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Jason Pontin

Editor in Chief/Publisher, MIT's Technology Review

TEDCRED 100+

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"Why Can't We Solve Big Problems?"

I'll be giving a TED U Talk in Longbeach at the end of the month. I'll be asking "Why Can't We Solve Big Problems?" I think that blithe optimism about technology’s powers has evaporated as big problems that people had imagined technology would solve, such as hunger, poverty, malaria, climate change, cancer, and the diseases of old age, have come to seem intractably hard.

I'd love to know what the TED Community thinks our difficulties are - or, even if the idea is true at all.

Here's a URL to the story I wrote in MIT Technology Review on the subject: http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/429690/why-we-cant-solve-big-problems/

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  • Feb 13 2013: I admire your willingness to address the areas that have been largely ignored such as hunger, poverty, malaria, climate change, cancer, and the diseases of old age, have come to seem intractably hard.

    Hunger and poverty can be changed easily, its just that there is no political will. I am an Indian who was born in Kenya, and I noticed that the Israelis helped us learn farming in the desert and they did also set up a farm for the hungry and poor too. Once it was handed over to those who it was created for, the minister who was in charge of the area simply stole the money it was generating thereby destroying the farm.

    The leaders prefer the hungry stay hungry and poor so that they can attract donor aid that they simply steal and stash in Swiss bank accounts. The poor are used as bait to attract money and assistance that does not go to those who need it, last time the food purchased to feed the hungry was sold in the local markets and the starving and hungry simply died.

    Malaria can be solved using quinine, and there are many other methods to work it out.

    Climate change too can be worked upon, offering to re-afforest some countries shall work out well, in Kenya we only have 2-3% forest cover instead of having a 35% forest cover, making deals with foreign governments so as to be allowed to plant trees and maintain the forests.

    Cancer and old age diseases - might be a game for the pharmaceutical companies to make money with, imagine if the world were to be disease free or even a reduction of diseases by up to 30% itself would mean a huge reduction of profits, jobs, revenue... for the economy overall.

    So to reiterate the issues discussed it is the lack of political will to solve the most pressing problems. The solutions have existed but addressing them has not been the motive of many countries and society, I'm sure more than 80% of the worlds population would like to have a better world.

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