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Danny Zhao

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Do "solutions" create more problems then they solve?

Identifying an issue, and solving it - our urges to solve current issues underpins most of the TED talks which I have seen. However, does our "solutions" create more problems then it solve? For example - although the basic principals of a market economy attempted to address the issue of scarcity, at the same time it exacerbates the problem of inequality (illustrated in Michael Sandel's recent talk).

Its acknowledged that the urge to solve problems lay in our human nature to pursue for a better life. The question is, does these "solutions" help us to be better off? Can the continual process of problem-solving lead us towards a "perfect" life, or have we simply been walking around in circles?

Topics: philosophy
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    Oct 23 2013: Hi Danny....good question:>)

    I believe solutions may create DIFFERENT challenges, which may lead us to more creative solutions, so I do not perceive "problems", but rather, "challenges". As an engineer buddy of mine often says....."it's not a problem, it's a feature"....a stimulant to more creative solutions:>)

    I agree with you that "the urge to solve problems lay in our human nature to pursue for a better life."

    That being said, I believe that as we evolve as humans, we will continue to seek solutions, which may create unforeseen challenges in the future. I believe the continual process of problem solving is part of the evolutionary process. If we ever think life is "perfect" as it is, we may have stopped exploring, and with the curiosity and creativity in our world, I don't honestly think/feel that is going to happen:>)

    Welcome to TED conversations Danny:>)
    • Oct 23 2013: Thank you for your reply and welcome Colleen:)

      I admire your positive attitude. I think I should begin to see "problems" as "challenges" too, since these challenges to an extend give our race a sense of purpose and a reason to be united.

      In fact, your reply lead me to think - does these "challenges" solve "issues" by themselves?! Climate change is a challenge but on the other hand as a global agenda it brings countries closer. Conflicts are ofcourse created but that is only a result of more frequent dialogues. Since it is a challenge that presented to every nation, it may improve international relations in the long run.
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        Oct 23 2013: Hi again Danny....thanks for your reply:>)

        We can use whatever words we choose, and to me, "problem" paints a picture that is a difficult struggle. Challenge, to me, means something like a "speed bump".....we can get around it with effort:>)

        You've already got the idea!!! YES......I believe the challenges contribute to solving the issues.....well said.....GREAT examples!!!!
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    B Ross

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    Oct 24 2013: I think that problems/solutions are never created or destroyed. The only thing that changes is our awareness of these. With that said, it is, more frequently than not, better to become more aware.
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    Oct 23 2013: Hi Danny,
    When the power of the people is released from the shackles of tyranny-by-bureaucracy, you will be amazed at the ingenuity, creativity and collective ability of ordinary people to get things done and solve all manner of problems.
    On the other hand, maybe we already have that power.
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    Oct 23 2013: An interesting question and one eminently worthy of human curiosity. That is to say, human beings are driven to know 'stuff'. What's on the other side of the mountain? If no one is there, does a tree falling in the forest make a sound? What would happen if I .....? This is why The Quest is often at the apex in our story telling efforts.

    In fact, solving problems and desiring ever more knowledge is what our brains are best designed for. And ever since we developed a written language we have been obsessed with the acquisition, accumulation and dissemination of that knowledge for future generations who are expected to carry on this noble enterprise indefinitely.

    And yes, solutions can often expose or even create more problems, perhaps even occasionally more problems than they solve. But that is simply the price of our innate curiosity because the more we know the more we find we need to know.

    In the example you offer above, the solution may well lie in first acknowledging that "free market" practices and economic "equality" are incompatible. They cannot co-exist as is in the same system. How then to resolve this conflict or needs and purposes? To expand on this example a bit further here is another "solution" that I believe would go a long way to creating greater balance between the two interests, and even a potentially improved co-existence.

    The idea that appeals to me is to provide every citizen with a Basic and Guaranteed Income, An idea that is gaining ever greater popularity every year. Here's a link to an international group
    http://www.basicincome.org/bien/
    I presented a paper to a few years back and an affiliate
    http://www.cwp-csp.ca/
    which I support here in Canada. .

    Yes, it may cause more problems that will need to be addressed and I have every confidence that we are more than capable of moving ever forward in improvements. .
  • Oct 23 2013: I would say yes - solutions tend to cause other problems - These problems can be caused by long term results that we did not understand or we did not understand the relationship of things.
  • Oct 22 2013: The beauty of the nature is that , it has created two types of creatures one the problem creators and the other the problem solvers.The beautifull thing is that the problem creators are also problem solvers and the problem solvers are also the problem creators.Both of them mutually help each other.It is the interaction,interplay and struggle between the problem creators and problem solvers which makes the vehicle of life move continously and endlessly.

    Its an infinite chain of problems and solutions and sometimes its a merry go round of problems and solutions.What is percieved as a solution is also problem in itself.

