I was watching a documentary on military drones and it sparked an interesting line of thinking I’m going to explore further in this essay.
The basic thought started when they were showing off a fleet of beautifully complex drones and what they’re used for.
The technology inside these machines is mind-blowing – which is awesome, but I’m not sure it’s an EFFICIENT way to spend money when you’re looking to solve a specific problem.
Each drone, stealth fighter, b2 bomber, and aircraft carrier – are insanely awesome, but also insanely expensive.
It took a team of people years design it, a fleet of full time workers to manufacture the parts, and a crew to put it all together.
It got me thinking about ‘why’ – why do we need such complex machines? What’s the purpose? What’s the ROI?
What problem are they designed to solve really?
I decided to run through a little thought experiment to see if anything interesting pop’d out.
What if we took the yearly budget of the Afghanistan war, and tried to re-engineer a solution that, in hindsight, would have been more efficient for our main objective.
Let’s look at the numbers.
The expenditures for the War in Afghanistan was roughly $40 billion dollars per year (depending on the year).
This number includes all capital expenditures on the armed forces, defense ministries, paramilitary forces, military space activities, civil personnel, retirement pensions, operation and matinence, research & development and military aid.
The problem I see is that we’ve created a very COMPLEX way to solve a somewhat simple problem.
We’re taking $40 billion, spreading into many different complex systems – each working on their own little part of the over-arching solution.
In reality, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. We’re all over the place.
Let’s break down the problem we’re trying to solve with $40 billion.
The war in Afghanistan followed the September 11 attacks, and its public aims were to dismantle al-Qaeda and deny it a safe basis of operation in Afghanistan by removing the Taliban from power.
Lets use this as a starting point and try to work backwards to find an efficient solution.
We have a problem – a terrorism hub in Afghanistan, and we as a community have come together and, through taxes, allocated a budget of $40 billion dollar per year to solve this problem.
Our goal is simple – find Osama Bin Laden and dismantle the Taliban.
First things first – $40 billion is a huge amount of money.
I’d argue that a direct-to-citizen approach may be most effective.
I’m not sure why we’re still building aircraft carriers, bombs, nukes, etc.
We already have enough nukes to blow up the entire planet, so using them is effectively a non-strategy now.
Why do we need more bombers? I’m not sure what MORE will do?
Why not play a little bit of psychological warfare and rot their organization from within?
Take the power they think they have and turn it on it’s head.
The reason terrorists exist is because its proven to be an effective way to push your narrative to the world.
Without this soapbox, they have no power. It’s imaginary.
We are the ones who give terrorists power – not the other way around.
Not only is psychology the simplest solution, but we don’t have to kill anyone.
– More Effective
– Less Deaths
Let’s look at this experiment.
Take half of the budget – $20 billion – and create an incentive program.
This is designed to break the organization down at a fundamental level – you want to make it so nobody within the organization can trust one another.
How do you do that? Well, a large sum of money usually solves that.
Everyone has a number. Everyone.
So let’s just play into that and make a very absurd bounty distribution program:
– $1 Billion bounty for information that leads to the capture of Osama Bin Laden
– $500m for info that leads to the capture of his top 6 advisors
– $1m for each Taliban who turns themselves in for 10 year Rehab + $1m for their family.
The goal here is to make the amount so high that Osama himself doesn’t know who to trust anymore – even his best friend could turn him in and receive a life changing amount of money.
The actual bounty on Osama Bin Laden – the most dangerous human alive, was $25 million dollars.
That’s not much of an incentive really.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if individual citizens could get rich by solving the terrorism problem?
That – to me, is a worthy way to get rich.
If you’re in a unique position where you have the power to rid the world of the biggest terrorist organization – or a piece of it – you deserve to be a hero and compensated for the rest of your life.
Obviously it would be vested and not in a lump sum – and there would be significant strings attached, but each human is in debt to you a little bit, and in aggregate, that should be enough money to live the rest of your life in peace.
Thank you for your service.
Rehab & Reward:
I think when trying to solve any problem you should look at the root cause – why does someone become a terrorist?
Well, first, it’s likely they faced serious hardship growing up.
Either some family members died or were killed, they were pushed towards gangs, they were poor, they had no water or food and had to steal, etc.
You don’t find any white girls from suburbia resorting to terrorism as a way to spread their message.
That’s because they grew up with relative abundance – they had food, shelter, and water.
Their minds are not sick and warped.
