Challenges facing humanity: 9 October 2017


The OAD goal of this brainstorming session was to find potential projects or areas of overlap where astronomy (or its related tools and skills) could contribute to development. Participants were asked to write down the biggest challenge facing the world. One could broadly categorise the challenges into:

  • Education, Data & Science Literacy
  • Inequality
  • Poverty & Hunger
  • Climate Change
  • Disempowered citizenry
  • Intolerance
  • Corruption
  • Antibiotic resistance
  • Safety and security
  • Access to resources

We then split into groups to focus on 3 of these topics

  1. inequality
  2. fake news + education
  3. access to resources

The outcomes of the brainstorming session could be roughly divided into these three categories:

  1. the value of astronomy and the meaning of development
  2. one of the advantages of astronomy is that it allows for big picture thinking
  3. astronomy may be a useful way to promote empathy, and a useful tool for bringing diverse people into a conversation
  4. there is probably no clear meaning of development, and different people have different interpretations
  5. the sharing and co-creation of knowledge could be explored in many different scenarios

More pragmatic suggestions or actions:

  • tackle the fake news problem by focussing on astrology (see this link for Fake news course on Coursera)
  • improvement of future brainstorming sessions
  • realise that figuring out the problems is just as valuable as working on solutions
  • value could be added by including participants from a wider disciplinary background
  • in future, topics could be more focused with preparatory reading or engagement

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