Solve the world’s toughest problems for $100 million…

“New Competition for a $100 Million Grant: Round Two of 100&Change”:

MacArthur today announced it will launch a new round of its 100&Change competition for a single $100 million grant to help solve one of the world’s most critical social challenges.

I was awed by this until I reflected that it is less than our town is spending to renovate a K-8 school for 440 town-resident children.

Readers: What should they fund if they want to change the world?

My proposal: The typical American can’t afford to live in the U.S. without taxpayer-funded welfare, e.g., subsidized housing and/or subsidized health care/insurance (the income limits for these means-tested welfare programs are typically higher than median household income). The issues around health care cannot be dented for $100 million (due to the cruel anti-science bias of the Trumpenfuhrer, the NIH Budget for 2019 is only $39 billion). But homebuilding is decentralized and done by a lot of contractors with minimal capital and scale. These smaller contractors cannot afford to do any R&D. Therefore the $100 million should be spent to try to figure out how to build housing at a lower cost.


9 thoughts on “Solve the world’s toughest problems for $100 million…

  1. I don’t know whether you’ve ever read Critical Path, but just in the first 10 seconds I think we should have a renaissance of interest in Buckminster Fuller’s ideas in terms of low-cost, architectually interesting and innovative home design. The Dymaxion house was a beautiful concept. From my reading of the book, nobody wanted to build it because it ran afoul of the electrical and plumber’s unions. It was so simple to build, hook up and use that he couldn’t get any traction. I don’t think anyone has seriously advanced his thinking in all this time. And he conceived of homes as something akin to aircraft! The whole idea was that the house was a vessel to carry people and protect them, like a pressurized aircraft.

    We use geodesic domes for radar and of course Disney obviously uses them at EPCOT center, and for a while you could buy them as kits, but nobody else, as far as I know, has ever taken Fuller’s ideas to “the next level” on a truly industrial scale to provide better and lower-cost housing that isn’t ridiculous, representing a retreat in our standard of living.

    • Houses should be built in factories and trucked to the site. Local style and design sensibilities are fairly easy to overcome. The fees paid to the local inspectors are not an easy issue to overcome.. This might be the biggest issue preventing widespread adoption of factory built homes. I believe you will find most trailer parks (factory built homes) in unincorporated areas of the county. Also… if you live in a neighborhood of conventional stick built homes, you are going to be reluctant to allow a factory built home on the lot next door. Your loss in equity will align you (I’m talking the generic you here, not you specifically Alex.) with the inspectors and local governments wanting their development fees rather rapidly.

      Lots of cultural and institutional resistance to the factory built home, but it is pretty clear to me that factory built home could be both better and less expensive.

      I would think it could start with apartments… Just think about how fast they could be stacked up.

  2. I propose that it be spent on the large Asexual community in Silicon Valley. Certainly a world-class tough problem.

  3. Since housing was mentioned as a suggestion, folks may want to know about this “San Francisco’s outrageous rent hits a new peak of $3,690, highest in the US” [1].

    Maybe we should give the $100 million to to Jimmy McMillan [2] to solve [3] this this problem for us?


  4. I thought by now the entire world would be growing all its food hydroponically. Not just weeds.

  5. And to Mike:

    I don’t mind the “old sticks” and so forth style of building, if you have the means, that’s fine, nothing wrong with that at all. But I think we need a real alternative also. And in that sense I really agree with you. We’re talking about having to find ways to provide housing that doesn’t remind one of a jail cell, that has a real beauty to it, and supports a comfortable standard of living. Fuller’s ideas were a big step in that direction and I hope everyone with good ideas keeps trying. This is a hard problem. It sounds simple but if it was easy it would have already been done.

    “Lots of cultural and institutional resistance to the factory built home, but it is pretty clear to me that factory built home could be both better and less expensive.”

    I think that’s going to be the way we judge these things going foward. We also need to have variety and above all, the homes we build here in America must always be the standard of the world. Our people come first. I’m a chauvinist about that.

  6. The travesty of healthcare cost in this country is going to have the biggest impact on our standard of living. We should be spending *nowhere near* as much as we do per capita GDP on health care. The fact that we do is almost a definition of insanity. The only reason I hesitate to mention it is that every time someone mentions lowering health care costs, they inflate them.

  7. The best idea needs to create a self funding cycle of sustainability or you run out of assets at some point and are done with your social benefit creation.

    What if we use the money to fund college tuition with the obligation to contribute some percentage of your future salary back to the fund for others?

    Seems to me that this will grow over time as more and more people run through the program. Sure there will be some default but that can be managed.

  8. Something like 30% of health care spending is on the last six months of people’s life. And it’s usually pretty miserable for everyone.

    So … in the tradition of “A Modest Proposal”, how about figuring out how to painlessly take six months off of everyone’s life? Instant 30% reduction in health care spending!

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