10 Ideas That Make A Difference

They can be as huge as a new constitution or as tiny as a medical microchip. In this special report, TIME explores innovations that are changing the way we work, live, pray and play

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brettochampion
brettochampion

The idea that writing a constitution will magically make a place more likely to embrace liberal democracy is absurd. There are only two situations in which liberal democracy will take root. First, despite widespread public apathy, the people who hold governmental power decide to stick to a liberal democratic program. Second, the people are willing to fight for it on a mass scale. Neither situation arose in most of the post-Communist states of Eastern Europe or in the Arab Spring countries. In those countries, the people were mostly looking to get rid of rotten regimes, not to replace them with liberal democratic systems.

Had the small minority of the population who was passionate about liberal democracy gained power, things might have turned out differently. As it was, though, they didn't, and the overwhelming majority of the people in those countries simply weren't interested in liberal democracy.

In the end a constitution is nothing more than a sheet of paper. Unless the people with the power are willing to govern by it or the wider citizenry are willing and able to force them to do so, no amount of constitution writing will make a bit of difference.

Lymania
Lymania

Jon Meacham, in his "10 Big Ideas" article about religion treats the idea of Christian evangelism as a newsworthy idea.  Ask any Christian in the last 500 years what they were planning for the future and they would all have said that they plan to "really get out there and evangelize!"  And I will grant that evangelism is worthy to be included in a list of "10 Big Ideas," but it was Jesus' big idea about two millennia ago.  So I do not find it newsworthy today. It will be newsworthy if Christians actually evangelize like they say they will.  And it will be historic if we figure out how to get traction with the current generation.

I object to Mr. Meacham's cheap shot at the people trying to be Christians in the modern world, in a quote the editors pulled out for emphasis on the printed page.  He speaks of those who try "softening the Gospel message to make it more marketable to an America skeptical of institutions — a frequent reform point of view."  I have been a Lutheran minister for 30 years and I don't know anybody who has been "softening the Gospel." 

Sometimes we soft-pedal things that other generations thought were important.  We have noticed that people don't care about denominational identities anymore.  Any right-minded Christian knows that denominations are not the main thing.  Previous generations tried to keep Catholics and Protestants from marrying by implying that there was something wrong with the other faith.  We have had many things preached in Christianity that promoted hate instead of what Jesus taught.  Many conservative voices in Christianity still preach hate.  I do not know if they will be more successful evangelists with their hate speech than if they preached the Gospel, but that is the choice they are making.

I think the rest of Christianity has been engaging in the ongoing reformation of the Christian message wherein we figure out in every age just what Jesus meant when he told us to "Love one another," and "Love your enemy," and told us to take care of "the least of these my brethren."  All this talk of love and care for each other may seem "soft" but it is hard to live.


 

eetom
eetom

Nobody should be above the law.  But of course, the ceiling of the law can be adjusted  to fit people of different heights.

eetom
eetom

Invent a robot that can tell jokes (dirty or clean), or at least has a sense of humor.

eetom
eetom

Producing in vitro meat?  Why not go further and produce in vitro human babies?  There will be no more expensive weddings, troublesome in-laws, heart-breaking divorces, nagging wives,...you name it!

LauHiengHiong
LauHiengHiong

In a world with genuine opportunities for all, no jobs are particularly suitable for men or women – prime ministers, director generals, combat marines, fashion designers, construction workers, or nurses. All these jobs should be available for anyone if qualified. This has already been part of the reality, but the influential positions are remarkably biased toward males.

To prepare for a world with equal opportunities – and equal obligations – for men and women, all parents should have courage to resist stereotypical practices and attitudes toward infants or toddlers. There is no reason why a little girl should be dressed in pink or red; and no basis for them not to play with toy guns or backhoes. When girl learners show interest in sciences, they should be encouraged, and nor should boys be discouraged from literatures. Only then can female graduates be better prepared to assume roles so far predominated by males, and may male partners be more comfortable to cook and wash in the kitchen.

Lau Hieng-Hiong, Hsinchu, TAIWAN

Concerned_reader
Concerned_reader

Well I'm not going to chip into the ongoing arguments, but I believe that the illustration for Fareed Zakaria's piece could have been selected with a little bit more care. By drawing the letters in the style of Arabic alphabets, inevitable comparison will be drawn to the actual Arabic language and the letter "W" in "We the People" bears too much resemblance to the only one letter that the Muslims use to describe their one and only god. In fact, the special letter is considered quite holy as it is their only allowable depiction of their god as, I believe that you are aware of this, physical representation in any form is not allowed. I believe that most Muslims will not take this negligence act kindly. 

