The Trillion Grains of Sand Attack
People ask me, "What's your plan? How can we get from here to there?"
They assume there's no answer. They certainly assume I don't have one. They think the question will be enough to shut me up, lol.
Here’s one guy’s take on how radical change will happen -- how we’ll get from here to there. Just 4 minutes long, watch it here.
The video outlines one theory, and it's a good one, but I offer it for two reasons that have nothing to do with whether it's a good answer to the what’s-your-plan challenge:
  1. To show that every one of us can think of answers.
  2. To show that more and more of us are trying to think of answers.
Notice that neither of those reasons has anything to do with whether answers we come up with are good ones. I don't care, because I know we’ll eventually come up with good ones, because I trust the process.
What process?
Creativity guarantees that eventually some of the people trying to come up with good answers will succeed. No question, unless you want to deliberately ignore history. It’s been proven beyond any shadow of doubt -- not just once, but again and again and again in a process we call "progress".
That’s right: Argue against the inevitability of creative, effective answers and you're arguing against the very principle of progress that's already been proven more times than you’ve had to hold your pee. The very progress, by the way, that afforded you enough education to read and understand concepts like "progress" -- even if not enough to keep you from denying progress is inevitable, barring calamity and morons who resist and sabotage it.
Unless it’s beaten out of us, we humans are naturally curious, playful, and creative. Our theory of evolution itself is really just a fancy recognition of the natural and relentless tendencies of a universe bent on producing increasingly more complex, often fantastic and creatively bizarre life forms and spreading them as far as possible. We live in a creative reality.
Everything we now enjoy materially, economically, culturally, and spiritually, it all originated in creativity: Certain people at certain places at certain times insisted on transcending themselves and their time-and-space limitations -- which necessarily means they insisted on being unrealistic -- to think outside the boxes that their cultures, their societies, their friends, and sometimes even their families swore were “reality” and tried to stuff them into and keep them trapped in.
That’s why I spurn what’s-really-real arguments. Unless you love what you’ve got and want nothing better, the only way to get something better is to go beyond your present reality, past the VERBOTEN!! signs of the Reality Gestapo and the Iron Walls of the Morality KGB and, ignoring their screams and dodging their bullets, find out what’s out there. (You have even more fun going back inside the box and telling those cowering inside you saw, lol.)
Here's something that most people fond of the expression "outside the box" have not the slightest inkling about beyond a vague idea: It takes huevos to go outside the box. Big ones. Way bigger than the little raisins on the pansies trying to beat you down to keep you inside. Even bigger to stay outside. It’s fun out here, and well worth the pummeling! Everyone that's gone there knows this. And they can spot posers a mile away with one eye shut and the other one bloodshot and fuzzy.
Think it through. Every important person in the history of humanity became important because he or she dared to be not just creative, but radically creative. Even belligerently creative. Even frighteningly and dangerously creative.
Creativity is our salvation. So, woe to everyone who stands in its way.
I like the theory outlined in the video above. It has a lot of merit and it's been proven to work, with plenty of historical precedent and evidence.
I like even more what I call the Trillion Grains of Sand Attack. It's the basic mechanism that makes the theory in the video work, but it's also the way that a human body grows and develops from a single egg, how videos go viral, how technology advances and accelerates, and how ideas spread to take over the world:
One puny idea, no more weighty or potent than a grain of sand, lodged in one small mind at a time. Then two. Then four. Then eight. Then sixteen. Then...
You know how long it takes for that sequence to reach a trillion? Not long; but before I spell it out, let's look at how much sand a trillion grains is.
An average grain of sand is about 0.2 mm wide, long and high. That's 0.2 to the 3rd (width, length, height) power, or 0.008 cubic millimeters. That means that, on average, 125 grains of sand packed tight (no space) would make a cubic millimeter. Let's account for the space normally between them (they don’t stack like boxes) and make the math easier and say it takes a 100 grains of sand to fill a cubic millimeter.