They were educated, and while they may have faced their own hardships growing up, there were no critical problems that threatened their safety or their life on a daily basis.
If you have no food or water, and no money, what are you supposed to do, just die? No. You fight, and take whatever you can.
It’s a cold world out there, and if you don’t look out for yourself, you’re done.
People who are in these unfavorable situations are usually easy people to recruit into your terror organization.
You have money – they need money, and a purpose – so they’ll pretty much believe and do what you say if you on-board them correctly.
That is the economics of the world today – and our current strategy is just fueling the fire.
We’re basically engineering terrorists of the future with our actions today.
We gives terrorism a mission – the US killed your sister, brother, mother, father, cousin, or best friend.
From a military perspective, 1 or 2 civilian causalities to get a big name target is a smart tactical decision 10 out of 10 times.
The problem is that those 1 or 2 people had families, 6 kids, 18 cousins, and 100’s of friends.
You’ve given an entire group a reason to hate — and this is how the cycle will continue indefinitely.
Evil breeds Evil. War breeds war.
So, what if we stop the problem at the source.
The source seems to be money – no money means no food, no water, no electricity, no housing, no economy, no growth, nothing.
So instead of spending BILLIONS to ‘solve the problem’ by building powerful military machines and policing the world, why don’t we just solve the real problem directly?
If every person in Afghanistan was gifted a house, car, free water and 2 years worth of food, I have a feeling that things would get cleaned up pretty quickly.
Morale would be high, and people in the community would be motivated to make it work, for fear of losing what they’ve been given.
This is called loss aversion – people won’t work very hard FOR something, but once they have it, they value LOSING it much more heavily.
They would take pride in their community, and make sure it doesn’t go to crap.
I think the key is that it’s not the good parents who have their kids end up being terrorists – it’s probably the bad ones.
The ones who aren’t around. Who are drunks, or drug dealers, or thiefs.
We need to build a system that makes it so even those people – the shittiest people – still have enough to be comfortable.
Then, maybe, those people won’t be so shitty anymore.
But wait – that’s so expensive! You can’t just build everyone a house, give them a car and pay for all their stuff! That’s not fair.
Well, to me, it sounds like a great solution.
If there are no terrorists, there’s no war. If there’s no war, there’s no need for all these bombs, aircraft, drones, guns. No goods needed means no government contracts. No contracts, no profit.
It’s taking the money being put forth to ‘solve a problem’, and spending it directly to solve the problem, instead of letting some military industrial complex pull profit from the complexities of system they’ve created.
This may be an emergent phenomenon that occurs when you get a pool of money at the top 1% – you get a few groups who are able to influence policy at a high level and manipulate the system at the expense of others.
The system has been hijacked.
Anyway – We still have $20 billion to spend after our ‘solving terrorism’ thing – let’s make peoples lives awesome instead of terrible.
Instead of dropping bombs, lets build 2,000 schools that are fully connected using $5 billion.
Each school would have 1 big video screen on the wall, and every day 1 teacher would stream to all the kids across the nation.
This keeps costs down, and can be implemented very quickly. It also gives a standard lesson plan for all kids across the nation.
The teacher can also get very high quality guests to join and help teach other subjects, since the audience is so large.
In addition, we give each kid a computer, a scooter, new clothes, a backpack, paper, pencils, and other supplies.
There are roughly 10.5 million children in Afghanistan (1/3 population) and with a $5 billion budget we can spend $500 per child.
Now we’re giving the younger generation a reason to LOVE instead of HATE.
So kids are growing up more educated, now we need to help the other people in the community.
We have another $10 billion for infrastructure.
The population of Afghanistan is 30 million.
– Free Housing
– Indoor Farms
– Energy Generation
– Water Generator
– CNC Manufacturing Plant
Lets say we want to give every human at least 250 square feet of safe, free living space.
Within 3 years we could probably do this. Year 2 we wouldn’t need to run the Osama incentive program again, so we’d get another $20 billion extra.
Pour that into infrastructure – just rebuild everything using processes that are proven to work.
They don’t need to solve any problems – we’ll build the entire community with the correct ‘interface’.
If we look at our government like a startup – we have certain ‘revenues’ and a certain objective or vision.
I think the first issue in the US is that our vision is unclear.
We don’t know exactly WHAT we want to do — we’re always focused on the ‘now’ and solving the strongest itch, when in reality we should be thinking about what we want things to look like in the future, and figure out ways to make that happen.
