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 27 2013: This question can be quite complex as it can also be simple. We'll keep it simple. There are lots of things to consider and each expert can bring its field to provide an answer. Firsthand let's consider the main reasons to our popular and educated sense. There's able to solve and how to be able to solve and yet these two are possible only if we are free from constraints: money, people, vision, knowledge ... in fact whatever (which is impossible). We can have a free mind but we don't live in an absolute world. Indeed if only we could now envisage things in such a world ... we definitely cannot. Here I come to our way of thinking. In fact the very concept of thinking is disturbing in the sense that in whatever reasons you've come to understand the one next to you (language) you're limited to this framework - the big framework, the world we are set in ... not the one we live in. Yet we 'understand' - believe as we are told I would say but we need to come to understand shall I say now. Because we analyze from what we know and not from what can be conceived (imagination). Actually we know all of this but we inherently refuse to commit. In fact I think the best answers to this are not really ideas in my sense if you catch it but just the result of minds of different experience rotating in their own way around the same fact ... like me.
    PS - I've just read the big bold question and answer it as I feel. Now I shall have a look at the article.

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