There are a billion cubic millimeters in a cubic meter. So 100 billion grains of sand would make a cubic meter. How big is that? Here, take a look.
Not negligible, but not terribly formidable, either. But that's only 100 billion grains of sand. We'd need ten stacks like that to contain a trillion grans of sand: a whole truckload.
Is that enough idea-sand to accomplish whatever we want to do? Well, have you ever dug up 10 cubic meters of sand? Just look at the picture. Ten of those. We'd probably wear ourselves out digging up just one cubic meter. But the Trillion Grains of Sand Attack isn't about one person producing a trillion grains of idea-sand. It's about getting a trillion grains dumped on you, your organization, your country or your people, one grain after another by an untold number of people -- but not an untold number of times. Just a trillion.
Any way you cut it, that's a helluvalot of sand.
So how long before ten cubic meters of idea-sand accumulate?
Let's assume only one grain gets dumped -- or since it fits better when talking about ideas to say gets spread -- per person per day. Here's how that works and, again, this is indisputable:
Day zero (before you start): You are the only one with the idea. Pet rocks, for example. Pretend you’re Gary Dahl in 1975.
Day one: If you plant theidea in one person's mind, not only have you spread it, but it will spread further unless it’s not catchy at all. It doesn't matter if that person agrees or disagrees with the idea. Unless it's boring and useless and they forget it, they'll think about it and eventually talk about it. From the idea's perspective, in marketing terms, as Gary Dahl well knew, this is free advertising.
This process is sometimes called "inception" -- implanting an idea in someone's mind by subtle or subliminal means. In science fiction, people enter your dreams to do it. In the real world, all you need to do is enter their imaginations.
So now the idea has infiltrated two of you, regardless of likes or dislikes, pros or cons. Whether you want it or hate it, you got it.
Day two: Both of you spread the idea, each to one other person. Now there are four.
Day three: All four of you spread the idea to one other person. Now there are eight.
If you remember your algebra, you might have noticed that each day is the exponent in “2 to the nth power”, which equals the number of people infiltrated with the idea. On Day Zero, 2 to the zero power equals one person with the idea. On Day One, 2 to the first power equals two persons with the idea. On Day Two, 2 to the second power equals four persons with the idea, and so forth. So how many powers of 2 equal one trillion? In other words, how many days will it take before one trillion people get the idea?
You won't believe it, but math doesn't lie.
On day 39, an amazing 549,755,813,888 people will have the idea. That's more than half a trillion. So, you guessed it, on day 40 there will be twice that: 1,099,511,627,776 people with the idea.
40 days. Hmm... That's a number that pops up throughout literature’s history as having significance, often associated with trial and tribulation. Israel was in the wilderness for 40 years. Jesus was in the desert tempted by the devil 40 days. Maybe it has some weird bearing here?
In that last paragraph, I just showed you how easy -- and how unoffensive and conflict-free -- it is to incept an idea into someone else's mind. All it takes are two ingredients: mystery and plausibility. Maybe it worked with you or maybe it didn’t, but the degree to which it did or didn’t work was the degree to which you found the mystery intriguing and plausible. This should be no surprise to you. Those are the key ingredients in the making of every religion that has ever graced or disgraced the planet -- and every political party, too.
Of course, a trillion inceptions would be overkill, since there's only about 7.5 billion people on the planet. When would we reach the 7.5 billion mark? On day 23. It takes only three weeks to spread an idea world-wide if each person who got it yesterday spreads it to just one more person the next day Think about the speed of spread at two or three people per day, or more. Wow.
You might argue that's a perfect case scenario, that days might pass between inceptions. Not likely, on average. There will be many more days of multiple inceptions (sharing the idea with groups, on social media, etc.) So one person per day is an extremely conservative rate estimate.
But a trillion grains of sand is overkill, right? Or is it?
You know marketing, Gary Dahl’s field, devoted to making ideas go viral and become mainstream -- like Pet Rocks? The field focused on one simple, central goal: creating something out of nothing, i.e., profit? Marketers know how to do it, and as a field of practice, they're very, very good at it.