We’re never asked the question ‘what do you want the world to look like in 10 years’ – instead it’s always ‘how do we fix the debt ceiling’ or ‘will decreasing taxes increase consumer spending’.
By building towards the future we want to live in – we will notice that the problems of today begin to melt away as they no longer apply to the systems we’ve built.
The reason we have problems today is because the system is broken.
$2,514,838,095,000 in federal taxes.
I mean holy crap that’s a lot of money.
How are we still spinning our wheels? Is everyone incompetent?
That’s what it feels like, but that’s probably not the case. Our incompetence may be an emergent phenomenon.
As a system gets more complex, the incentives aligning all the people within it becomes strained.
After a while, if the system isn’t perfect, certain individuals will begin to find out the weak points and manipulate it to their advantage.
These are non-digital hackers. They hacked the system.
They read the law, figured out some specific language that lets them do something that other people didn’t think was possible, and then they exploit that flaw for huge profits.
The incentives are completely warped and misaligned.
I feel like we should be able to solve a lot of problems with the money we have.
$2.5 trillion dollars. What are we doing? Is this a joke?
Why is there no visual measure of this money being spent? Something is wrong here.
I’m not sure that there is a law that will fix this – the system seems to be broken, plain and simple. It’s rotten at the core.
It doesn’t matter how nice your building is if it’s sitting on unsafe land.
…And when you find out the land is rotten, you shouldn’t think that your grand solution is to hire a new architect, constructor and interior decorator to build a new home.
Who cares if you undertake a million dollar reconstruction project – anything you build at that location just isn’t going to work. The foundation, remember?
You need to start over.
Let’s look at what we need for ourselves, as ‘Americans’.
Since it’s us paying taxes, we need to make sure that we have everything we need covered before we start worrying about other places, or we’ll run into scaling issues – more problems.
There are 316 million people in the United States.
This means we each contribute on average $7,911 in taxes per year.
Individually this may not be much, but when money is pooled together you get more value out of it.
If I had $8,000 and was told to do my part in solving the water crisis, I probably wouldn’t be able to do much. I could drive to another town and buy $7500 worth of water bottles and then drive back. And everyone could do this, and we’d have a lot of water, and temporarily solve the water crisis for our town until next year.
But if 1,000 of us get together towards a singular goal – we can build a fancy generator that will solve our water problem for the next 100 years and we’ll never have to worry or spend money on that problem again.
This is the theory behind taxes — by pooling our money together we’re able to create more than if we spend it individually.
So we have a lot of money.
310 million people across 50 states.
In my eyes, the core things every American should have covered is:
Food & Water
We still have a capitalistic system – but we also have a shitload of money to allocate, so we can kind of pay for a lot of things.
Some people may see this as a communist or socialist, but I see it closer to abundance, or proto-post scarcity. We have so much fucking money, it’s insane.
Lets just do some rough numbers here and say that we’ll allocate 50% of our funds to sustaining our present day society in America
That means we have $1,250,000,000 to work with.
If we divide this equally among our core 6 – it works out to $208 billion dollars each per year.
Food & Water: $208 Billion
We need to figure out what a healthy diet is, and provide 3 meals to each person at no cost.
This is what you get for being a human in America – 3 meals.
310 million people means we have $670 per person per year, or $55 per month or $1.8 per day.
The money won’t go directly to purchasing food, it will go to systems that produce food continuously for years to come.
We need to build a machine or system that is able to create food at a scaled cost of $1.8 per day per person.
We also, in theory, have more than $208 billion, as that’s just 1 years funding, and we’re looking to build sustainable solutions, not use the money to actually buy food for people from companies each year.
Over 5 years we have close to 1 trillion dollars.
I mean, why not just buy an entire state, build thousands of indoor and outdoor farms, and setup an automated distribution system.
LA to NY is 2,700 miles in distance.
You could build a vacuum tube distribution system that travels at roughly 4,000 miles per hour.
You could literally grow the food in LA, and get it to New York 45 minutes after it’s picked.
Shelter: $208 Billion
Low cost, modular housing areas can give people with no place a roof over their head.
Let’s say you want to build 1 large housing community in each state – you have $4.16 billion per state.
250 square feet per person, 100,000 units per state.
25 million square feet of housing created per state.
Rough costs break down to $164 per SQFT of building.
These units would be free, no need to pay rent.
This isn’t just for homeless people, but poor families, single parents, orphans, travelers, people who need time to think, etc.
