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What are the World's Hardest Problems?

These problems were written down by Jay Zaveri of Social Capital.

In his own words: “The wonder of the world’s hardest problems is they're all meta problems that can be broken down into many sub-problems that are important questions themselves. The second thing is they don't have any preconceived solutions hidden in them. But there could many companies that might need to exist to solve each problem.” 

Sustainability + Human Development

  • Is the food we eat scalable, sustainable, healthy, nutritious and tasty? 

  • Is the air we breathe clean?

  • Is the water we drink pure?

  • Is there a way to produce energy that is relatively abundant, cheap and clean?

  • Is there a way to reverse or mitigate climate change?

  • Can we create a livable habitat on another planet?

  • Can we grow crops effectively by using small amounts of land?

  • Can we build sustainable power solutions that are clean?

  • Can we create biodegradable material for our everyday products?

  • Can we help break down trash and waste into natural safe material?

  • Can we build systems that provide humans with a fair and equitable means of compensation and a sense of purpose?


Technology Infrastructure +
Artificial Intelligence 

  • Is there a way to structure, pipe and manage data better?

  • Are there ways to improve productivity given the information overload and noise we have in our work communication?

  • Can we make access to information affordable?

  • Can we assist in critical machine to machine communication?

  • Can we make it easy to apply machine learning to all the complex problems we face?

  • How can we bring data science to help solve increasingly complex everyday problems?

  • Can we enable people who don’t know programming to build applications?

  • Can we print or manufacture products at the point of consumption?

  • Can we build smart and intelligent systems that will respond to human needs?

  • Can we educate people in small, continuous ways so they keep learning throughout their lives?


Transportation +
Urban Infrastructure

  • Is there a way to build better, cleaner cities?

  • Is there a way to build cheaper, affordable and comfortable homes and offices for all?

  • Can we build new transportation methods that enable us to take someone from point A -> B faster?

  • Can we allow people to be productive while they are being transported?

  • Can we find mid-range transportation that is convenient and has a better form factor?

  • Can we enable large fleets of cars to move around efficiently?

  • Can we transport goods in very inexpensive ways autonomously?

  • Can we find faster means for inter-continental transport that is cheap and affordable?

  • Can we build an engine that allows for 100X improvement in space transportation?

Healthcare + Life Sciences

  • Can we longitudinally study humans so we can predict when they will fall ill?

  • Can we catch people at risk for chronic diseases (COPD, CVD, Diabetes, HF, mental health, neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders, cancer) before they are at risk?

  • Can we improve the outcomes for people that suffer from chronic non-communicable disease (COPD, CVD, Diabetes, HF, mental health, neurological disorders, autoimmune disorders, cancer)?

  • Can we find ways of treating infections using new methods that are more cost effective and adaptive?

  • Is there a way to look at the whole genome of a human being and spot areas that could make them susceptible to disease?

  • Can we intervene non-invasively in critical conditions to bring better outcomes?

  • Can we detect disease through continuous non-invasive monitoring?

  • Can we help people live healthy elongated lives?


Digital Immersive Learning +
Ambient Computing

  • Can we build interfaces that respond to a multi-sensory input?

  • Can we build systems where users can feel or experience an environment?

  • Can we make knowledge available at the speed of thought?

  • Can we provide directions to computers based on thought?

  • Can we improve interfaces so we don’t lose the social fabric that has been so important to humanity’s development?

  • Can we educate humans in interesting ways so they learn to think in multi-disciplinary ways?

  • Can we allow machines to conceptually communicate with each other?

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