Video: Nobel prize winner on chipping away at the biggest world problems

“You cannot helicopter people out of poverty,” Esther Duflo says in her TED Talk about testing solutions. And you cannot solve global poverty without a plan.

Last week, Duflo and her husband, Abhijit Banerjee, both MIT professors, along with Michael Kremer, Gates Professor of Developing Societies at Harvard, were awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics for their work using randomized controlled trials to chip away at some of the biggest problems in the world.

“Imagine you’ve raised a million dollars and you want to spend it on the poor. How do you go about it?” Duflo asks. Do you trust the people who say all we need to do is spend more money? Or do you believe that sending money to another country might exacerbate corruption and increase dependency?

How can you tell how aid that has already been sent around the world has affected poverty in any given area? “Sadly, we don’t know,” Duflo says. “And, worst of all, we will never know.”

But we can start now, testing simple solutions to big problems, and carefully tracking their results.

Watch Duflo’s TED Talk video about how these small studies can chip away at enormous world issues. Such simple trials, the Nobel prize committee says, have the power to “improve the lives of the worst-off people around the world.”

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