Ep. 11: The Problem With Solutions

When all our efforts to save the world are making things worse, it’s time to ask hard questions about the problems with our solutions.

Our modern age is filled with technological wonders from nuclear energy to 5g to blockchain and beyond. We can hack biology, modify the weather, and convert sunlight into electricity. Our technology allows us to dominate the world and, one day, we hope it will take us to conquer the stars. And yet, with each new technology we introduce, we find that their shining promise is dulled by myriad unintended consequences. All our solutions tend to cause new problems, forcing us to experiment with fraught new interventions with unpredictable outcomes.

History, and particularly modern history, is filled with examples of technological achievements which were eventually realized to cause more problems than they solved: DDT, osteoporosis drugs, nuclear energy, agent orange, electroshock therapy, etc… I wonder which technology we’ll realize is making things worse next? Maybe fluoride? 5G? Autonomous drones? Facial recognition software? AI?

Humanity is very impressed with its problem-solving capabilities; after all the ability to fashion tools and process cognitive thought ahead of our actions is really what separates us from the rest of the beasts -at least, according to the mythology of our history and science.

Yet when the “rubber meets the road” we actually have a terrible track record with technological solutions. Each new intervention seems to unintentionally upset some natural balance, creating more problems for us to solve.

In this time of encroaching “poly-crisis” we’re accelerating towards a confluence of critical failures in our technology in which we run out of resources, run low on energy, and succumb to the increasingly negative byproducts of our technological experimentation, like super bugs, endemic viruses, aggressive AIs, medically-induced injuries, and radioactive waste.

When all our solutions just create more problems, isn’t it time to pause and reflect on what we might be doing -and how the way we’re thinking- is part of the problem?

In this episode I take a hard look at the way our society solves problems (with technology), how technology fuels entropy, and explore alternative ways of thinking, knowing, and “living on a damaged planet”.

Mentioned In This Episode

BayoAkomolafe.com, “How do we respond to crisis?,”) (2022) 

BayoAkomolafe.com, A Slower Urgency,” (2022)

Harraway, Donna, Staying With The Trouble: Making Kin In The Chthuluscene,” (2016) Duke University Press

Gagliano, Monica, Thus Spoke The Plant,” (2018) North Atlantic Books

Graeber, David, Wengrow David, The Dawn Of Everything,: A New History Of Humanity” (2021) Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York

Sanford, Carol, The Regenerative Life,” (2010) John Murray Press

PharmaceuticalJournal.com, Antidepressant prescribing increases by 35% in six years,” (2022)

OurWorldInData.org, Number of people with anxiety disorders, World, 1990 to 2019,” (2019)

Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, Trends and variation in antidepressant prescribing in English primary care: a retrospective longitudinal study,” (2021)

ScienceDirect.com, Are mental health awareness efforts contributing to the rise in reported mental health problems? A call to test the prevalence inflation hypothesis,” (2023)  New Ideas in Psychology

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