A proposal for global human thriving

Justin Rosenstein
Co-founder of Asana and OneProject

People often ask me what it means to "help humanity thrive." It's the mission statement of Asana, Good Ventures, and Vicarious AI. The below essay is my attempt at an actionable answer, a meta-plan for a sustainable thriving human future.

I'm amazed that I happen to have been born right now, at this unprecedented moment in life's multi-billion-year history. In just the last century, one species has developed tremendous capabilities, enough power to transform systems at global scale. Collectively, humans have radically altered food, ecological systems, and climate systems. It is now possible for a few kids in a dorm room to have an idea, and within a decade to transform how we communicate, or produce sub-second access to all the world's knowledge.

Our collective power is staggering. We currently leverage that power in a chaotic way, one that seems to hurt humanity and the Earth as often as it helps. But what could we be doing with this power? If, spontaneously, every human saw themselves as working together for a common purpose—to help humanity thrive—I hypothesize that we would succeed in solving our biggest challenges and achieving our greatest ambitions.

For example, we already have enough food to feed the global population. If each person at each point in the supply chain had love in their heart, and was supported by an economic system compatible with the compassion we all feel for the hungry, you're still left with a massive logistics problem, but not one substantially greater than those that Amazon and Walmart have already solved. Logistics, we can do.

If all humans collaborated toward a common mission of helping humanity thrive, we could do more than solve problems. We could collectively choose where we wanted to take the world. We could co-design and co-create a planet in which each of us had not only everything we needed, but access to an abundance of material delights, loving community, and opportunities for personal creative expression.

That's a world I'd rather live in. It seems like everyone I talk to would too. Utopia has gotten a bad rap from seeming unrealistic, but it seems achievable—if we were all to work together.

But presently, most people do not see helping humanity thrive as their primary goal. Even among people who've had their own material needs satisfied, most individuals default to the search for personal wealth and power, which is in turn celebrated by the society. Businesses are typically judged, internally and externally, only for fiscal growth. But economic value does not always correlate with human value (indeed, in many scenarios it correlates negatively). Fortunately, a shift is already underway. A shift from identifying with the interests of our individual bodies and minds, to identifying with the interests of humanity as a whole. A shift from "me" to "we." The shift is being accelerated (1) by our increasing awareness of our interconnectedness, thanks in part to social media enabling us to learn about people half-way across the world; and (2) by growing numbers of people having direct experiences of universal love, thanks in part to increased access to spiritual technologies, global community, transformative festivals, music, or entheogens.

But the shift in consciousness is not enough. To achieve humanity's potential, love must be applied in a deeply pragmatic way to make substantive measurable impact on real-world systems. I'm heartened by the growing number of organizations working to do this. Sungevity and SolarCity, a $1.3B public company, are using innovations in finance and satellite photography to provide zero-money-down solar paneling. Coursera is helping anyone in the world with an Internet connection get a first-class education. Lyft is trying to decimate the number of cars a city needs through ridesharing. These companies and others are repurposing technology for good.

I believe we can repurpose all our institutions—technology, business, governance, media, health, justice, …—through the applied pragmatic efforts of people with love in our hearts and a shared mission to help humanity thrive. It doesn't even take everyone, just a very large set of very talented and influential people, a critical mass that works in concert together to become deeply pragmatically expert in each system, and then rewrite the norms, stories, and behaviors of each of our institutions. No small tasks, but doable. These are ultimately human institutions (all created relatively recently) and together we can reprogram them in a way consistent with universal human values.

That's my proposal, that we do that. As a Team. As One Project, unified not by a central leader of shared office building, but by a shared decision to participate, to contribute some of our unique gifts to the cause. Not by doing some philanthropy or service on the side, but by devoting the bulk of our effort (basically, our day-jobs) to work that both satisfies our individual creative passions and has the potential for significant positive impact on the world.

Together, I believe that team will transform our world, one step at a time, into one of abundance, harmony, sustainability, wisdom, and boundless creative human expression.