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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  • Mar 9 2013: We keep trying to "solve" big problems with the tools or innovations that created them in the first place. When you say "we" I'm assuming you're talking about those of us that live under and adhere to the industrial model? If so, then why are we looking to those who have created the problem(s) instead of looking to those who have avoided these problems all along? Our society is built upon complex systems and we continue to add complexity with many of our solutions. Why aren't we looking at durable societies and simple living solutions? My guess is a sense of supremacy and arrogance. So we continue to ignore indigenous populations and refer to their way of life as primitive. Ignoring a way of life that humans successfully negotiated for the better part of two million years is something we simply can't comprehend....and for that we'll continue down the path of frustration and eventually devastation.

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