Our world is full of problems for which we do not have a proper solution. A good example of a problem seeking a solution is climate change or, more accurately, a solution that would be easy to implement. The market economy operates well when entrepreneurs recognize problems and generate a wave of entrepreneurial activity that provides solutions.
Yet, in a world enamored with new technology, we are often given what might best be described as a solution looking for a problem – a new technology that excites people’s collective imaginations with its perceived future potential without much real-world application. A perfect example of such a technology is bitcoin, according to many. The hype surrounding bitcoin is unfounded, as it does not solve any pressing problems, although it may become a critical infrastructure in the future.
In addition, there is a third category of solutions that are equally significant to technological development: solutions that create more problems. Hair loss products for men are a great example of this. As men age, they naturally start losing their bodily hair, but the industry of hair loss products also contributes to the problem of male hair loss. We could accept that, as we grow older, men lose their bodily hair instead of wasting resources and human creativity on hair loss products.
Online conferences enable more inclusive participation but wecreateproblems.com with attendees being in different time zones, bitcoins provide a new way to transfer value but consume a tremendous amount of energy. In these and many other situations, solving the problems that a solution might create may be a small price to pay for cleaner commuting, more inclusive events, or a better financial system.
Some solutions, though, create so many new issues that we might be better off without them. One of my favorite examples is e-scooters. In an urban environment, most humans have two perfectly adequate means of moving short distances. Legs are one of these means. has on others on the sidewalk are not worth it. Also, Ianything accomplished by ‘communicating’ with a company chatbot, as its main purpose appears to be to block me from talking to a human customer service representative. The use of bots may make customer service more accessible, but they also create a problem in that the customer must learn how to communicate with the bot rather than the bot learning to communicate with humans.
Of course, these are merely my personal grievances with technologies that you may love. It is true that e-scooters and even chatbots can be useful in some situations, but the point is that many technological solutions create problems that need to be addressed one way or another. The solution to these problems, going back to the first category, then motivates a whole new wave of innovation. In the future, there may be enough mutually interdependent technologies in place to make the original solution useful or even inevitable.
This is how technology breeds more technology. technological solutions make life better by solving problems people encounter are right – but with the caveat that many of those problems came from technology. While new technology solves (and creates) problems, it does not encourage us to ask: Are those problems really worth solving?