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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 13 2013: The world is not made to be a perfect place; even if all matter are perfect, what about humanity?
    As Jedrek has wisely put it, we solve a few problems and create dozens more. Sometimes increase in knowledge does not help; what is the use of knowledge if it brings misery and pain? Is the motive of our quest for knowledge really pure?

    In most cases, we cant solve big problems because humanity's inhumanity to each other is a big problem.
    • Feb 14 2013: Correct
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      Feb 19 2013: -Namaste
      What would perfection look like? Who is to say something is perfect or not? I wish I could answer that, but I can not. We are connected only in life and not in mind so those are answers you must find. I think that the fundamental "problems" with the world have fundamental roots that affect the entirety of our civilization. It is the ego and separation of each individual from the true existence we call life that creates the idea of a problem. So many scientific insights have been discovered in complex systems and emergence. Quantum Physics show the power of unity through sub atomic particles and their existence. The very glue that holds our true reality together is the same energy as your mind. Our thoughts are the most precious thing we have in conjunction with our lives, and yet we deny their exploration for all humans, and limit creativity to the privileged. I don't think we have any real problems, just some very difficult solutions. It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change. -Charles Darwin
      We need to change our fixation with material things and allow a introspective look at life. That is the start of progressive education in my mind. Have kids explore their ideas and share them with others. Right and wrong is all relative to a persons experience. So if a child is out experiencing all of the possibilities. Unique perspectives can shine and flourish. I feel the pursuit of happiness and contribution to life itself should be a higher priority than the fabricated system of monetary wealth.

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