MIT Is Helping Solve Some of Humanity's Biggest Challenges

Making a difference through CrowdSolving.

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May 9 2017, 6:30pm

www.facebook.com/SolveMIT

This is an opinion piece by Alex Amouyel, Executive Director of Solve.

How will young people have jobs in the workforce of the future when automation is eliminating entire industries? How can we feed 7.5 billion people today without depleting our planet's resources? How will women fully participate in the economy when today they are excluded or marginalized in many societies, and when they are consistently underpaid? These are big challenges.

We live in a world that has made tremendous progress in the last century. Reducing extreme poverty, stopping kids from dying from preventable causes, helping children complete primary school. Despite the barrage of everyday headlines and voices saying some (or perhaps many) think it was better before -- trendlines do point to real progress.

Progress, however, is uneven. Economic inequality is worsening. Blue collar jobs in developed countries are being eliminated, and soon white collar jobs may very well be eliminated too -- sometimes by globalization, often by automation, machine learning, and other technologies.
There is perhaps little today to be certain about, but I am fairly certain about the following: We will not solve these challenges through government policies alone. We will not solve these challenges by simply letting the markets just be.

Stephen Hawking recently wrote, "We are at the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity. We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it."

I agree.

To tackle the big challenges the planet faces today, we need collective problem solving. Governments, corporations, and civil society need to work together across the globe. But, we also need to nurture and access far more brain power than we do today.

We have 7.5 billion people in the world today, but we underutilize the talent, ingenuity, and potential of most. This is perhaps the greatest inequality -- the one from which all the others stem.

We need to democratize problem-solving. It can't only be done in the R&D labs of big companies or along the Infinite Corridor of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, even if this type of problem-solving is as paramount as ever.

Enter: Solve, and what we call "CrowdSolving."

Solve is an initiative of MIT, an institution founded as a school of practical application, of problem-solving, of real entrepreneurial spirit. It is an institution that has always sought to tackle the big problems that billions of people face.

Solve issues specific challenges, and we ask for solutions from anyone around the world. Whether you're a social entrepreneur in Mozambique, a refugee in Jordan, a student at an Ivy-league college, or the richest man in the world, you can submit your solution to one of our challenges and get support from our community to improve your application. If you get selected as one of our Solvers, we'll act as a matchmaker to help you find resources across our ecosystem of members and partners to scale your project and transform the lives of thousands -- maybe even millions -- of people.

There is a lot of uncertainty in the world today. Many people -- despite wanting to help -- do not feel like they can contribute meaningfully. Solve is an opportunity to fix this, to roll up your sleeves and participate in collective problem-solving on a global scale. I will not pretend that Solve on its own is the silver bullet. But, I am fairly certain that Solve represents a step toward finding a whole lot of great innovations out there, innovations that exist in hearts, minds, garages, labs, schools, huts, and tents across the world.

We can, and must, do more to uncover this talent, and help good people work together to spread their ideas and change the world.

Solve's four new challenges on (1) Youth, Skills and the Workforce of the Future, (2) Brain Health, (3) Sustainable Urban Communities, and (4) Women and Technology are open for submission until August 1, 2017 at solve.mit.edu . Selected finalists will have the opportunity to pitch live in front of our judges -- MIT faculty and cross-sector leaders -- at Solve's Pitch Event, which will take place in New York during UN General Assembly Week from September 16-22. Those selected will become "Solvers."

Solvers can access Solve's ecosystem of members and partners -- corporations, foundations, impact investors, governments. and academics -- who can offer funding, mentorship, technology, and connections to help scale their solutions.