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 13 2013: Change is gradual. And like any big project, small steps must be taken to solve a problem as a whole. "Big Problems" are being solved gradually by individuals breaking down these big problems into smaller problems. For instance "How do cure cancer?" has been broken down into "How can we better detect cancer?" "How can we better improve treatments?" "How can we do more research to learn more about this disease?" We've been able to answer these questions so far through fundraising efforts, increasing research, and development of detection devices have been improving and valued over the past few years and will continue to be. If this strive for change continues then big problems will continue to grow smaller and we'll continue to provide solutions.

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