Marketers have an old adage, the Rule of Seven, which says that a person needs to hear an idea 7 times before they'll seriously consider it. Of course, in the world of commerce, that means they’ll consider buying something. Hearing an idea seven times doesn't guarantee that people will accept it -- not everyone who hears, buys -- but it does guarantee that they will take the idea seriously enough to decide whether or not to buy. In other words, it leaves them incapable of dismissing or ignoring it. They are obliged by their own psychological constitutions to make a decision, and decisions are like mental stakes rammed into the ground of memory. Now, whether they like it or not, whether they’ll buy it or not, it’s real to them. Before it was unknown or, if not, negligible or a figment. Now it’s real. That’s quite a shift.
Making it real, more than anything else, is what marketers are after. While a prospect is focused on whether or not they want to buy a product, which is the marketer's secondary objective, the marketer always sneakily succeeds in his primary objective -- building brand recognition -- by virtue of sheer force of repetition. They can’t buy a brand they don’t know about, but once it’s real to them, it will always figure into future relevant buying decisions in at least some small way. This, by the way, separates good salesmen from great salesman. Good salesmen get sales. Great salesman build brand recognition while they get sales, because that’s what eventually drives untold future sales and creates brand loyalty, a kind of cult that pre-endorses any product bearing that brand. And brand recognition accrues regardless of a prospect's buy decision.
So let's convert all those superfluous (and impossible, since there just ain't that many folks) idea inceptions to repeated exposures. In other words, reiterating the idea to the same people again, 7 more times, (let's err on the side of generosity, lol,) which reinforces the idea no matter how you do it or how they react, pro or con. Tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, then tell them what you told them. Listen, but ultimately disregard responses. Repeat. Just like a clever ad. Even the most annoying ones get stuck in your head. All good from a marketing perspective.
That would mean 7.5 billion x 7 repetitions, hearing the idea from someone else who heard it, one more time each day until it's happened 52.5 billion times. On what day do we, by our simple one-more-per-day exposure method, reach that tipping point? Day 36. At that point not everyone will have made a decision about the idea, but everyone will know it's worth deciding what they think about it, fixing it in their minds in the process. So days 37, 38, 39 and 40 on our way to a Trillion Grains of Sand are just gravy for good measure.
That doesn’t mean we don’t need buyers, of course. For things to change, people still need to buy into the idea: belief-wise, commitment-wise and action-wise. How many buyers do we need? In other words, in marketing language, what close rate do we need to tip the scales of change?
Any salesman will tell you that a close rate of 30% is good, 40% is great. If you get 3 or 4 people to buy out of every 10 people you pitched, you're doing well: a solid, successful salesman. What close rate for an idea do we need to guarantee it will go viral and eventually become universally accepted, aside from the inevitable but negligible little gaggle of impossibly loud-mouthed, pig-headed die-hards? (There’s always a few.)
A group of really smart researchers at Rensellear University came up with a well-supported, well-tested answer:
//Scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. The scientists, who are members of the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at Rensselaer, used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. The finding has implications for the study and influence of societal interactions ranging from the spread of innovations to the movement of political ideals.
"When the number of committed opinion holders is below 10 percent, there is no visible progress in the spread of ideas. It would literally take the amount of time comparable to the age of the universe for this size group to reach the majority," said SCNARC Director Boleslaw Szymanski, the Claire and Roland Schmitt Distinguished Professor at Rensselaer. "Once that number grows above 10 percent, the idea spreads like flame."//
When just 10 percent of a population holds an unshakable belief, their belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. Even a bad salesman can close 10% of his pitches. Good ones can do three or four times better than that.
We can do this shit.
OK, so let’s say a trillion grains of idea-sand inception and reinforcement have taken place, at least 10% of the people now firmly believe the idea, which guarantees that it will “spread like flame” until a majority believes it -- the speed of government this is not, lol. Is that all it takes for change to happen?
