Malthusian Mobile?


As I outline in my latest article for Stanford Social Innovation Review entitled “Open Source Altruism,” the convergence of mobile is creating windfalls for problem solving, accelerating the potential for many-to-many, syndicated micro-task, or “crowd-sourced” activities to utilize human cooperation to address global collective action problems.

This week, Bruce Etling of Harvard’s Internet & Democracy Project wrote on the global penetration of mobile phones in his article entitled, “Mobile Phones Easier to Find than Food for World’s Poor.”  This week The Economist also ran a cover story on “Falling Fertility,” and how the world’s population problem is solving itself.  The Economist discusses how Thomas Malthus’ predicted that, given geometric population growth and arithmetic subsistence growth, an eventual and even expected convergence would yield catastrophic consequences.  However, today’s development has dampened fertility rates in the developed world, and as such, self-stabilizing might mitigate or protract such impending disaster.

Concurrently, with 4.1 billion mobile devices around the globe and population growing, but at a diminishing rate, there is imminent digital convergence. It’s Malthus all over again, but technology is overtaking humanity.

Josh Keating at Foreign Policy recently wrote on how the UN would distribute vouchers to Iraqi refugees in Syria via mobile, through specialized SIM cards. Mobile is enabling a new means of distribution, and instant access to individuals across the globe. M-Pesa is enabling mobile as a conduit of transaction, allowing users to use mobile devices to send and receive stores of value and units of account. FrogTek in Latin America is leveraging Google Android to create a platform for street vendors to manage sales, transactions, and inventory. The Extraordinaries in San Francisco is attempting to lasso our in-queue moments via on-demand volunteering to attain social missions.

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