Solving the Social Sciences’ Hard Problems
This is an extract from a post originally published in Harvard Magazine.
Across all the disciplines of the social sciences—economics, history, anthropology, political science, sociology, and more—what are the hardest problems that need solving, and which are most worthy of time spent working on a solution?
Scholars from a range of disciplines presented their answers to this question in an April 10 symposium at Harvard.The discussion continues online, where visitors can rank the presenters’ problems in terms of importance and add their own problems to the list through the end of May.
The symposium, sponsored by the Indira Foundation (a Connecticut-based charitable organization that supports efforts in education, healthcare, and social welfare), was inspired by the work of the German mathematician David Hilbert, who in 1900 posited his own set of 23 hard problems from mathematics (just 10 of which have been fully solved, said Lindsley professor of psychology Stephen M. Kosslyn, dean for social sciences in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in his introductory remarks).
The format—each presenter was given 15 minutes to discuss one hard problem or a few; questions were held for the end of the day—invited free-flowing, fast-flying ideas.