Difficult Problems are problems that human beings face today and will face in the future and that are difficult to recognize, to understand, and to solve. They are difficult to recognize because we tend not to think in such a radical way as is required by Difficult Problems, because we often believe we already have a solutions for them, and because we tend to confuse reality as it is with what we would like it to be. They are difficult to understand because they are the result of a multiplicity of interacting causes and factors that go beyond our cognitive capacities. They are difficult to solve because they require radical changes in the society, in the economic system, in our life, and in our minds.

 

Difficult Problems are problems for all human beings who live on the Earth today. Problems that are specific to one particular country or one particular part of the world are not Difficult Problems. Are Difficult Problems political? It depends on what is meant by “political”. If “political” refers to the political system, the answer is No because politicians tend to ignore Difficult Problems and are not equipped to deal with them. If “political” refers to the “polis” (in Greek, the “city”), that is, to all the members of a community - and, in fact, to all the members of the human community - the answer is Yes. They are the most important political problems.

 

Difficult Problems are the problems of the future. The future - whether we like or not - will necessarily be different from the present. Therefore, Difficult Problems require radically new ways of thinking because, as Albert Einstein said, “the problems that exist in the world today cannot be solved by the level of thinking that created them”.However, the ancient god that must guide our search is the Roman god Janus who had two faces, one looking to the past and the other to the future. Difficult Problems are the problems of the future but they have a long past.

 

To recognize, understand, and solve Difficult Problems requires the tools of science, where science is to distinguish what reality is from what we would like it to be and to propose explicit hypotheses that can be tested with objective data. Difficult Problems require the contribution of the sciences of human behaviour and human societies, and even those that seem to be in the exclusive province of the natural sciences and their technologies, such as those that concern the environment, energy, transport, use of territory, use of natural resources, have important behavioural and social components. This is another reason why Difficult Problems are difficult because the sciences of human behaviour and of human societies are much less advanced than the sciences of nature and they need to change radically if they must help us to identify, understand, and solve Difficult Problems. These are some of changes:

 

(1) Give as little weight as possible to the divisions among the different scientific disciplines, both those among the behavioural and social sciences - psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, political science, and history - and those between the behavioural/social sciences and the natural sciences - physics, chemistry, and biology.

 

(2) Keep reality as it is and reality as you would like to be clearly separated

 

(3) Try to understand and explain human behaviour and human societies by constructing computer simulations that reproduce human behaviour and human societies.

 

(4) Use these simulations as laboratories to experiment with possible solutions to Difficult Problems and to construct “non-utopian utopias”.

 

Science and technology can help us to understand Difficult Problems and, perhaps, to solve them. But Difficult Problems require the contribution not only of scientists but of all citizens. Computer simulations can be transformed into digital environments by interacting with which everyone can understand Difficult Problems and propose and evaluate possible solutions to them.

 

Difficult Problems remain difficult problems. But, according to the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, “If you do not hope for what cannot be hoped for, you won’t find it”. 

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