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The worthier the problem, the hazier the understanding

They tell that one should always solve readily understandable problems. Problems that everyone can relate to.

Tell me, in a world of a 7+ billion people; how many readily recognized problems are out there which others haven’t been grappling with?

Almost all the people who can read this article don’t really have much unsolved readily recognized day-to-day problems. We are all the elite lot. Most of our readily recognized needs are met

It is only the really poor and deprived who still have readily recognized problems which nobody is really solving for them

Let me not digress to social issues on the kind of audience intellectuals ought to cater to.

Even we, the well-to-do, have many really tricky problems and worthy problems that have to be solved.

It is just that those worthy problems are really hard to be recognized as problems at all in the first place

In this article, I want to make this claim: A lot of us do not really get our hands wrapped around such problems because it is the nature of worthy problems to remain out of our perception.

I am assuming that of course one needs to strive first to solve really worthy problems. The solutions of which would improve life dramatically. I am sure everyone reading this would agree

Unfortunately, problem recognition is often considered to be synonymous with problem worthiness. If I can recognize and readily understand the problem, that means it is something worth the while

Worthy problems are not really seen around you. They don’t snuggle next to you and gnaw at you all the time.

Tell me honestly, is global warming really pushing next to you? (Worthy climate problem) Can you visualize the combined effect of harmful gossip about you that can gnaw on your life? (Worthy sociological problem) Can you visualize the way the genes inside your body is changing as it gets mauled by toxic chemicals (Worthy biological problem) There is a big list here; provided we clear up our thinking and capability to recognize such problems

Worthy problems stand at the horizon.

Each such problems have several cowardly villains with a lot of connected evil agendas, standing quite far away from you — once a while these villains sneak upto you, hurt you (and you may not even recognize the hurt) and then return back to the far horizon

Doctors have a word for this kind of damage. They call it morbidity. It can be far worse than mortality. Imagine someone dying in your house. Of course it would be a big tragedy. But then — however sad it may be — the family comes to terms with it and carries on with life.

But what if someone has a chronic, demanding illness — one that would sap on your time and energy? That is serious, insidious damage that would often veer your life to somewhere else

In fact, it is a widely used strategy in war and terrorism. Don’t kill. Just maim one family member so much that the entire family is occupied with the injured — often for months if not years together

Many chronic problems turn out to be worthy problems. But there are also worthy problems that do have acute presentation.

Imagine water pressure built on one side of a neglected dam. Politicians and media bickering lamely in the background on who should repair the old dam. It is surely a worthy problem to solve but nobody really does much about it because it so difficult to see why it is worthy.

One day when that dam bursts then there would be an acute crisis there

Solving worthy problems pose a double-whammy to those invested in finding solutions for them

Firstly the stakeholders need to acknowledge that they must put resources to find solution to these problems. Such problems are not really the cup of tea of those lot of investors and inventors who are looking for smart elevator pitches and glib ideas which were tried out earlier

Worthy problems deserves to be mulled over, and thought through carefully. All the villains standing on the far horizon must be carefully delineated and their characteristics documented. So problem recognition itself takes a lot of effort, money and time

Not at all the cup of tea of glib talking, exit-route motivated investors or smart, talented inventors who are hungrily wanting to be the next unicorn

Now for the double-whammy here — Once the problem indeed is recognized as worthy, the solution of these worthy problems usually require a dramatic approach. One that often surprises people, one that often makes even the most courageous of investors take a hesitant step back.

My life tells me that really worthy problems require you to put in an dramatic inflection into the growth curve of society. Just politely asking society to take baby steps of improvement did not fetch much good to society. Such mild approaches surely never solved worthy problems.

Take the abolishing of slavery. You can’t get that done by having nice meaningful conversations with cotton-field owners, incrementally improving the standards

Let me repeat: Society never really improved in little increment steps. To improve society meaningfully, it has to be taken kicking and screaming — sometimes with blood shed too — to take it to the next higher level of upliftment

Inventors incrementally tried to improve upon the bird and flapped artificial wings — only to fall flat. It is when the Wrights did something seemingly wrong, that humanity took flight. They did not copy what was existing but looked at the solution afresh; and went to the far horizon. They did not use flapping wings. Quite the opposite: Their design worked because it had a fixed wing.

Similarly, dawn of electrical lights happened due to the absence of air (to prevent combustion of the filament in the bulb) and not was being done earlier: The presence of air allowed the burning of the wick of the lamp and therefore, light.

In the world of architecture, I’ve been working for years together to solve a chronic, worthy problem which has many villains standing on the horizon. One main villain is the problem of a central modelling that architecture sorely needs — a modelling process that respects the design process right from early stages of designing, to construction and even usage.

If a central modelling system is not done appropriately, chronic issues will keep coming at us. Each would seem separate and disconnected. Such as energy, acoustics, natural lighting, and so on. In fact, they would all join hands to make an insidious worthy problem which humanity needs to kill. But nobody wants to recognize

For years, not many were willing to even recognize this to be a problem itself (I keep getting nice well-meaning advice such as “Why don’t you make it flap like that AutoCad or Sketchup bird?”)

I now sense that there is an end in sight: Lot of the pieces of the solution are now in place. TAD (The Architect’s Desktop) is a different kind of BIM (Building Information Modeling) software which I have used in my own practice for years.

It is 80 days since the time I launched the 6.x version free on the Indian Republic day this year — and the registrations are already 88. The pace of registration seems to be increasing

I just hope that the rest of the stakeholders can now step in and invest their time, effort and other resources into a truly deep and worthy problem in architecture

Take a look here http://www.teamtad.com

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TAD: The Architect’s Desktop

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TAD Master

TAD Master

TAD Master is currently Sabu Francis #architect #India — developer of a unique early stage #BIM (Building Information Modeler) See www.teamtad.com

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