Albert Einstein said: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
If we think about this quote in the context of the problems of Attention Recession and Voter Aggregation, then one possible interpretation is that we need to change the level when we design the solution. A fundamentally different approach and thinking is needed to solve sticky problems. We see this in innovations all the time. For example, the problem of access to a wide array of goods in the physical world was not solved by building more stores. It was the Internet which provided the answer. The problem of relevance in search results was not solved by Yahoo with its human-organised directory and brute-force keyword search, but by Google with its PageRank algorithm which ranked pages based on incoming links. Apple’s iPhone did not just build an incrementally better version of the Nokia or Blackberry phone and keyboard but entirely rethought the interface building by using a touchscreen. Elon Musk completely rethought the car and got rid of the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) entirely. If we look at the big advances around us and through history, we will find the essence of Einstein’s point. Entrepreneurs understand the problem, and then craft solutions by thinking at a very different level.
When I wanted to solve the problem of making information available to Indians globally in 1995, I did not do so with a better printed newspaper or magazine. Instead, I focused on building a portal on the Internet, which eliminated geography as a barrier to accessing news and other content. In 2011, when I started thinking about how the BJP could win in 2014, I did not think how to increase their seats from their previous peak of 182 to 200-225 (which would have still resulted on a coalition government), but how it could get to a majority on its own by winning 272+ in the 543-member Lok Sabha. This meant thinking of a “wave election” rather than improving efficiency at the local level in a “sum of states” election.
Similarly, when we need to address the problem of attention recession, we cannot do so in the Web2 world in which the problem has been created. We cannot reduce the messages sent or increase the attention span of humans. We need to think of the solution at a different level – which is where the Web3 idea of creating an “attention crypto-currency” comes in. The voter aggregation problem cannot be solved with a new centralised political party but with a decentralised approach where leaders are chosen bottom-up.
The two problems (Attention Recession and Voter Aggregation) and the solutions seem to have a common thread linked around the Web3 ideas of decentralisation, disintermediation, and tokens. I knew very little about these new ideas, so I decided to set upon a journey to explore this new world, share my learnings, and probe the emerging ideas.