Change takes belief, commitment and action. And we all know that the number of people who will act on an idea is just a fraction of the number who accept, believe, and even say they are committed to the idea. How many does it take to create real change?
3.5 percent.
Erica Chenowith and Maria Stefan have done some amazing research that, according to Lawrence Krauss, “has electrified the field of political science" and challenged conventional wisdom on social change. That's their finding, after thorough study of over 300 major campaigns (read: revolts, regime-changing civil resistance movements, tyrant-toppling protests.) Every single campaign that managed to get 3.5% of their populations involved and active achieved their major goals.
//So for the next two years, I collected data on all major nonviolent and violent campaigns for the overthrow of a government or a territorial liberation since 1900. The data covered the entire world and consisted of every known case where there were at least 1,000 observed participants; this is hundreds of cases. Then I analyzed the data, and the results blew me away.
From 1900 to 2006, nonviolent campaigns worldwide were twice as likely to succeed outright as violent insurgencies. And there's more. This trend has been increasing over time, so that in the last 50 years, nonviolent campaigns are becoming increasingly successful and common, whereas violent insurgencies are becoming increasingly rare and unsuccessful. This is true even in those extremely brutal, authoritarian conditions where I expected nonviolent resistance to fail.
So, why is civil resistance so much more effective than armed struggle? The answer seems to lie in people power itself. Researchers used to say that no government could survive if just 5% of its population rose up against it. Our data showed that the number may be lower than that. No single campaign has failed during that time period after they had achieved the active and sustained participation of just 3.5% of the population. And lots of them succeeded with far fewer than that.//
3.5% is nothing to sneeze at, but neither is it 10%. And notice that it's just 35% of the 10% who already believe in the idea and tip the scales to make it go viral.
Think of it like this: If the 10% needed for the viral spread of ideas are like sales prospects that we convinced to like and believe in our product, then the 3.5% needed to effect permanent change are just 35% of the fans of the product who decide to actually buy and use it. Again, a good salesman could close 10 times that many.
So the question isn't if we can do this. I don't think anyone who reads this would feel powerless to get 3 or 4 people out of a room of 10 who already like and believe in what they’re “selling” to go ahead and “buy” it. Hell, even I could do that, and I'm probably one of the worst salespeople you could meet.
So what's my plan? How are we going to get from here to there?
You're a bit late on the draw, actually. You’re challenging this cow not only after the barn door’s been shut behind her but she’s well across the pasture. We're already on the way there, but maybe you didn’t notice because the revolution is not being televised. It’s been working away the whole time you were arguing that it couldn’t.
But since you asked, here's just one little sand grain you could easily act on and, once you realized it’s a zero risk proposition, you’d probably love doing...
(I promise, you’ll feel incredible when it’s done, like you might not have since you were a kid. And by the way, those rhetorical show-stoppers who presumed I don’t have a plan are in for a reality check, lol. One plan? Hell, I gotta million of ‘em! I just haven’t thought of them all yet... )
In France, on each paycheck stub, employees receive an itemized accounting of where the taxes deducted from their wages will go. Take a look:

This short clip comparing French to American income taxation is well worth the minute and 44 second watch. Take a look. You think you pay less in taxes than “socialist” countries? Only because American marketing chicanery repackaged and rebranded them as something else, and we fools all fell for it. No, we pay far more than the French and get far less for it. Check it out.
The French know where their tax money goes before it goes there. Americans don't know before, nor after, nor ever, really, except in the most general, vague ways -- so general and vague that gargantuan cracks lie hidden in the fog, abysses into which the military and other government branches have simply "lost" or "misplaced" trillions of dollars of our tax money. Woops -- there it goes! With impunity. No repurcussions. Not even much visible outrage. Everyone knows it wasn’t lost or misplaced. Some know where every single dollar ended up, because they were the ones who got them.
Why not next tax time include a letter putting the IRS and the US government at large on notice that the carte blanche halcyon of wanton spending in flagrant disregard of the most basic principles of trust is over? Tell them we want clear, transparent accounting of where our money will go beforehand. Like the French already get.
