Without arguing against the points of view held by others, I would argue that the world's biggest problem is something much more basic. I would posit that the world's biggest problem is also it's most lucrative opportunity. In other words, if a person could solve it, the reward would be worth trillions.
By now I know that most of you who read this blog do not like suspense so I'll get right to it. The world's biggest problem, by far, is transportation. The ability to freely, quickly, and cheaply move from one place to another is THE constraining factor on happiness and productivity for anyone who lives and works in the modern world. Let's take a look at a few factors:
- In the United States, the average worker spends about 200 hours per year commuting to and from work. That's about the same as five standard work weeks. For many people in very populous areas, the commute time almost doubles to 375 hours per year.
- Making the arbitrary assumption that cars burn 2.1 gallons of gas per hour and there are 63 million commuters: (2.1)x(200)x(63,000,000) = 26.5 billion gallons of gas/year.
- Many people choose where they live based upon where they work. This means that the number of choices available to these workers is limited due to distance/commute constraints.
- Some very desirable areas to work, such as the Bay Area or New York City (for example), are unavailable to workers who live outside a given radius.
- Because of a lack of effective transportation workers are constrained to labor at companies within (generally) a 30 mile radius of their homes. This lack of mobility leads to social isolation of whole population groups.
- Cultural exchange between States (in the U.S.) and other countries is generally constrained. To travel more than a few hundred miles, costly and inconvenient options such as air travel must be used. Most people cannot travel this way regularly or at all. Europe and India, due to prevalent rail systems, are the exceptions.
- Due to a lack of mobility and interchange, great political and social differences develop over time. (Take a look at the differences between the Northern and Southern U.S. States dating back over 200 years)