Longitude Prize the old and the new. (Part 2)

So here it is the second pard of my Longitude blog. I am having a think about the 2014 Longitude prize and comparing it with the original one from 1714.  The first part  was an introduction and looked at the Food,Flight and Antibiotics categories of the prize.  In this second part I will be having a look at the Paralysis,water and Dementia categories and making a choice of which one to vote for.

Paralysis

When I think of Paralysis I think of Christopher Reeve. I had grown up seeing him fly around the world, saving children from falling into Niagara Falls and battling Super villains. But it was after he was paralysed in  a horse riding accident that to me  he became a real superman.  Reeve Campaigned for research into cures for Spinal Chord injuries,raising both money and awareness.

Should Paralysis get my vote for the Longitude prize?  Of all the prize challenges this one does seem to be using the money for research into the widest spread of Science and technology.  It will include research into wearable technology that I am interested in, so it is certainly a strong contender. Thinking about it in comparison with the original Longitude prize though and the case for Paralysis is weaker.  The original prize was wasn't about improving the quality of life for people.  It was for saving lives and enabling trade and commerce.

It might seem really harsh and cruel to dismiss Paralysis because it is about caring for people rather than making money, I can't deny that. On the surface it might seem that Paralysis should lose out for that reason, but because of the different technologies that would be developed there is a strong chance of commercial spin offs and uses in other areas that keeps it in the game.

Paralysis has the same problem as Antibiotics, its just not radical enough.  The aim isn't to cure paralysis but to make life better for those people affected by it.  Would it not be better to aim to find cures for one more causes of Paralysis and if  along the way methods were found for making peoples life better then that would be a extra.  Would it work like that, would that happen? not sure.  I could keep going backwards and forwards,weighing up all the pros and cons of supporting Paralysis without getting anywhere. For now I'm going to move on and have a  further think.

 

Dementia

When watching the longitude prize Launch program it was the section on the Dementia challenge that had the strongest emotional effect.  Seeing a woman having to be cared for by her mother, teaching her simple things again and again again.  I remember when I was young, my mum teaching me all the simple things in life, how to brush my teeth,how to get dressed, to cross the road safely,where the milk is kept.  I can't imagine how upsetting it would be for my mum to have to teach me those things again,day after day, time after time.

Will I have to care for my mum as she ages? probably in some way. No doubt it will be hard and i'm not looking forward to it. If she does suffer from Dementia, Alzheimers or similar it will be frustrating and difficult for both of us. Is Dementia a natural part of ageing that is becoming more common as people live longer or is there a cause that can be identified and cured .  The Wikipedia page on Dementia is long and shows there are multiple types and not a lot in the way of a cure.  Its understandable then that  the prize challenge isn't to find a cure or cause of  Dementia.

The Longitude challenge prize category for Dementia like that for Antibiotic resistance and Paralysis doesn't aim for a cure but a way to improve the lives of the Dementia sufferers  and their carers.  It is looking to develop assistive technologies "enabling them to live truly independent lives."

Dementia was one of the categories that caused the most comment in my Twitter stream. A lot of people highlighting that a lot more could be done by Government to support carers both financially and practically without the need to develop technology to help them.

I don't think I will vote for Dementia, for similar reasons to not voting for Antibiotics and Paralysis.  Not big and ambitious enough, not tackling the route cause.

Water

The Water challenge looks big  and complicated.   About 71% of the Earth Surface is covered in Water and 97% of that is salt water not able to be drunk. Climate change means that in parts of the world lakes and rivers are drying up but others are repeatedly being flooded. Yes water is complicated.

The Water challenge isn't to solve the problem of global warming, that would be too much to ask for this prize, or would it? should the prize be to solve the absolutely biggest problem this planet is facing right now?

The Water challenge is focussing on finding a method of desalination, removing the salt from sea water to make it drinkable and able to be used for farming.  It is a possibility then that if  the Water challenge was successful it could  go some way towards solving the Food challenge..

Water can be cause for conflict, its predicted that as water becomes more scarce , this will lead to more tension and  conflicts around the world.

There is a strong case for voting for the Water Challenge. It is definitely about making a scientific or technological breakthrough. It will save lives rather than improve the quality of life for people. There is both a humanitarian and economic argument for solving the challenge.

 

Conclusion

So that its then.  I've looked at the six longitude Challenges.  It was a lot harder to do than I first thought it would be.  Some of the challenges were quiet easy to reach a decision on,others not. Not all of them were easy to compare against the original prize challenge. I think that just shows the diversity of the challenges and actually how hard  it is to weigh up the pros and cons of each one.

The scope of some of the challenges doesn't seem ambitious enough and the size of the prize doesn't seem big enough. We live in a world where social networking websites are worth Billions of Dollars. Is £10 million really that much on the global scale of things, i'm not convinced.

It has also made me think if  letting the public vote on how £10 Million should be spent is the right thing to do.  I watched the T.V programme and spent a little time reading about each of the challenges, but as I said at the start I am not an expert in any of the areas and £10 million is a lot of money.  But every time there is a general election we vote for the party that we think can run the country the best, most people aren't experts in politics or social and economic policy or how to run a country in general but we an still vote , and that right isn't it?

So back to Longitude. The two challenges that have come out as strongest contender for my vote are Flight and Water. After writing the section on Flight I really thought that would be the one, but now I'm torn between the two.

Right thats it then, I've voted for Water.  I think the flight problem does need solving but of the two, for the size of prize on offer I think that Water feels like as breakthrough could be made. I hope there are updates on how the money is spent and what becomes of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed.