The latest issue of L Studio favorite GOOD magazine focuses on human potential. And they’re not the only ones. Last week, we arrived at the 50th Anniversary of Lyndon B. Johnson’s declaration of the War on Poverty. This segment of his 1964 State of the Union Address is essentially a call to make government act in material support of human potential. To quote LBJ:

“People cannot contribute to the nation if they are never taught to read or write, if their bodies are stunted from hunger, if their sickness goes untended”

With 7 billion people inhabiting the globe, ever more connected by trade, migration and communication technology, yet still vastly unequal in terms of wealth, opportunity and education, I’d say its a good time to look back on Johnson’s declaration, and figure out how we might work together to tap into the vast potential of the multitude.

In the Dec. 23nd issue of The New Yorker, Michael Pollan discusses the controversial field of “plant neurobiology”. Why bring this up in a discussion of human potential? Because, without brains, research shows that plants are able to collect data about their environment and act based on that data. Much of this action is invisible to humans, because it does not generally involve movement, and it happens on a slower timeline.

Pollan’s point is that there may be a lot to learn from plant “intelligence”. Maybe even new ways to look at the potential of human activities. Bees and other colonies exhibit a kind of intelligence of the multitude, one that has no direct leader or “brain”. And the latest research suggests that the human brain itself lacks a central command. There is no “little black box”, no “there there”, just a network. Yet from that tangle of neural connections, all the beauty, accomplishment, and complexity of human civilization has arisen.

So for 2014, Lets take a note from GOOD (and from the plants and the bees and LBJ) and think about our potential in new ways. Good things come from working together.

LBJ’s War on Poverty