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.

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

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