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The Society for Practical Utopians

Working together to shape a brighter future for humanity

Vol 1 Issue 21 - The Value of Individuals

2019 Jan 08

Individual Dancing

Happy New Year, and welcome to Issue # 21! Hope you enjoyed a great holiday break!

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"One guy, he had nothing to do with the movies, but I’ve taken a lot of direction from him. That’s Bucky Fuller. Bucky, he’s most famous for the geodesic dome, but he made a great observation about these oceangoing tankers. And he noticed that the engineers were particularly challenged by how to turn this thing, you know? They got this big rudder, it took too much energy to turn the rudder to turn the ship. So they came up with a brilliant idea. Let’s put a little rudder on the big rudder. The little rudder will turn the big rudder, the big rudder will turn the ship. The little rudder is called a trim tab.

“Bucky made the analogy that a trim tab is an example of how the individual is connected to society and how we affect society. And I like to think of myself as a trim tab. All of us are trim tabs. We might seem like we’re not up to the task, but we are, man. We’re alive! We can make a difference! We can turn this ship in the way we wanna go, man! Towards love, creating a healthy planet for all of us.”

– Actor Jeff Bridges, from his acceptance speech at the 2019 Golden Globe Awards

Basic Info: The Value of Individuals

A belief in the value of individuals is one of the core Practopian principles. We state it like this:

We believe that ordinary individuals have the power to shape our cultural evolution and influence our human condition in ways both positive and negative; our goal is to help all of us make broader, better informed, more deeply felt, more conscious decisions that will help us advance towards a more positive future.

Some people believe that we humans lack free will. As computers become increasingly powerful, many observers allege that we are just bundles of algorithms, programmed by a combination of our inherited genetic material and our environment, simply responding to stimuli in predictable ways.

We say that’s a lot of hooey.


Well, partly, because we have the words of countless great women and men telling us otherwise.

Here’s what Steve Jobs had to say:

Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it….

And here’s what Margaret Mead said:

Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Science fiction author Ray Bradbury offered us the following:

People ask me to predict the future, when all I want to do is prevent it. Better yet, build it. Predicting the future is much too easy, anyway. You look at the people around you, the street you stand on, the visible air you breathe, and predict more of the same. To hell with more. I want better.

In apparent agreement with Bradbury, computer scientist Alan Kay offered this advice:

Don’t worry about what anybody else is going to do…. The best way to predict the future is to invent it.

Architect Frank Lloyd Wright shared this secret with us:

I know the price of success: dedication, hard work and an unremitting devotion to the things you want to see happen.

And even if we suspect that many of our thoughts and actions are not entirely committed through our own free will, we would do well to remember the words of novelist E.M. Forster:

Failure or success seem to have been allotted to men by their stars. But they retain the power of wriggling, of fighting with their star or against it, and in the whole universe the only really interesting movement is this wriggle.

And if we think that only a few special people have the power to influence history, we should remember the words of Albert Schweitzer:

Of all the will toward the ideal in mankind only a small part can manifest itself in public action. All the rest of this force must be content with small and obscure deeds. The sum of these, however, is a thousand times stronger than the acts of those who receive wide public recognition. The latter, compared to the former, are like the foam on the waves of a deep ocean.

It is sometimes tempting to feel that we are being swept up in forces beyond our control. And while we are all in many ways products of our environment, we should never underestimate our abilities as individuals to contribute to the health and happiness of others.

So let’s all keep on wriggling toward the ideal.

It’s a lot more fun than any of the alternatives.

– Herb Bowie, first published at on Dec 10, 2018

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