This isn't tax reform. It's not even a demand that the funds be used differently. No, nothing so momentous as that -- not yet. It's just the simplest form of basic honesty you’d expect from anyone who wants you to entrust them with some of your hard-earned income: Just tell me what the fuck you're going to do with it!
If the government can't tell us -- or let's be real here, because they certainly can tell us but they refuse to -- then the government does not demonstrate even the slightest and easiest bit of competence that we should require as the least and first step towards the most meager, minimal justification for entrusting them with our hard-earned income, something that even five-year-olds can manage when you hand over a couple quarters at their lemonade stands (if the local authorities haven't already outlawed them in your area, that is.)
Think about a Mafia protection racket in Chicago’s South Side. Then think about the car dealership you might have bought your last car from. Think about what’s involved: when you pay; what you know when you pay; what you get for what you paid; and how it compares with what you expected. Now think about the IRS. Which scenario does American income taxing most closely resemble?
Next time you file your tax return, put Uncle Sam on notice. Give the Feds one year to get their friggin’ act together and start telling us where they’re going to squand... er... spend our tax money, on what projects and products, and for what purposes. Tell them when a year is up, if they haven't demonstrated even this small, simple bit of trustworthiness, you won’t give them any more money. Simple as that. Do the same for the state, county and city racketeers, too.
Taxpayers are the only class bound by contracts whose terms aren’t just unknown both to them and the government -- they have yet to be decided and will be set without their knowledge or input. Try buying your next home like that. Sellers and agents will kill to “serve” you.
Now, before sirens and aaaaWOOOGaaa, aaaWOOOGaaa horns start wailing in your head, consider that there's nothing dangerous about sending the IRS a letter. You haven't made an illegal threat or done anything that they can take action against you for. You'd have to actually not pay before they could act against you. Maybe it’s illegal to not pay taxes -- and that’s becoming less and less clear, by the way -- but it’s not illegal (yet) to threaten not to pay them. And next year when they (probably) will not have done diddly to clean up their extortion act, you’re still not on anyone’s hook but your own. You can follow through and start withholding your withholding -- just up your W-4 allowances, which is perfectly legal, and if 10 or less won’t even raise an eyebrow, then put that money you didn’t loan to the IRS interest-free into your savings account to earn you a bit of interest. You can always send it in at tax time, no harm, no foul -- minus the interest you made instead of Uncle Sam getting it. Or you can change your mind and give your dear old Uncle another year of grace, out of the goodness of your heart, with yet another letter -- except it won't be just you and a few friends that second year, but a lot more people, because you and your few friends incepted at least one other person each day for 365 days since your last letter.
See how this works? I’m sure you could come up with even a better way to do it. I came up with this plan after only a little bit of cursory creative thinking. Other far brighter and more knowledgeable people could kill it, if they tried. But even if all we’ve got is a half-assed plan, it doesn’t matter. Every one of those letters to the IRS and other agencies legally must receive a response. That alone might bring them to their knees. The grains of sand will pile up, regardless. What matters, rock bottom, is what we want. That registers regardless how smart or dumb our plan to get it might be.
Maybe it will take 7 years and 7 letters from scads of us before the authorities realize they're up against an emerging mountain, but I doubt it. Politicians and and legislators are far too opinion-sensitive. They are literally puppets on our strings -- but for some stupid, inexplicable reason, we’re terrified to pull. Apathy, indifference and laziness don’t account for it. It doesn’t feel like those.
It feels like acquiescence to intimidation.
So grow a goddamn pair and get to work.
This shit’s easy, no-risk, and above all fun! You can’t see that just sitting there, but you’ll see as soon as you do it.
All it will take is you and me sending a few letters and spreading the word.
But if you're not willing to do even that, then you deserve everything you're getting now and are going to get, which won't be pretty, because the architects and shakers and movers of this class war (which Warren Buffet openly admits, bragging, “My class has won!” and, “It's been a rout!”) aren't going to just sit down and do nothing.