What are the Big Problems?
@dredmorbius How big?
The Universe may have enough matter for a Big Crunch, or too little causing a Heat Death. Either end is unpleasant. Stable state seems unlikely.
Earth is temporarily infected with too many Humans. Self-correcting problem, and ultimately the Sun will burn them off, but they might escape and spread, harming more biospheres. Or Humans/post-Human AIs could stop being dicks, which is fine, too.
I'm not starving, but I'm peckish.
@mdhughes That's an interesting one, though I'd suggest it's a bit out of scope for most people.
I'd suggest a problem is one that should or could be addressed (studied, resolved, mitigated, remedied, prepared for) within, say, some current planning cycle: year, decade, generation, lifetime.
@mdhughes So, you're addressing the semantics and ontology of just what "big problems" are, which is to say, what is a _problem_?
I frequently turn to etymology as a guide. Mind, not a _definition_, but as a hint as to what understanding has been. And we find:
a difficult question proposed for solution, from Greek problema "a task, that which is proposed, a question;" ultimately proballein "propose," pro "forward" (PIE root *per- (1) "forward") + ballein "to throw"
@mdhughes The question of heat death of the universe ultimately isn't _solvable_ (we can't avoid that), though forming a proper _model_ of that does matter, somewhat.
I prefer to look at degrees of freedom within some bounded space or sphere of influence. Strongly guided by a definition from sailing:
The Art of ship handling involves the effective use of forces under control to overcome the effect of forces not under control.
-- Charles H. Cotter
That also defines my ontology.
@mdhughes If *all* the forces are not under control, then there is no problem, there is an inevitability.
If all of the forces *are* under control, there is no problem, there is only will.
If forces under control *cannot* overcome those not, again, what exists is an inevitability.
Where there *is* the option of influence *and* some scope of control, you have a Problem.
The next question is what "big" is.
Lunch is not a Big Problem.
A Big Problem is one that is _not_ readily tackled.
@mdhughes A Big Problem would tend to be one that:
1. Involves multiple parties. People, organisations, institutions, models, disciplines, countries, belief systems.
2. Involves major inputs or resources. Time, money, material, energy, understanding, coordination.
3. Has a large and probable consequence. This distinguishes from butterfly effects, which are large, but cannot be probabalistically addressed.
There should be some rough ordering of Big Problems based on these criteria.
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