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Jason Pontin

Editor in Chief/Publisher, MIT's Technology Review


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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 14 2013: Hunger and poverty are no technical problems and in our todays 'global village' only caused by an unequal distribution of food and possessions and a general lack of empathy and 'imagination' of those on the bright or brighter side.

    Technology did not become a benchmark for itself in our societies, as it is subdued by the current rules of our economy, which, by their immanent nature, are counterproductive to innovation.

    So even problems which could already be solved by our current technology, aren't and the reasons for this are no technological ones. They usually stem from 'interests', which, at the end, are more and more boiling down to 'money' only.

    But I think you question isn't quite 'fair' ... :o)

    What about Polio, Smallpox, transplantation, water purification? Cardiac pacemaker, anaesthetics, antibiotics? Just a view decades ago, all of this could cause 'Big Problems', yet 'we' solved them, didn't we? :o) And there are many many more examples you could find if you just don't take all of what 'we' have for granted...

    Most 'Big Problems' are as well all relative and once 'cancer' get 'solved', another disease will take its place...

    Yet hunger is different and its cause not related to any missing technology!

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