We Are Living Out the Consequences of Short-Term Thinking

Our problems have gotten worse and they’re getting worse faster and faster because that’s the nature of exponential growth.

We Are Living Out the Consequences of Short-Term Thinking

When I was young, I was a lawyer at the Office of Technology Assessment of the U.S. Congress that used to be the Science Advisory Office of the Congress, but it was abolished by Newt Gingrich, interestingly, in the Republican revolution of 1995. 


However, when I was there, I was in the office called R&D Policies and Priorities.  This was the long-term future office.  So we were supposed to think about, what were the R&D, research and development needs of the United States for the long term.  Well, how long did we think?  The longest anybody ever thought was 30 years.  And I can say today that those 30 years have passed. 

And every problem that we talked about then - we talked about the unsustainability of the healthcare system, we talked about oil running out, we talked about global warming - we knew all of this in the ‘70’s.  Nothing has been solved and those problems have gotten worse and they’re getting worse faster and faster because that’s the nature of exponential growth.

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Live on Thursday: Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live this Thursday at 1pm ET.

Big Think LIVE

Add event to your calendar

AppleGoogleOffice 365OutlookOutlook.comYahoo


Keep reading Show less

Physicists solve a 140-year-old mystery

Scientists discover the inner workings of an effect that will lead to a new generation of devices.

Carrier-resolved photo-Hall effect.

Credit: IBM
Surprising Science
  • Researchers discover a method of extracting previously unavailable information from superconductors.
  • The study builds on a 19th-century discovery by physicist Edward Hall.
  • The research promises to lead to a new generation of semiconductor materials and devices.
Keep reading Show less

Does forgetting a name or word mean that I have dementia?

The number of people with dementia is expected to triple by 2060.

Photo by Connor Wang on Unsplash
Mind & Brain
The number of cases of dementia in the U.S. is rising as baby boomers age, raising questions for boomers themselves and also for their families, caregivers and society.
Keep reading Show less

New Hubble images add to the dark matter puzzle

The images and our best computer models don't agree.

Surprising Science
  • Scientists can detect the gravitational effects of invisible dark matter.
  • Dark matter causes visual distortions of what's behind it.
  • The greater the distortion, the greater the amount of dark matter. Maybe.
  • Keep reading Show less
    Culture & Religion

    Did our early ancestors boil their food in hot springs?

    Scientists have found evidence of hot springs near sites where ancient hominids settled, long before the control of fire.

    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast