It’s not true that we can’t solve big problems through technology; we can. We must. But all these elements must be present: political leaders and the public must care to solve a problem, our institutions must support its solution, it must really be a technological problem, and we must understand it.
The Apollo program, which has become a metaphor for technology’s capacity to solve big problems, met these criteria, but it is an irreproducible model for the future. This is not 1961: there is no galvanizing historical context akin to the Cold War, no likely politician who can heroize the difficult and dangerous, no body of engineers who yearn for the productive regimentation they had enjoyed in the military, and no popular faith in a science-fictional mythology such as exploring the solar system. Most of all, going to the moon was easy. It was only three days away. Arguably, it wasn’t even solving much of a problem. We are left alone with our day, and the solutions of the future will be harder won.
Why we can't solve big problems