If we accept that the “advancement” of society can be defined as the bettering of the human condition in cooperation with environmental preservation then technological innovation alone cannot advance society. The progress of mankind into a healthier and more sustainable existence will depend on the ability of society to undergo behavioral innovation in conjunction with technological advancement. In 1979 President Jimmy Carter addressed the nation about something he called the “Crisis of Confidence”. His speech chastised the self-indulgent and consumer driven attitude of Americans and called on people to change their greedy habits (particularly in the area of energy consumption) in order to “rebuild the unity and confidence of America.”
President Carter’s speech also called on the government to enact legislation in support of solar energy production, reduced dependence on foreign oil, and increase public transportation infrastructure. The changes to daily life must have required too much effort for people to get on board with because today, over 30 years later, President Carter’s requests remain unanswered. We tried the small scale, self-interested approach of depending on others to invent technology that would solve all of our energy problems and the cost of this diffusion of responsibility has been great. The time for self-indulgence is over. The only way society will advance is through the conscious and collective effort of people around the world. Technological innovations have simplified our lives in many ways and we have come to rely on technology as the beat all, end all solution to our problems. The truth is, technology is merely a tool, and a tool is only as capable as the person wielding it.
For more insight as to why behavioral innovation is necessary and what society risks by ignoring this opportunity for innovation I encourage you to listen to the highlights of President Carter’s “Crisis of Confidence” speech of 1979.