I agree with you and that's part of my question above where I mentioned policy wonks but I should have mentioned politics directly. This is part of what puzzles me as how we end up with the political priorities we have as I don't get the feeling they match what the *people* want. I realize we live in a Republic so it's consent to govern and once in Washington, representatives make all sorts of decisions that don't have anything to do with the interests of the people in their district much less people in general.
The world is made up of thousands of different governments, each of which has its own system. We have dictatorships, theocracies, monarchies, communism, and democracy. And while the latter form of government is generally considered the most representative of the people, some democracies are rife with corruption, intimidation, sexism, racism, oppression of minority populations, etc. All of the above types of government really aren't particularly concerned with "what the people want" -- indeed, in some situations (such as theocracies), the government is able to tell the people what they should and shouldn't want for themselves (and are often able to get them to believe it too). You're not going to solve big problems in such countries, when the governments of those countries work against the solutions. No technology or company is going to solve poverty in North Korea, for example, when the government is happy keeping their people poor and hungry so they can chase other priorities (like nuclear weapons).
So let's narrow the discussion going forward to just that of the Unites States.
(FWIW, I'm neither a US citizen nor a US resident. I'm Canadian.)
How could that be true with all the money inputs into the system? There's massive distortion. That was intended as part of what I'm puzzled about, so we have this system and people routinely claim to be reformers BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT yet nobody delivers.
I don't think we're in an era where anyone can really determine "what the people want" in the United States, as the US is very highly polarized. How can you tackle poverty when, on the one hand you have nearly half the countries population believing that poverty is the fault of the people who experience it? When a prevailing attitude is "It's they're own fault they're poor -- why should my tax dollars go to help them?"?
I'll go so far as to say that right now the US has no general sense of agreement or consensus on solutions to any of the "big problems" that plague the country (or even the world). So given that, how do you determine "what the people want"? Do you placate one group and alienate the other (only for the next government to change things back)? Do you try to find a middle ground that makes nobody happy (and in the end may not actually solve any problems)? Do you throw your hands up in the air at being unable to reach a useful consensus and give up? It seems to me all of these have been "solutions" used in US politics so far in this century, with the expected results.
Again, you don't fix this with technology. You need to gain consensus on the dimensions of the problem class first, and then reach consensus on a solution. Without that, you're going to get nowhere.
Don't forget either that the biggest social and humanitarian problems facing the world hit the people with the least resources the hardest. These are usually the people with the least political clout, and with the lowest level of access to technology and education. By definition helping rid the world of these problems involves wealth redistribution -- and in the US, that is often political suicide.
Some people say take all money out of politics other than some modest public funds. How could there not be loopholes in this thing that would allow organizations to route around the regulations and find a way spend those dollars for policy influence.
There are a lot of countries which hands this better than the US.
Here in Canada there are fairly strict limits on amounts that can be donated to politicians and political parties. Donations are only permitted by individuals -- donations can't come from corporations, unions, committees, etc. Financial reports have to be submitted to Elections Canada, which makes them public. As such, you can't have some large, wealthy group or individual "buy off" a politician (although there have been attempts to work around the system -- such as companies which have made donations in their employees names, wealth parents who have made donations in the names of their minor children, etc.). It's not perfect, but the end result is politicians that are generally more focussed on their constituents rather than special interests with deep pockets.
Yes, there is some level of corruption in the US government. It's smaller than in many other countries, but it is certainly non-zero. But that too requires a political solution -- it requires legislation to get rid of the inane idea that "money is speech" (money is power, not speech), and to enact sane election financing laws.
Technology can help in this area -- technology can speed up and improve transparency to both let everyone know who is contributing to whom, and to ensure that individuals are complying with financing regulations, but you still need the political will to put all the parts in place in the first place.
So you can't solve any of these problems with technology alone. They're people problems in the end -- you have to change hearts and minds first. The technology for many of these problems will be there once that has been resolved.