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Hope on the horizon: Problem solving

MIT faculty and researchers offer their thoughts on potentially life-altering
technologies that lie just around the corner.

Ed Boyden

Benesse Career Development Professor
Asst. Professor, MIT Media Lab & Dept. of Biological Engineering

We humans are terrible at taking future problems seriously and solving them, especially those that present consequences more than a few days off. A great need is the ability to effectively solve problems when they are small, or at least before they become enormous threats. This problem is present at the personal, the community and the global level--whether it's dealing with personal diet and exercise and diabetes, or global climate change. Why are we so bad at anticipating, deciding and acting upon the prevention of problems in the future? One possibility is that we need to use our knowledge of the mind to engineer better information-handling tools and software, for visualizing, understanding and figuring out how to fix problems. We need to understand data and deal with problems at a higher level: Information, by itself, is not enough.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on May 21, 2008 (download PDF).

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