The point is you want everyone to feel like, even in the worst case scenario, that the government has their back. They’re covered – with a roof over their head, some food and water, and everything’s going to be okay.
Safety: $208 Billion
Police Force + Law / Courts
Police is a bad name for this, lets change it totally we need to have it represent what we actually want.
We don’t want to be ‘policed’ – that word comes with a preconceived notion of power or authority.
That’s not their job. Their job is to make people feel safe, and use increased force when necessary to subdue someone causing others to feel unsafe.
First they need a rebrand – Help Squad, while it sounds cheesy and not really powerful – may be an interesting way to frame the ‘police’.
It shouldn’t be a cool or powerful name. It should be something stupid to take away the seriousness of their job.
When your job is actually serious, it’s sometimes good to not actually take yourself seriously, that way you don’t drink the Koolaid and hype your ego.
The budget would pay for every single squad member to have all of the below:
– Every helper has a video camera active at all times.
– Helpers guns are unlocked by their fingerprint only.
– Motion sensor in gun muzzle records time, shots fired, and angle of gun.
– Cars are tracked and audio is recorded at all times.
– If a helper loses any of this data, they are automatically considered guilty.
– The trade off for having increased power over normal citizens is that you’re held to a higher level of accountability.
The legal system would also fall into place here — I think this can be largely automated at least from a data collection perspective.
There’s too much paper, and too many mistakes in the current system. Mistakes in law are unacceptable.
Energy: $208 Billion
Need to power everything for everyone — solar panels on every house would be a good start.
Over 5 years you have more than a Trillion dollars allocated to Energy, you can definitely get a panel on every house.
Education: $208 Billion
There’s 60 million kids from age 1-17 in the US.
First lets give every kid a computer a cell phone, backpack, notepad, pencil, scooter, and whatever other things they need.
If it costs $1,000 per kid, the total is $60 billion.
Each computer should come pre-loaded with education software, wikipedia, photoshop, video editing, code software, etc.
Next we need to rebuild the education system. It’s just fundamentally wrong.
It doesn’t teach kids to understand, its very slow, things are learned out of context and memorized instead.
We need to onboard kids into learning in a completely different way.
We could probably have 10 or 20 teachers TOTAL in the united states – these will be the top, most charismatic educators.
Bill Nye. Neil Tyson.
They’ll be that teacher that you had one semester and he changed your life.
Everyone will learn from these educators – either in oculus rift classrooms, or on their computer, or maybe its pre-recorded and you can move at your own speed.
We don’t need thousands of schools, millions of teachers and janitors and superintendents and bake sales all that stuff.
If the point is to get kids educated and interested in learning, the system gets a FAIL and needs to be dismantled and retired.
You grade me, I grade you. F.
Health: $208 billion
We should have the government pay doctors a very robust base package for their continued services.
There are around 890,000 physicians in the US.
For $100 billion, we can pay each doctor a base salary of $112,311 per year.
Doctors have spent time to gain knowledge that few others have the *patients* to understand.
As such, if you’re a practicing doctor, you should receive a base salary just for your service to the community and your sacrifice of time to gain that knowledge.
The other $75 billion should go to wholesale medicine production.
The cost of medicine is inflated by pharmaceutical monopolies — the chemicals in a lot of these products are easy to make with the correct machinery and patents.
I’m thinking if you own a patent for something found in nature that can save someones life, and you’ve in any way impeded that person from acquiring that medicine because ‘you found it’ and want to profit – fuck you a little bit.
The big pharma industry is $400 billion per year so this will cause some massive disruption. Yup, Fuckem.
Probably need more hospitals too – no problem, there’s enough money to go around.
Well, that was fun. So — that was only half, we still have another $1.25 trillion dollars.
Investing in the future: $500 billion
I think anyone who wants to explore these fields should have funds and a place to work ready & waiting. Anyone interested in these things will be pushing the boundaries of new technologies that can affect the lives of every single human.
It just takes one person to change everything for everyone, and if we’re playing black swan, I’d put my money on those people.
Financing should be available for creatives as well – entertainment is a big part of being happy.
Free Public Transportation
Foreign Aid: $400 Billion
Let’s pick 1 third world country per year and just fix it.
Still have $200 Billion to spend, but I’m getting tired of allocating money now so we’ll just put that in the *leftover* pile.
This seems like an obvious strategy – although I’m sure there are many over simplifications in my analysis.
From a broad view – we have so much money coming in and very little tangible value added every year.
What’s the deal?