Grand Challenges

Society’s grand challenges are not a new phenomenon. They have always existed, but they have greatly evolved with time. Although the term “Grand Challenges” might seem daunting, it is important to remember that while these challenges are ambitious, at the same time they are also achievable (Tom Kalil). Thinking about the main issues that these challenges encompass, it can be hard to believe at times that these challenges will in fact be overcome. While things such as clean, affordable, reliable energy sources, high quality jobs and a cure for cancer, do not seem to be so out of reach they have stubbornly defied solution for quite sometime now (L. Branscomb). The key to making sure that these goals are achieved lie in the way we define them and measure our progress towards those ends. As White House’s Thomas Kalil states, it is critical that these challenges have measurable targets and a timeline for completion as well as a definition that is not too narrow.

When reading and thinking about these issues that humanity faces, the common belief seems to be that science is the solution. While I do not necessarily disagree, because ultimately I do believe science is going to be the thing that allows us to keep living our comfortable lifestyles while at the same time improving the world for all individuals, I believe science and education as a whole have to be done and taught from a different approach in order for more creativity and alternative thinking to enter the world of science. Mr. Branscomb argues that policy-promoting science needs to be more focused than just research and more creative than applied research, but I think it goes far beyond that. I believe our current education system is rather rigid and stiff and I do not think that it is conducive to the type of creative thinking we are going to need to overcome these challenges. I have faith that people will come together to find solutions and that furthermore they will be properly incentivized to do so, but I am worried that the solutions will not be as creative and innovative as we need them to be.

One last observation from this previous week’s discussion that left me rather disappointed was the fact that the MDGs did not include people with disabilities. Personally I was completely unaware of this, but given the fact that so many people live with disabilities, I cannot understand how they were “forgotten” by the entire international community. There might be more obstacles to achieving the set goals for the entire population but that is no excuse for entirely leaving them out. Just cause something is harder to achieve it does not mean you avoid it. I hope with time all of the SDGs will mention people with disabilities and that there will be major efforts to include them in all development projects.