WimRoffel
WimRoffel

The world is full of nice constitutions. The communist constitutions of yore were on paper near perfect. The problem is that many of those constitutions are just paper and mean very little in practice. And even if the lawyers respect them constitutions are easily changed in unfavorable ways - as we see now for example in Hungary.

What really is needed is a kind of social consensus. Poland had the most successful transition from communism because there was some grudging respect between the communists and Solidarnosc. South Africa made a successful transition because the old and the new powers worked out a formula that they both could respect. That is how you make constitutions.

Compare that to what is now happening in Northern Africa and Syria. Tunisia missed its chance for compromise because Ben Ali fled to Saudi Arabia. Egypt missed its chance because Obama believes in revolutions and basically fired him. Obama and Sarkozy obstructed all possibilities for negotiations between Gaddafi and the opposition. And now we see the same happening in Syria.

It can feel very good to see a revolution succeed. But the result is always that you have a group of people in power for who power is something that comes from the barrel of a gun - or from a mass demonstration. That doesn't create the kind of mood where people adopt constitutions that respect the rights of others.

SamaraS.
SamaraS.

That's neat. Initially all living space was to keep nature out when we need it to sustain us and now we're looking for ways to incorporate it in our living spaces. There are a lot of potential obstacles with doing that, but with weather changing so drastically it is a necessary pursuit.

SamaraS.
SamaraS.

From the first paragraph all that came to mind was Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood. Anyhow, I'm still on the fence about this idea, I recognize the need for it exists by today's societal norms, but I'm still not completely comfortable with it.

InterestedReader
InterestedReader

I worked in Libya to support political transition and processes from May 2011 to July 2012 (left just after elections). Personally, I cannot imagine Libyans--or residents of other Arab Spring country for that matter--waiting around after the fighting stops for a new constitution to be drafted before there is some process to legitimately decide who's in charge of the country and its constituent areas. After a hard-fought revolution, nobody is in the mood to tolerate a power-grab by the some faction of the revolutionary opposition--or outsider expat citizens who come rushing in to ostensibly make order of things. And there is the question: Without an election, who has the post-conflict legitimacy to draft and approve a constitutional document before it goes to referendum? People, if they even grasp what a constitution is or their own stake in it as citizens--which certainly is NOT to be taken for granted--want to be assured that somebody from their community or with their interests in mind is in the fray when a new draft document is being developed. Granted, elections are not the only way to ensure pluralistic representation in a drafting process, but they can and do in at least some cases play critical roles in lending legitimacy to the exercise. 

Furthermore, if development of a new constitution is rushed (especially in order to get to elections), we are likely to see (or at least risk seeing) a proliferation of hastily composed documents drafted by a small coterie of self-selected opportunists who throw down before a public that largely may not have yet received sufficient education on constitutions and what's at stake to even know what they're voting for. And constitutions are made to last decades if not longer. Election results are generally intended to last only a few years at most, and initial post-conflict elections usually have a much shorter horizon than that--just long enough to support a constitutional development process and take care of other immediate post-conflict business. Finally, it's instructive to consider how long constitutional development processes can take to complete; not only can the drafting body get bogged down in disagreements about content, but the country itself can even before that get bogged down in disagreements about who should be member to the drafting body. Libya's process has all but stalled out, even WITH reasonably successful elections having determined to the relative satisfaction of the citizens who would sit on the general assembly that was to produce a drafting body. Surely, in a situation where constitutional development stalls out for more than several months, the risk increases that the unelected group running the "interim" post-conflict show will become entrenched.

I can understand the logic behind Zakaria's inclination to argue that constitutions are more important than elections in the long run, but in the short run citizens of transforming countries are almost certain to be more interested in and quickly prepared to participate in elections. 

jdenedunn
jdenedunn

To oldguyskier:  If a majority of five U.S. Supreme Court justices can effectively nullify a clause of the U.S. Constitution by their decisions, as has happened with the Establishment Clause, then America is no longer a democracy, it is a dictatorship with five U.S. Supreme Court justices being the dictators, and the Constitution means absolutely nothing.It is the duty of the U.S. Supreme Court justices to evaluate the issues involved in trial cases and decide whether or not laws/actions made by governmental entities are constitutional or not.It is entirely wrong for Supreme Court justices to make decisions to nullify a clause in the U.S. Constitution because it conflicts with their personal ideologies.Not all U.S. Supreme court decisions have been good or right decisions.In the Dread Scott case the Court made a very wrong decision based on personal ideologies.It required a civil war with the slaughter of over 600,000 soldiers to correct this very wrong decision.I hope that it does not require another civil war to correct the very wrong decisions made by the five Right Wing Christian majority members of the Court.

jdenedunn
jdenedunn

Fareed Zakaria writes as to how an authoritarian (dictatorship) government can transition to a liberal democracy.An issue much more important and critical to U.S. Citizens is how five Right Wing fanatic Christian U.S. Supreme Court justices are transitioning American Democracy to a dictatorship. Recent U.S. Supreme Court Establishment Clause cases have been 5 to 4 decisions, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito (all Catholics) voting to eviscerate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution.It is very obvious that the afore named five Supreme Court Justices have been making outrageous efforts to ignore the U.S. Constitution, nullify the Establishment Clause, and impose their personal Christian ideologies on all Americans.The Establishment Clause is the most important clause in the entire U.S. Constitution, without this clause the governmental structure of America would have degenerated into a Christian Theocracy (i.e. a dictatorship) many years ago.Without a strict constitutional Church/State separation clause which is adhered to and enforced, a country remains or degenerates into a religious theocracy which is pure fascism.Fareed Zakaria needs to write an article about the threat to our Democracy that is being executed by the five Right Wing Christian Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court.

udaisaad
udaisaad

I got a kick out of Fareed's assertion equating the substantive reforms introduced by the King of Morocco to those PR "reforms" introduced by the Jordanian monarch. In Jordan, the king abdullah II enforces election laws that triple and quadruple the voting powers of voters in loyalist tribal regions. So the whole notion of one-man-one-vote does not exist in Jordan. You have one man with 4 votes (effectively) in loyalist areas. And one man with 0.25 vote in another area. This is hardly a democracy. The only reason the king of Jordan invited EU election monitors for the first time in his history as king is only after the opposition parties both secular and Islamist boycotted the elections and election registration. So only when the king was certain there will be a majority of loyalists (but minority of Jordanians) voting in the parliamentary elections he asked the EU to oversee the elections. While the king of Morocco did everything in his power to ensure the opposition can win fair and square, the king of Jordan did everything in his power to corrupt the democratic process to ensure a loyalist parliament that will rubber stamp his decisions.  Why? To prevent any real anti-corruption campaign from materializing since it's claimed the king and his allies siphoned off billions of dollars from the Jordanian treasury. A real anti-corruption effort would bring about the end of the Jordanian monarchy, if not it would leave the king with no friends. The king has given immunity, with the help of past rubber-stamp parliaments, to dozens of his allies. So it was essential for the king that no parliament will ever weld real powers. The other motive for the king of Jordan to prevent a democratically elected parliament is the shape of the austerity measures needed to win emergency financial backing from the IMF and various countries. The king of Jordan  at the start of the Arab Spring, embarked on an insane security spending spree fueled by his paranoia. With no money left, he pushed his puppet PM Abdallah Ensour to drastically cut back on social programs to free money for the king's military. Jordan was a poor country before the global economic recession.  Now, the situation is dire. While democracies cut military spending in times of economic hardship, dictatorships do the opposite, further sliding the country into an uncertain economic future. 

The kings of Jordan are also famous for their British-style divide-and-conquer school of leadership (or lack thereof). Jordan is 90% Arab-Sunni. It's a very homogeneous society. That bodes ill for an outsider royal family that arrived to Jordan on British tanks and was implanted in Jordan with British firepower. Since day one, the Hashimite monarchs of Jordan have pursued a determined strategy to tear Jordanian society along tribal, political, and regional lines. Today, Jordanians is a crippled country, far more divided than Syria, with the king Abdullah II playing the role of arbiter over factions  and conflicts of his own creation. The kings of Morocco never had a legitimacy issue and never resorted to breaking up Moroccan society. 

lindsey_currier-2014
lindsey_currier-2014

"Along with several others, I have argued that countries with strong traditions of the rule of law tend to develop a democratic culture." Several others? This isn't a new or novel idea, but a widely accepted one that has been around since at least Edmund Burke in the 1700s. I'm not sure it deserves a place here.

cocobinay
cocobinay

I dream of a day when instead of dying of cancers and heart attacks in our 40s, we can start dropping in our 20s!

bdkennedy1
bdkennedy1

This is the most irresponsible story I have ever read from Time. Processed food has little nutrition and Frankennuggets are going to save the world? Disgusting. Please fire whomever wrote this story.

ctwriter
ctwriter

Why are bikes (rather than trains) the solution to traffic jams caused by delivery trucks? We lag far behind other nations in using rail to move cargo (and people) quickly and efficiently. 

Another idea that makes a difference: Year Up. It's a nonprofit that trains disadvantaged young people in core business skills and in-demand skills as communicated by the organization's corporate partners. Participants spend 6 months training and then 6 months in an internship role (and are paid a stipend for the entire year). Most land jobs with the company they intern with or another company soon after the internship ends. It's an important step in meeting our national challenge of helping unskilled workers prepare for and find jobs that pay a living wage.

Youline
Youline

Are you kidding me? Lab grown meat is a good idea??? I guess that's why we're all dying from cancer!

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

The notion of, "Playing Without Stereotypes" is utterly absurd. 

I am 25 years old, and remember very well how much teasing girls incurred when they acted like guys.  Everyone called them 'tomboys' and 'punks.'  Furthermore, guys who behaved like girls (i.e. incessant gossiping, ALWAYS talking about fashion) were immediately called out as pansies, fairies, fags, gay, and queer.  As a teacher, I see the same dynamic today; nothing has changed.

Understandably, my perspective amounts to anecdotal evidence, but I would bet $100 that my experience has been fairly commonplace.  Stereotypes have existed, still exist, and will always exist.  It is human nature to automatically assign characteristics/labels to different groups.  Therefore, "Playing Without Stereotypes" is mere wishful thinking.

mrbomb13
mrbomb13

Okay, Fareed Zakaria was caught plaigarizing one of his articles.  Perhaps TIME Magazine would be so kind as to explain why they have kept him on their staff.

Adam_Smith
Adam_Smith

Thank you Mr. Zarkaria. I have often emphasized the importance of the rule of law and deeply regret its weakening at home because of the misbegotten War on Terror. Compounding the problem is that official foreign policy is to promote democracy while our bad example would make it difficult for us to also promote the rule of law even if we were trying. To the extent this policy is succeeding we can see that the results are disappointing with demagogues and dangerous radicals seizing power through democratic though lawless means.


ynot56
ynot56

I cannot believe that an article on 10 big ideas does not include a discussion of Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactors (LFTR). 

LRTR's could literally revolutionize energy production and mining.  One ton of thorium has the same energy capacity as 6 million tons of coal.  Converting to LFTR's would clean our air, reduce our power costs reduce the impact of mining on the environment.

For more details please see:

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/512321/safer-nuclear-power-at-half-the-price/

oldguyskier
oldguyskier

@jdenedunn The same arguments failed to persuade me for years when made by the Right about left wing jurists.  

oldguyskier
oldguyskier

@jdenedunn The Establishment Clause, which made clear the right of Americans to practice the religion of their choice (including atheism), has seemed critical to me as well.  As a Canadian, I have always thought your religious freedom, constitutionally enshrined, is one of the things that sets you apart.  Many countries were founded on a principal of conquest; yours on an idea - Liberty.  And surely that Liberty (capitalized intentionally) allows for Christians to hold office, even the office of Supreme Court Justice.  You seem to be saying only those who hold the same religious views as you (which, by the way, you make sound pernicious) should be allowed a voice.  I think I hear the true voice of fascism.

BobSheepleherder
BobSheepleherder

@bdkennedy1 Unless you gather fruits and grains out of the forest, everything you eat is "processed" in some form or other.

GaryRMcCray
GaryRMcCray

@ynot56 

You must be the one other person on the planet who knows how important these things really are. 

For the most part mention Thorium reactors and you get a blank stare.

GE and Westinghouse spent millions promoting conventional reactors and very successfully buried Thorium reactors.

And that is why the entire world is now up to their necks in inefficient, toxic, dangerous and over priced reactors that often end up being a net loss.

Most of what people fear and hate about conventional reactors would be laid to rest with Thorium reactors and the economic efficiency is way, way better too.

If this article were about the 1 good idea, it should be about Thorium reactors, except for global warming they could almost save us.