Function of the Digital Platform

The platform should allow anyone to list problems; risks are also considered a problem for sake of brevity. For each problem, one would be able to indicate

  1. measures against the problem,
  2. the causes of the problem (down to the root causes) and
  3. the goals, which might be reached while bypassing the problem altogether.

The second and third issue avoid the so-called preponderance of the means over the end (note 1.) Each approach has drawbacks:

  1. measures against the problem often cause other problems,
  2. removal of the underlying cause probably requires a general measure which takes long to arrive at, and
  3. the goals may not be agreed on or power structures prohibit considering alternative goals at all.

Also, a measure against a problem may not be needed once a more fundamental measure is taken; or it may turn out that the entity which experienced the problem no longer serves the right goal.

Example: why going to the bar is good for the climate

Consider the problem of glass shortage caused by wasting glass from bottles. A remedy for glass shortage is to recycle bottles. However, this measure poses a new problem, namely washing and melting the glass requires a lot of energy which needs to be generated by burning fossil fuel; this emits carbon dioxide and therefore warms the atmosphere.

Measures against the problem

The complexity of this new problem diverts one’s attention to the means of recycling bottles, which thus becomes an end in itself. To reach that end without the aforementioned problem, one could use energy from renewable sources. However, that would generate still other problems, like for the production, maintenance, and replacement of solar panels. 

Causes of the problem

One can also focus on the causes of the problem instead of on its manifestations. The immediate cause of glass waste is the waste of the bottle. So, a slightly more fundamental measure is reusing the bottles. Still, that requires washing the bottles and handling deposits. Letting everybody bring one’s own bottle to the shop (or let the liquid be delivered at home) would solve that problem too, but requires larger investments and sanctions to shop keepers who offer bottles as a service because they need to compete. So, the competitive kind of economy is one of the more fundamental causes of the waste. (It is also the cause of being of the profusion of bottles, see the definitions.) However, it would be time-consuming to precisely specify the kind of economy which encourages profit for the community rather than for individuals.

Reconsidering the goal

If the goal were the common good (and future) then all kinds of drinks would no longer be transported over great distances because of carbondioxide emissions. In that case, many bottles would not be needed anymore, but consensus about abandoning exotic products is unlikely. This example may be taken one step further for sake of illustration: bottles are containers for only a few people, so there would be little need for them if people gathered in rooms where tasteful drinks are served from large containers, like casks.

Note

(1) Suppose the end A is pursued by the means B but getting to B poses a problem. If one concentrates on the means B, then B becomes an end in itself, phenomenon called preponderance of the means over the end. (See The Philosophy of ‘As If’ by H. Vaihinger.) This may have two consequences. First, a solution C is pursued whilst the end A may also be arrived at via a different route, typically after investigation of deeper causes of the problem with B. Second, the focus on the problem with B detracts attention from the question whether A is a desirable goal at all.