Why can’t we solve humanities problems?

Why can’t someone bring together all our best engineers to create a super fuel efficient vehicle, say 100+ MPG?

-My dad

Well, that’s not how it works.

The world currently isn’t setup to solve challenges in that way. There is no absolute authority. Most of the engineering successes are the result of economic impact. As engineers create innovations, companies make more money and can afford more engineers. The challenges that society is working on are brainstormed by entrepreneurs, R&D teams, and government labs, but what gets implemented, iterated and refined is largely based on the consumer preferences. That’s why it doesn’t work the way my father asked. Consumers don’t see value in 100+ MPG vehicle if the fuel savings aren’t enough to offset the vehicle costs.

However, the interconnection brought to humanity by the invention of the internet creates an opportunity. This opportunity is currently most easily visible in the open source projects available in the IT world. Similar opportunities could exist in more hardware based designs if egos could get past who makes the money off the project and who is simply a contributor. The other challenge in this open source methodology is sharing of resources for development and funding for prototyping, an issue that isn’t prevalent in IT due to the same tools being used for their day job, and no material costs.

There is more to unpack here like how to gather people around issues, get funding, and open source some challenges that society should be thinking about. It’s my opinion that while the there is doom and gloom about automation and AI destroying jobs, there is also an opportunity that could come where we collectively as a society pool our intellectual capacities and labor to solve difficult challenges facing the world.

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