Problem solving and the human condition

In Star Trek TNG, in the episode “Attached”, Picard says “There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it’s just a matter of finding it.” In many respects his comment is not at all far-fetched – even a problem that seems unsolvable will someday be solved by someone, somewhere. Five hundred years ago, it is unlikely anyone ever thought ships would be powered by anything but wind, or that humans would one day be able to fly in metal birds. Many things have been invented in the past 500 years. Some have been good, and others not so good, especially as far as the planet is concerned.

The problems we face in the world today are not trivial, but neither are they unsolvable. Our technology is evolving to the point where we may be able to rein in some of the effects of climate change, but there is no doubt we cannot stop it. We could use some of our technologies to clean up the planet of plastic, or indeed reduce the amount of CO2 we pump into the air, but we seem more inclined to worry about the next iPhone. Average humans have become detached from our planet, with little regard to maintaining any sort of environmental balance.

In some ways we have to wind back our lives. This means reducing the amount of things we buy, and manufacturing things that last, like we use to do in the days before the “throw-away” society. We need to advance technologies such as using enzymes to eat plastic. We have to learn to produce food locally again, with less reliance on food from far places. Humans can change the way we live, it’s a matter of whether or not we actually want to.


2 thoughts on “Problem solving and the human condition

  1. Change is happening, but it’s incremental and, inevitably, very slow, because the positive effect individuals can have is small beside the effect the large polluters can have, and they are notoriously slow to change because of, ya know, capitalism.

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