learned skill by downloading and seriously exploring the Personal Gyroscope (freely available at: ). By acquiring skill in field independence, we gain a deeper understanding of the relationship of external events and the internal workings of our own minds, and come to understand how to harmonize these ostensibly separate worlds. 

A further note on wisdom: No one has taught us how not to suffer. There is an elegant and simple approach, which anyone can learn, that captures the essential message of many great teachers. Curiously, it also rests on the fundamental principles of the western scientific tradition. 

The process involves skeptical inquiry and wonder. See Byron Katie, Loving What Is (2002)  In his wonderful essay on The Relation of Science and Religion, Nobel Laureate, Richard P. Feynman calls humility of intellect the highest tenet of the western scientific tradition. Dr. Feynman’s other great pillar of the western tradition is humility of spirit, which is the basis of compassion and love. See Richard P. Feynman, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out, (1999). 

29. Jefferson referred to the Lewis & Clark Expedition as The Corps of Discovery.

30.  Examples of this process can be found at’s Solve It!

31.  The best science writers and trial lawyers have mastered the art of translating complex technical issues into language that can be readily understood by the general public. For excellent example, see Richard Rhodes, Deadly Feasts (1999). In the 1990s Dr. Leonard Molotsky and Marion Caneto established the National Inventive Thinkers Association, which taught the skills of invention to high school kids under a Project XL grant from the U.S. Patent Office. So successful were these kids in learning the art of invention that some were placed on the payroll of major corporations as their secret weapons. I am told the original idea of the monorail in Japan came from a question of a small boy to his father, an executive who worked for the Japanese National Railroad Corporation. Why do we need two rails when one seems good enough? the boy inquired. Excellent idea replied his father.

32.  See Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline (1994).

33. See Eric Raymond, The Cathedral and the Bazaar (1998)

35. For historical and contemporary examples of the collaborative discovery model see Attachment E to the Interim Report of the Smithsonian conference at For two fascinating discussions of the power of open source principles in the compilation of the Oxford English Dictionary, see Simon Winchester, The Professor and the Madman (1998) and The Meaning of Everything (2003).

36. See Thomas Goetz, Open Source Everywhere, Wired Magazine, November 2003; ; , . 

37. A discussion of Eli Lilly’s extraordinary project appears at: .

38.  There seems a strong corollary between the open source model and the public goods argument advanced earlier. In other words where the breakthroughs involved, as well as the means of generating them, are of fundamental importance for humanity, it seems inappropriate, as a matter of public policy, to give monopoly rights to the inventor. See Lester C. Thurow, Poaching Patents, California Lawyer, November 1999; also Lester C. Thurow, Building Wealth: New Rules for Individuals, Companies, and Nations in a Knowledge-Based Economy. But this argument bucks the trend and policies of the Technology Transfer Offices at every major university, based on federal legislation (See the Bayh-Dole Act of 1998), which today are earning substantial revenues for faculty research. One intelligent way of balancing these private and public interests might be to place in the public domain (open source) early stage (pre-commercial) research, which: 1. promises fundamental and far-reaching benefits to humanity (High Humanitarian Returns on Investment–High HROI); and 2. is of high financial and other risk for those who are engaged in the activity. As suggested, the proposed application of an open source model will not preclude the participants themselves, or anyone else, from directly patenting derivative inventions or otherwise exploiting for their own profit the common platform, the open source discoveries or inventions and The Discovery Engine. The net effect of placing in the public domain the part of the project which is of highest risk and most removed from commercialization, will be to begin to build an intellectual commons for humanity, including its most profound discoveries and inventions (in terms of relieving suffering or enhancing well being and happiness)–in other words a public goods. (For a practical strategy of how these negotiations between university Transfer Offices and the participants can best be worked out, see the discussion of strategic alliance mediation and Alliance Charters in f.n.12. Some foundations such as the Whittaker Foundation are starting to require an open source commitment as part of the foundation’s grants policy. For an interesting historical precedent, see Benjamin Franklin’s decision to place in the public domain his own discoveries and inventions relating to electricity, because he desired that they be disseminated most rapidly in ways that would most greatly benefit humanity.

39. One of the most impressive current areas of amateur discovery is in astronomy. See Timothy Ferris, Seeing in the Dark: How Amateur Astronomers are Discovering the Secrets of the Universe (2003). Another interesting book is: Barry Nalebuff and Ian Ayres, Why Not-How to Use Everyday Ingenuity to Solve Problems Big and Small (2003)

40. Vision 2020 The Right to Sight – an initiative co-sponsored by the World Health Organization and the International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness– aims to eliminate avoidable blindness from cataract, trachoma, onchocerciasis, vitamin A deficiency and refractive errors. The economic gain of this program would be approximately $102 billion. See The Magnitude and Cost of Global Blindness: An Increasing Problem That Can Be Alleviated, in the April 2003 issue of the American Journal of Ophthalmology.

41.  A sixth Discovery Expedition, ripe for launching, would aim to accelerate breakthroughs in the art and science of earthquake prediction. The Expedition will build formidable leverage because: 1. What we learn about predicting earthquakes could save thousands of lives and $ billions in property damage; 2. We can apply this knowledge of prediction to other natural catastrophes such as hurricanes, typhoons and tidal waves 3. We can use it to develop more effective procedures to intercept terrorist activity. 4. We will discover new human capabilities and potentialities. 5. It will influence a new paradigm of discovery, which combines the rigorous logic of mathematics and statistics with intuition and wisdom, which will enable us to detect subtle, otherwise unnoticed patterns. A base hit for the Earthquake Discovery Expedition would be to improve the reliability of earthquake prediction.

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