There is a profound intellectual temptation toward viewing the world through the lens of our favorite ideas. Powerful ideas can inspire, shape how we interpret the world, and provide emotional solace during tempestuous times. But no matter how attractive and interesting or how well they explain the world around us, the core of life remains what we do. It is in the actions of mankind that we can see how people adapt to challenges, achieve progress and, hopefully, make life better for each other.
Every year, we each have the opportunity to make the fullest use of 8,760 hours. Remarkably, people from all walks of life in a wide array of cultures engage in very similar behaviors for most of that time. Foremost, people sleep or work for approximately two-thirds of every day. We also engage in leisure, education, household upkeep, and the care of loved ones. Here at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, we spend a great deal of our time developing ideas to improve how we govern, in order to advance the health, welfare, and economic station of people everywhere.
This is why several years ago we launched Human Achievement Hour, an annual celebration of innovation and progress. During this hour—this year, Saturday, March 24th from 8:30pm to 9:30pm—people around the world pay tribute to human ingenuity and advancements in every field from health and energy to communications and transportation. Originally launched as an alternative to “Earth Hour,” an activist campaign that calls on people to show their concern about climate change by turning off their lights, Human Achievement Hour challenges people to celebrate human ingenuity and our ability to solve problems creatively.
From exploration of the cosmos to investigation of the most minute chemical interactions within the human body, we are wired with a natural curiosity that leads to discovery and, sometimes, to transformative achievements.
Discoveries, inventions, and the deployment of the technological advances that they make possible may be the most visible elements of human achievement. However, at CEI we take a broad view and also celebrate the less visible, even mundane, aspects of human achievement. The humane interactions of life, the simple one-to-one conversations that are the social glue allowing people to trade information, learn and grow, signal interest, or exchange one good for another are the essential elements of a market, and of society itself.
We each have a choice to make about the ideas that shape our behavior. Do we believe that our lives are on an inescapably downward trajectory, that our ability to solve problems today—large and small—is fixed, and that progress is measured by metering out scarce and depleting resources? Or, can we see a dynamic future in which the world is full of opportunity and room for individuals, communities, and whole regions to adapt to what comes next?
I firmly hold the latter view. And for one of the 8,760 hours each year it is good to both reflect upon it (by thinking about it) as well as to promote it (by doing something with it).
To one and all, Happy Human Achievement Hour! Please celebrate with us by sharing your favorite human achievement that makes your life better on Facebook and Twitter. Use the hashtag #HAH2018 to tweet examples and photos to @ceidotorg.
Kent Lassman is president and CEO of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, where he oversees strategy for the free market organization, including management of a team of policy, communications, and fundraising staff.
Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.