How old is your problem?

And the times, they are a changing. At a rate of a century every 20 years. Ray Kurzweil estimates that the amount of progress the world has seen in the entire 20th century will be matched in a mere 20 years – between 2000 and 2020. This rate of change leaves a trail of redundant subjects and textbooks in its wake. The syllabus for almost every subject today turns redundant just a few years. Canned food seems to have higher shelf life than textbooks in electronics or Information Technology.

The exceptions here are curious. The Bhagavad Gita, the letters of Seneca, Buddhist teachings and several other ancient philosophical works remain relevant today. They will continue to be relevant hundreds of years from now. As quickly as human knowledge expands, human wisdom seems to remains constant.

Those ancient texts address some of our oldest problems – of providing meaning to our existence, of leading a happy life, of finding a life-partner, on raising children well and so on. Of course, those problems are just as relevant today.

New problems need new solutions. An internet search algorithm that is twenty years old is useless. But our oldest problems have solutions that are just as old. To know where to look, just ask yourself how old your problem is.

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