It deservedly won a Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction last year and is perhaps one of the ultimate big picture connect-the-dots books available. The Ingenuity Gap: Can We Solve the Problems of the Future? by University of Toronto professor Thomas Homer-Dixon is a fantastic study of a world becoming too complex and too fast-paced to manage. The book does a remarkable job of collecting together an ecclectic array of poignant examples and then weaving them as one story about humanity and our understanding of the world we create. This is a look at ideas from 30,000-feet.
The challenges we face converge, intertwine, and often remain largely beyond our understanding. Most of us suspect that the “experts” don’t really know what’s going on and that as a species we’ve released forces that are neither managed nor manageable. This is the ingenuity gap, the critical gap between our need for ideas to solve complex problems and our actual supply of those ideas.
Unexpected connections among places and people, among macro and micro events, connections that we barely understand in their true dimensions, weave themselves around us. Most of us also sense that, just beyond our view, immense, uncomprehended, and unpredictable forces are operating, such as economic globalization, mass migrations, and changes in Earth’s climate. Sometimes these forces are visible; more often they flit like shadows through our consciousness and then disappear again, behind the haze of our day-to-day concerns.
When we look back from the year 2100, I fear we will see a period when our creations – technological, social, and ecological – outstripped our understanding and we lost control of our destiny. And we will think: if only – if only we had the ingenuity and will to choose a different course.