Cover of MIT Technology Review's November 2012 issue

Link: Why We Can't Solve Big Problems - MIT Technology Review

The article that is featured on MIT TR's cover for this month very much aligns with my thinking about innovation. We are not innovating at the level that humanity did in the not-so-distant past. We are working on short-term ideas that are only incrementally better than what was available previously rather than creating solutions that transform society. The major problems that humanity faces are widely acknowledged, but nobody is solving them adequately. The article argues that the reason we are not solving these large problems is because society both lacks the environment needed to develop and test ideas for these hard problems and we are using the wrong tools to solve problems. Furthermore, the challenges we face now are different from the ones in the past and require theoretical underpinnings that we are still developing — in short, these problems are much more complex.

One interesting idea that I took from the article is that not all problems are technological in nature — specifically the example given about Amartya Sen 's work which states that the cause of famine is not from an actual shortage in the food supply, but a problem with food distribution which is more likely caused by economic or political reasons rather than simply agricultural inefficiency.

In other news, I just found out that the magazine had decided to go digital first in June.