The Problem with Problem Solving

The Problem with Problem Solving

Imagine you’re in a class or job where you’ve been given an assignment to solve a very complex problem. Not an impossible problem, but so far it has never been solved.
There are 19 other people in this class as well. Every day when you leave, your notes are destroyed, and your brain is wiped of everything you learned that day. The next day you come back again and start on trying to solve the problem from scratch.
To make matters even worse, every person in the class speaks a different language, and you are incentivized to complete the project without any collaboration (the reward is 20x more if you solve it on your own).
This is basically how I see progress in technology. It sounds crazy, but when you zoom out, you’ll see the correlations. I’m not talking about an exact situation like this (although my scenario sounds alot like what MI6 faced before WWII when they were up against Enigma), but it represents several problems that exist on a macro scale.
  1. The shortness of life. Often people work entire careers to make breakthroughs and are forced to stop at a critical point because of disease or death. Some of this information can be passed on, but huge momentum is often lost because wisdom comes with experience, not knowledge.
  2. Limitations in collaboration because of various barriers. This may be language, distance, or even the fact that you didn’t know someone else was working on the same problem.
  3. Financial or power incentive to block other people from progressing. Protecting IP at the cost of greater progress.

There are other problems as well, and even the ones I’ve listed here are extremely complex… but this is what I want to spend more time thinking about.

I believe the human race is facing some major problems that have solutions. Solutions that will be found eventually, but that could be found MUCH faster.

My current plan is to keep thinking about problem solving, and systems that could be used to improve the efficiency of solving major problems. Current technology makes this more feasible than ever before, but I still haven’t found great systems that allow for massive collaboration on massive problems.

I’ll try to post more as I make progress on this!

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