How Innovation Can Soften Extreme Weather (And Our Other Pressing Problems)

Author: Notre Dame ESTEEM

(CLICK IMAGE TO VIEW JASON PONTIN'S TED Talk, "Can Technology Solve Our Big Problems?")

Whenever a disaster strikes, such as the extreme weather experienced by the Phillipines last week and now the American midwest this week, it always prompts the question: what could the right technology have prevented? Could we have had better buildings? Smarter land use? What, exactly, are our great thinkers and vast resources building that will improve the world?

In a Ted talk delivered in Long Beach, California in February, 2013, Jason Pontin, editor-in-chief of the MIT Technology Review, declares up front that “We used to solve big problems,” insinuating that in the 21st century we have lost the ability to do so. “Blithe optimism about technology’s powers has evaporated as big problems we had imagined technology would solve,” he says,  “such as going to Mars, creating cleaner energy, curing cancer, or feeding the world have come to seem intractably hard.”

In addition, he further elaborates, whereas technology was, in the past, utilized as a means, or simply an attempt, to solve these problems, in this new century, technology and those who are charged with developing it, have instead resorted to a preoccupation with trivial apps and noisy distractions. “You promised me Mars colonies, instead I got Facebook,” the latest cover of the MIT Technology Review sardonically declares.

We have to ask ourselves then, as entrepreneurs, what is our responsibility, in a world filled with big (nay, massive) problems, to try and make the world a better place? Certainly, in some small ways, we are still make progress in creating a better future for everyone, but can we do more? Is it enough to just make money in our business ventures or must we strive for something more?

Let us know what you think in the comments.