TED Conversations

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 24 2013: I'd take make this view with a broad brush. We can solve big problems with our technology but I believe the problem lies in the values and the heart of how we define business and ourselves, 'the pursuit of profit'. By definition a business cannot exist without supporting itself (unless with subsidisation from government, another issue). The aim is to produce a monetary reward and this is seen as success.

    But wait, aren't we intelligent and open enough by now to realise 'success' should be something that increases quality of life and happiness? Betterment for all? If by the parameters that we measure success by are changed, then perhaps the chances for collaboration and problem solving can increase. Picking up on Allan's point (below) he is quite right, there is "a thick fog of technology, administrative procedures, lawsuits, health and safety legislation and politics" that also stand in out way.

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