To JMK: Regarding The Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren

“Grandpa!!! Look at me, I can fly!!!” My granddaughter, Zara, jumped from the roof and gave her new wings a try, a little bit unsteady for the first few feet, then she stabilized for a smooth, 20-second glide across the park, landing in a pile of leaves. A new human flight record for her.

My dad would have been in awe of this moment in which a kid can imagine a new way to soar, then sketch a pair of human wings on a digital tablet, test them in a digital flight simulator, tweak the feather design, iterate on the harness straps and wing geometry a few times, hit the 3-D print button, strap on the wings and then head to the roof for human trial.

And here’s the most important thing: all kids have access to these incredible tools and environments because our public park system first caught up with the digital revolution, and then became a leading force in digital and analogue innovation. Public parks started popping up everywhere because they were open source and 3-D printable. Cities provided empty lots and public printers, then the kids and the with-it adults started building their own parks from scratch or from a template. Everything needed could be printed on the spot, which created immediate gig jobs for construction and safety specialists to put it all together. Once built, the parks were constantly improved and added onto, like a physical manifestation of a wikipedia page. Elder communities started bioprinting Japanese gardens and miniature rainforests. Parks became the epicenter of every public neighborhood. They were a place where entrepreneurs came to build and test their prototypes, and investors followed them, hoping to start a conversation, hoping for a chance to own a small piece of the next big public thing.

The public-private divide was very real, but the gap was more aesthetic than it was economic, more like choosing between UC Berkeley and Stanford. Public communities were more dynamic and there was less empty space, but private communities were quieter. Private neighborhoods still had bigger houses and vehicles, but their parks were pretty lame because they couldn’t keep up with public, open source innovation. Most kids living in private communities paid into the public community development fund in order to access public parks.

How did we get here?

People started the revolution, refusing inequity, exclusion, and racism. Looting became widespread, sometimes from opportunists, but more as an intentional fight against unequal wealth distribution, but regardless, the looting shook communities everywhere to their core. Then, one city at a time, across the country the majority of looters stopped fleeing and demanded mass imprisonment. From prison, they organized and published a wiki manifesto. They wrote that it took individuals to start the revolution, those with willingness to stand up against unjust systems and break unjust laws to raise consciousness, but that it would take organizations to sustain the revolution. The manifesto was more of a technical document than a social one. It reshaped the function of profit, and it redefined shareholders, proposing that the only just for-profit organization is one whose majority shareholder is the public interest, the common good.

This formulation of a just for-profit organization captivated the public and the market for many reasons, and especially because people started refusing to buy anything that wasn’t Certified Public.

A new ecosystem of investors and entrepreneurs formed, and a new generation of public-private startups emerged. 3-D Printed Public Parks was one of the first.

I wish my dad and John Maynard Keynes would have been able to see this golden age.

Zara returned from her flight path with a big grin on her face, led me to the roof, strapped her wings on my back, and said, “your turn, grandpa.”

4 thoughts on “To JMK: Regarding The Economic Possibilities of Our Grandchildren

  1. Incredibly creative, Eli — as I have come to expect! This sentence caught my attention: “They wrote that it took individuals to start the revolution, those with willingness to stand up against unjust systems and break unjust laws to raise consciousness, but that it would take organizations to sustain the revolution.” Are you an individual starting a revolution? an organization sustaining? a bridge from one to the other? Thanks for a great post!

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  2. such vivid images, Eli. I imagine being able to go to these parks with my kids. I love it.
    What jumped out at me was:
    “It reshaped the function of profit, and it redefined shareholders, proposing that the only just for-profit organization is one whose majority shareholder is the public interest, the common good.”

    I’m left wanting more, though. Eli — this is it! I really think this is the key to what we need to be able to imagine…. how do we get there?

    this line leaves me salivating:
    “a just for-profit organization captivated the public and the market”

    I know you have serious, deep thoughts about the trajectory to get to this place. I know the contexts you’ve been in and the experiences you’ve had have equipped you with some serious ability to help us visualize and imagine a way.

    What holds you back from painting more of that picture?
    When might that work find it’s way into your life? We need you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Felipe: thank you for your encouragement, for your deep reading, and for your challenge. As a first step, I have taken the leap by working on a startup that I hope will model a just, for-profit organization that can captivate the public and the market. With a group of designers, scientists and environmentalists, we are launching a organization called re-SKU that salvages clothes from being destroyed, tells their rescue and carbon footprint story with a digital label, and donates 100% of its profits to efforts to develop sustainable, zero-waste manufacturing alternatives. I wrote a little bit more about it in a previous post here: https://sharedownership.blog/2020/08/12/re-sku-the-world/

      As you know, long-term, I want to help build an ecosystem of investment capital, innovation, incubation, and acceleration that leverages market forces to sustain a new generation of companies that exist to serve the common good.

      Toward that goal, I am starting with re-SKU first because we only have ~nine years to move the needle against climate change, and second because coming up with the ideas and the companies that can save the world might be the biggest challenge in the ecosystem above.

      I would love to share more about the project with you, and perhaps workshop some of our challenges with this incredible group you have brought together (we are launching our alpha market test in the coming month or so).

      Eli

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  3. This is such a beautiful inter-generational vision for the future. I would love to live in this imagined reality. I’m curious to know how the revolutionary vanguard got the the public so deeply invested in the “certified public” alternative. There may be clues there in how we can gain traction for these ideas today.
    How do you think Zara might imagine the future for her children’s children?

    Liked by 1 person

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