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.
Generalistic and moderated instance.