May 25th, 2014
01:49 AM ET

What is humanity's biggest challenge?

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In 1714, the British government passed the Longitude Act, which offered a prize to anyone who solved a great challenge of the time  accurately determining a ship's longitude. Navigation problems caused wrecks and trade disruption, so the prize was large  20,000 pounds, $3.5 million by today's standards. A working class clockmaker eventually won after years of developing reliable marine clocks, or "chronometers," that allowed sailors to pinpoint their position at sea.

Fast forward 300 years and Britain is offering the Longitude Prize again  this time it's $17 million for solving one of humanity's biggest problems. And a group in the U.K. is letting citizens pick the problem this time. Asking them through a BBC poll if it should be:

Flight – How can we fly without damaging the environment?

Food – How can we ensure everyone has nutritious sustainable food?

Antibiotics – How can we prevent the rise of resistance to antibiotics?

Paralysis – How can we restore movement to those with paralysis?

Water – How can we ensure everyone can have access to save and clean water?

Or Dementia – How can we help people with dementia to live independently for longer?

It will be interesting to watch what happens. Visit our Facebook page,, to vote on which problem you think the prize should try to solve. Remember, the last problem was solved  not by a highly educated expert, but a man with a limited education but a passion for clocks.

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soundoff (58 Responses)
  1. chri§§y

    Ive always tried to make sure i never do anything that would make my children ashamed of me. Im thinking if i were to go that route they would definitely be ashamed lmao!

    May 26, 2014 at 10:13 pm |
  2. rupert

    chrissy, happy Memorial Day to you. And a toast to all the hard working entrepreneurs that are the backbone of America, such as yourself.

    May 26, 2014 at 11:42 pm |
  3. greg

    Ah, the longitude prize. Interesting, Mr. Harrison built a timepiece that fulfilled the Admiralty's request, but when he wanted his prize money, the British government brought up spurious objections, took the design and used it, and never payed out the prize. Slimy politicians, go ahead guys, try to crack these nuts, and the government will bust your nuts for your trouble.

    May 27, 2014 at 2:46 am |
  4. Umar YAKUBU

    The invention of suspended cars, just like in the movies. This will reduce the need and cost of building roads and bridges which takes a large chunk of monies of developing economies. The savings can be channeled elsewhere.

    May 27, 2014 at 8:56 am |
  5. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    May 27, 2014 at 2:10 pm |
  6. Michael

    Humanity's biggest challenge is for individuals to become mindfully and compassionately aware of their own suffering and then to be able to compassionately see the suffering of others. The rest will then take care of itself.

    June 9, 2014 at 3:08 pm |
  7. Terisa Schmidtka

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    December 20, 2020 at 6:54 pm |
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    January 7, 2021 at 4:37 pm |
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