    Proverty is a problem , To solve the problem of poverty people suggest that educate poor people , so some people engage in educating the poor problem.Now when the poor people get educated then again a new problem is created the problem of employment. And to solve he problem of employment new industries and business have to be established.When new industries and business are established then again a new problem is created which is related to the consumption of products and services produced out of these industries and businesses. Then for the consumption of the products and services the bank gives the loan to the people so that they can buy products and services.Some people defalut in bank loans then again a new problem is created . To solve that problem the bank files the suit against the defaulters .. .. and the story goes on and on ....

    With new Industries and business the problem of pollution is created . Uttimately leading to the complex web of problem solution problem soltuion and solution problem problem .....
  • Oct 21 2013: No. Good solutions solve problems.

    Part of finding solutions to complex problems involves breaking them down to solvable parts. There is also often risk in providing solutions that have not been tested or proven to be good solutions in a controlled environment before being deployed.

    To not try and solve a problem dooms those faced with the problem to learn to live with it. It is possible that the solution is worse than the problem. Ideally they can be weighed against each other by those living with the problem to determine the best course of action.

    The idea that you are taking action to try and solve a problem might give you hope, where living with problem you think cannot be solved might be depressing or frustrating.
    • Oct 22 2013: Thank you very much for your reply Robert:)

      I agree with you that to not try and solve a problem meant that those faced with the problem to learn to live with it, and therefore in our hope for a better life we ought to solve these issues.

      Certainly there are some solutions better than others - TED.com is full of resourceful, creative people providing good solutions. However despite the possibility of solving the identified problems, solutions seems to trigger the formation of new issues. Its like medicine - they may be effective against certain disease but they also have side effects. Anti-biotics was a great solution against bacterial infections, but later researchers also discovered that the prevalent use of anti-biotics have caused stronger bacteria which are antibiotics-resistent to grow in population.

      The example of the antibiotics is a symbolic one. I am wondering whether solutions can always cause issues adjacent to it to emerge - like a butterfly effect. The invention of the internet led to greater distribution of information and made possible our conversation at this very moment. However at the same time it raise the issue of personal privacy, addiction, ciber crime, etc.
  • Nov 18 2013: Thanks for asking - I was recently thinking about this.
    I was thinking we only see things from a narrow perspective, and want a solution ASAP, (also, in the political-givings, we usually want the lunch to be free). But if we relax a little and take a little more time to readjust our view, (which is hard), maybe take into consideration how others are seeing things, maybe by the time we're ready to act we can do-so with wisdom, (which may be simply to change ourselves). This leadds me to an answer to your question, "...does these 'solutions' help us to be better off?" I think I'm finding that inner solutions, (changing my perspective), is much better at helping.
    Some say, "How you see a problem IS the problem."
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    Nov 13 2013: It is my understanding, after reading and considering various suggestions by some current quantum physicist, that every thought, emotion and action creates entire universes. This 'new' perspective is very similar to some ages-old Eastern philosophies.
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    Nov 4 2013: Danny, in your original question "Do 'solutions' create more problems THEN they solve?", please change THEN to THAN.

    Now to your question: a problem is only the first rung on a ladder. The solution (which may spur more creative solutions) is just the next rung on the ladder ... and that ladder might be an extension ladder or a step stool. It all depends on the significance of the problem. Personally, I believe problems give an active mind exercise.
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    Oct 23 2013: Overcoming the Problem in short term is OK but in long term; Solution and Problem Go hand in hand.
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    Oct 23 2013: .

    The problem of inequality is caused
    by solving the scarcity of invalid (harmful) happiness.
  • MR T

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    Oct 22 2013: Sure, if they are technological solutions
  • Oct 22 2013: solutions are human ... nothing human is perfect .
    besides in general that s how life goes we solve an issue another comes out we just need to know how to face it ...
  • Oct 22 2013: It is a matter on iterating on the current solution from different perspectives, till you experience a solution that works for you.

    You can have many solutions for a problem, but it does not mean the first one will be the one that will make the difference.
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    Oct 22 2013: when we say problems for solving ,it's like to say thinking and choosing the best solution ,when we say the best solution with our free will ,it's like we say it depends about who we're in real and even the best it depends about our faiths and principals ,when we look at the real world we can result directly that we didn't understand yet how to find the good solutions for we have all good life and i didn't said perfect life ,because the dreams still very far from the perfection....
  • Oct 22 2013: That depends on the level of understanding of the problem, if you fully understand a problem then the solution will certainly solve the problem without creating more, however a poor understanding of the problem will of course be the source of incomplete or erroneous solutions, which will eventually create more problems. Another factor may be the lack of resources, if you try to solve a problem but don't have the resources to implement a full solution you are in a clear path for generating more problems. But the real concern should be the size, a solution for a big problem that generates a few small problems may be a good deal, while a solution for a small problem that generates one or more big problems is obviously a bad deal.