The Idea that Built the Modern World
When the Cold War ended, the US was left as most powerful nation on earth.
It was all due to one simple idea.
This idea united the US as a people during our long struggle with Communism. This idea produced our economic success and technological superiority. This idea connected us to a growing roster of allies. Winning their hearts and minds to our cause, even if they didn’t agree with policies or actions.
Yet perversely, nobody ever truly acknowledged this idea as the deciding factor in this existential struggle, even though it was the same idea that had taken the United States from agrarian backwater to the most powerful nation on earth at the end of 20th Century.
That idea was the American Dream.
Of course, the American Dream isn’t a home in the suburbs or high paying job. As you already know, it’s the simple idea that hard, honest work will provide you economic independence. The prosperous independence that makes everything possible; from raising a family to owning a home to growing old without fear. While the exact wording of the Dream has changed a bit in the last several hundred years since Ben Franklin first wrote it down, the essence remains the same.
What’s surprising to me is how few people understand the power of a simple idea. Particularly an idea powerful enough to change the world, as this idea did.
The truth is that the only way to change the world is through a simple idea. Specifically, a formula that alters how billions of people think and act. That feat can’t be done through legal pressure, government fiat, corporate marketing, speculative finance, big science projects, or anything that involves haranguing people with complex ideologies (anything that ends with ism) and creating elaborate arrays of incentives and punishments (carrots and sticks).
It’s only possible with something that is simple.
A clue to how the process works can be seen in how the global Internet was built so quickly. The reason is due to the following factors.
- Simplicity. It’s based on simple, open protocols for sending and receiving information (similar to the simplicity of the Web’s markup language).
- Openness. Nobody owned it. It was also very easy to join. Further it could be used to solve problems specific to the individual and not the many.
- Results. It could quickly and easily be used to get things done. Things that people needed/wanted to see happen.
Of course, the way an idea can change the world works different with people than machines. For people, the idea must connect to a deeper layer. To emotions and urges that govern motivation and belief. It must answer WHY and do it in a way that is simple, open, and delivers results.