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WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

As individuals and organisations start becoming more powerful than many governments, people are wondering if private companies can solve humanity’s problems faster.

 

As I travel around the world, from America to Africa, Europe to the Middle East, and Japan to Singapore, talking to people and experiencing life without the screen I can’t help but think that increasingly private organisations, and not governments, might be better suited to helping solve the world’s problems. And oddly, even though it’s not an opinion I verbalise much, I find I’m not alone in that thinking. Granted, and yes before you jump in, I’m fully aware that there are far too many dangerous, greedy, self-serving private company monopoly’s already out there, and I probably loathe them as much as you do, but if we set that aside somehow, then when you think about the idea a bit more the view point could make sense.

 

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After all, whereas governments often have to cagoule each other into action (or inaction) private companies can “just do it.” And there are lots of notable examples of this. For example, the global renewable energy and space based communications revolutions which will power and connect the entire planet for the first time, were both given a big kick start, arguably, by Elon Musk with Tesla and SpaceX, the autonomous vehicle revolution was kicked off, again, arguably, by Google, the food revolution was, and is, being kicked up a gear by Jeff Bezos, and elsewhere Bill Gates and Jack Ma are fighting disease, tackling education inequality, and “solving” sanitation. And even the latest space race is more of a private affair than a government one.

While this is by no means an exhaustive list it goes to show that, if we assume, through experience and evidence, that “well intentioned” people and companies, with money and resources, are able to accomplish change at a global scale, more importantly in ways and at a speed that governments, who often can’t see beyond their own short termism and party lines, simply can’t rival, then perhaps we should be discussing the art of the possible more.

Now, it also seems that my view is one that’s also shared by Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook who last week said he “believes the government and the private sector need to work together to solve the world’s problems.”

So, is it time for a new form of government – what I’ll call a “Private government”? I can hear the applause and howls now, and hell yes, that’s a divisive idea. But look at where we are today – a run away climate and a wealth divide that’s only getting significantly worse, before the rise of AI led automation might I add, rising unrest and migrancy, and an increasingly polarised society. And all for starters. So why not start the debate?

 

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“The issues that we face cannot be addressed solely by government,” Cook said while speaking at the TIME 100 Summit in New York City on Tuesday. “We should not be looking for government to solve all the problems. I think it takes the public sector, the private sector and academia kind of working together to try to solve some of these huge problems.”

Cook called some problems, such as immigration, “deeply personal” to Apple employees, 300 of whom are recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, though he emphasized the company’s focuses on policies not politics.

“You know Apple – this is probably not known to a lot of people in here – but Apple doesn’t have a PAC,” he said. “Apple is probably the only large company I would think or one of the very few that doesn’t have a PAC. I refuse to have one because it shouldn’t exist.”

Love it or loathe it, but today many of the more positive changes we see as a kindred global society are increasingly thanks to private organisations and individuals, and not governments – and if you want evidence of that then just read the news. Thoughts?

About author

Matthew Griffin

Matthew Griffin, described as “The Adviser behind the Advisers” and a “Young Kurzweil,” is the founder and CEO of the 311 Institute, a global futures and deep futures consultancy working between the dates of 2020 to 2070, and is an award winning futurist, and author of “Codex of the Future.” Regularly featured in the global media, including AP, BBC, CNBC, Discovery, RT, and Viacom, Matthew’s ability to identify, track, and explain the impacts of hundreds of revolutionary emerging technologies on global culture, industry and society, is unparalleled. Recognised for the past six years as one of the world’s foremost futurists, innovation and strategy experts Matthew is an international speaker who helps governments, investors, multi-nationals and regulators around the world envision, build and lead an inclusive, sustainable future. A rare talent Matthew’s recent work includes mentoring Lunar XPrize teams, re-envisioning global education and training with the G20, and helping the world’s largest organisations envision and ideate the future of their products and services, industries, and countries. Matthew's clients include three Prime Ministers and several governments, including the G7, Accenture, Bain & Co, BCG, BOA, Blackrock, Bentley, Credit Suisse, Dell EMC, Dentons, Deloitte, Du Pont, E&Y, GEMS, HPE, Huawei, JPMorgan Chase, KPMG, McKinsey, PWC, Qualcomm, SAP, Samsung, Sopra Steria, UBS, and many more.

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