Several of these secrets offer the same lesson:
"Problems are not always obvious from afar." "Learn everything there is to know about the specific context." "Understand by observing the environment, infrastructure, culture and lives of people by being there."
These are all about local context, and they are about humility. They say that the world is a big place filled with many kinds of people and problems, and that solutions designed in one place don't always work in others. One size does not fit all.
Technologies, especially communication technologies like the glowing screens you and I are both staring into, are often said to transcend place, to shrink or erase distance, to make the world one. The internet is everywhere and nowhere all at once, right? We're living in a global village? But our supposedly space-transcending or distance-shrinking ideas and gadgets inevitably get defined and distorted by local cultures, by regional advantages and disadvantages, by territorial governments, and by the earth’s environment itself. A lot of our problems grow out of trying to ignore or deny this fact. The world is not small, it is not flat, and we have not transcended distance.
The rhetoric of place-lessness, of global villages and globalization, of a world made small and manageable by the miracles of technology, is hardly new. It's been with us for a hundred years and then some. And it is almost always put in service to a particular set of political prescriptions. So we ought to be a little skeptical of this language.
I'm not arguing for pessimism. I'm arguing for humility. One step in saving the world might be getting past the ego trip that says we know how to save it--even if we are a global network of idealistic net-savvy superheroes funded by the World Bank. Douglas Rushkoff recently wrote: "The temptation to save the wh*** world--and get the credit--comes at the expense of steps we might better take to make our immediate world a more fruitful, engaging, sustainable, and satisfying place." When Alchemy calls me in 2020 to solve the Tokyo food crisis, I might have to say, "Tokyo needs to save Tokyo, Alchemy. There's work to be done here at home."