By Alfredo Zolezzi
A few weeks ago we learned and celebrated an impressive historical event. Nine years after the start of one of the most ambitious NASA missions, and after traveling 4.8 billion kilometers, the New Horizons probe reached the most distant planet in our solar system: Pluto. Already in 2012 the Curiosity rover landed on Mars, where it still is exploring and sending information back to Earth.
These technological achievements are important and of particular significance when contrasted to what we see in our own planet. Of the nine planetary boundaries that humanity should not exceed to maintain and ensure global sustainability, we have already exceeded four – atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, rate of extinction of animal and plant species , land surface converted to farmlands, and nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations in land and marine ecosystems .
Without detracting from the achievements in the exploration of our solar system, I am amazed at the fact that these achievements came about from a vision, conceived decades ago, and with work that started when the technologies that would allow the Pluto journey that we celebrate today did not even exist.
How can we explain that the same minds and visionary authorities responsible for these achievements, related to the very continuity of the human species, are not equally bold in addressing the impoverished and under-served environments in which large numbers of the population of our planet lives in?
How is it possible that we are able to travel throughout our solar system without having yet solved problems such as the global access to clean water? As we explore other planets, a child dies every 21 seconds because of problems linked to the consumption of contaminated water.
This reality should not lead to point blame or generate futile debates. The time has come to rethink our execution model and use the exponential advance of science and technology to create solutions that, without compromising the view of future, address today the urgent challenges we face.
It has been proven that technology alone is not enough, technology must also have a heart – a common vision that allows solving our challenges based on integration and cooperation.
Alfredo Zolezzi is a Chilean born industrial designer and a leading expert and thinker on technology innovation. His life has been dedicated to innovation and in 2010 he established the Advanced Innovation Center ( AIC ), based in Viña del Mar, Chile. AIC is an enterprise engaged in the generation of disruptive innovations using the Integrated Objectives Model, combining resources from advanced science and industry. With the conviction that technical solutions are not sufficient by themselves, AIC combines technological and social innovations in order to generate high impact solutions – what AIC calls Meaningful Innovation . An example of this is the Plasma Water Sanitation System technology and its implementation program in underserved communities.