It is essential for our society to consider a more holistic and integrated view of health if we ever plan to make a real difference in the health and well being of the majority of the population and the environment. The way the capital markets work today in much of the developed world (whether you are considering private or public investments) is to focus on your specialty area with a fairly narrow view and also to focus on the largest market opportunity you can. You often partner with the leading universities, scientists and technology specialists in these same specialty areas to look for the “go big or go home” opportunities that justify all your time and expense and allow you to put large amounts of money to work, reduce risk and scale as fast as you can before another competitor beats you to it. We have come to view all of this as normal. This is not a criticism or a judgment of people or market forces. Clearly, we all recognize the power of the private markets to unleash creative forces and potentially solve large problems. By partnering in this way we feel we are collaborating and putting interdisciplinary teams together. We feel we are working with the best people. We feel we are doing the right thing.
From a 360-degree view, however, we start to see things a bit differently. Fortunately, today many experienced people and groups across the world are starting to work more from a systemic point of view. There are many ways of discussing these trends that are all relevant. There is the “circular economy,” creative design thinking, systems design planning, and other similar approaches. What these approaches share is a broader view of the potential problem you are looking to solve. From this view, you see that many of the largest problems we face are interconnected as well as the potential solutions. Many new scientific and technology tools enable this broader view. We see, for example, how poverty creates a scarcity mindset that leads to all sorts of other problems such as educational problems, increased crime, more physical and emotional/mental health problems, poor nutritional diets, more polluted and toxic living conditions. In today’s dominant financial investment approach, is the root cause of poverty for many big issues enough of a consideration when allocating capital to business? Are we considering the interconnection of many issues we face and poor living conditions for the most vulnerable members our society? The healthcare investors and entrepreneurs are focused on new drugs; the educational entrepreneurs are focused on big scalable educational software or private charter schools; the big industrial agricultural entrepreneurs are focused on new technical tools and genetic approaches to make more food available; the far left liberals want to give food away and have financial stipends; the far right wants to cut taxes and create more “jobs” even if those jobs create more pollution, increase health problems and actually disempower people. Some or many of these new scientific and technical advances are very exciting and even necessary. However, if we do not take a more systemic or integrated view of our business and financial approaches, we may think we are solving problems and convince ourselves that we are; whereas the truth of the matter is we could be creating large businesses that create more problems than they solve.
What happens if we start to organize ourselves a bit differently to better analyze problems and potential solutions? What if we start to use exciting new artificial intelligence and technology to better organize people and data from around the world in more integrated, diverse and collaborative ways? By bringing together many people and groups with disparate views, we are adding to and catalyzing innovation and potential new discoveries. Instead of only looking for new drugs for physical, mental or neurological health, we begin to find more empowering and creative ways to solve these health issues such as music, art, and other innovative technology applications. Instead of only the most elite investors and universities collaborating and deciding for the rest of humanity what technologies and science should be developed for society, more innovation can be crowd sourced from the bottom up using these approaches. More small businesses begin. Local collaboration becomes the norm. New businesses apply science and technology in customized ways for local or regional conditions. Local businesses start to get together with other local groups to come up with best practices across larger regions. Local politicians and business groups work harder to make sure they are inclusive with hiring decisions and they also start to realize they are creating better, more resilient businesses that have more trust with their customers. Sharing becomes an authentic word rather than just some buzzword used over and over by the press and big monopolistic companies to justify predatory business tactics. Make no mistake about it. Everything we are discussing enables innovation and creates private industry that people need and want. It is much more efficient, effective, less wasteful, and much more empowering. Though it is tempting to write off approaches like this as “airy fairy nonsense,” ignore these trends at your peril. They are already happening all around the world. You can, for example, choose to collaborate only with a handful of big scientists, business people and investors or compete with all the scientists, citizen scientists, entrepreneurs, and investors that are using technology and artificial intelligence to collaborate and share data across the world. By the time you realize what a threat all of these new trends are to existing big business and financial paradigms, it could be too late for some very high profile businesses and investors.
We found the following article in the Heron Foundation newsletter, originally written by Karen Reese from the Pacific Standard. It is a fascinating discussion of the relationship of poverty and cognitive function.