Sunday, March 3, 2024

Tackling our largest issues | MIT Know-how Assessment

We now have employed it to broadcast hateful rhetoric and divisive ideologies. We now have fine-tuned our machines to kill one another in ever better numbers and with ever extra effectivity. It’s our expertise that took the carbon from out of the bottom and put it within the sky. Our expertise that poisoned the water and the air, that made deserts out of forests, and that wiped whole species off the planet. 

Know-how is an engine for issues, for fixing them and for creating completely new ones—after which we perversely flip to even newer applied sciences to attempt to clear up these. On this problem, we step again from this cycle. We discover massive questions and exhausting issues and ask: What function can—and will—expertise play going ahead?

Our cowl is impressed by Douglas Predominant’s terrifying story on plastics. There’s an adage that claims every bit of plastic ever made nonetheless exists. Whereas that isn’t completely true, as Predominant vividly describes, it’s fairly darn shut. We’re not decreasing how a lot is made—exactly the other. Reuse is negligible. Recycling isn’t working. In the meantime, plastic is totally all over the place, and in completely every little thing, together with our personal our bodies. What are we going to do about it? 

AI epitomizes the typically fraught relationship we now have with expertise. It has the potential to massively profit society—and but it might trigger incalculable hurt if we get it improper. As its improvement races forward, Grace Huckins has written a strong, even poetic exploration of AI consciousness. What would it not take, and what would it not imply, for an AI to turn out to be aware? How would we all know? What would we owe it? 

David W. Brown takes on the problem of spacecraft design and the wrestle to make smaller, cheaper missions that may nonetheless inform us significant new issues concerning the photo voltaic system. If we’re going to take advantage of the assets we dedicate to house exploration, we’ll should grapple with the exhausting limits of physics—and assume exhausting about what we will, and need to, do.

A few of our hardest issues come all the way down to human nature, and our capability and typically outright want for battle. Social media and on-line communications are awful with trolling, disinformation, harassment, and hate speech. Katie Notopoulos argues that the answer for a lot of that is to finish our fixation with free providers and transfer to smaller, distributed platforms that put extra energy in customers’ fingers. 

One exhausting drawback most of us have probably confronted is the expertise of interacting with authorities providers on-line. A decade after the famously botched launch of, Tate Ryan-Mosley explores why it’s nonetheless so exhausting for the federal government to get tech proper. Her reporting takes us to New York Metropolis, which has had some method of success—partially by going with the bottom tech potential. 

And eventually, we requested among the smartest minds on the market what they think about the most important issues that aren’t getting sufficient consideration proper now. You’ll discover their responses, and lots of extra on-line at

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