“Ye cannae change the laws o’ physics”

With the IMF siren warning of a potential collapse in global civilisation, my attention is drawn to a press release issued by an obscure Austrian university. This announces the recent launch in Berlin of the splendidly-named “Bureau for Working on Intractable Problems and Measures of Higher Authorities” (Amt für Arbeit an unlösbaren Problemen und Massnahmen der hohen Hand).

“If future humans have anything in common, it will not be illusions of cultural identity — e.g., a common language, religions or table manners – but rather the shared experience of being confronted with intractable problems.”

Depressing stuff, but then there are three things certain about human beings: we have a short memory, a tendency to bullshit, and are riddled with cognitive biases. In which case the snappily titled bureau could have a positive role to play, its aim being to present the public with examples of once seemingly intractable problems that were at some point solved and promptly forgotten about. I’m sure you can think of a few.

As Arno Bammé says, all it takes is a little sociological imagination.