2007 : WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT?

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Science Writer; Consultant; Lecturer, Copenhagen; Author, The Generous Man
Science Writer; Consultant; Lecturer, Copenhagen; Author, The Generous Man

Optimism...

I am optimistic about optimism. It has a bright future.

Not long ago, a few decades back, it became fashionable to be pessimistic. Gloomy predictions were sexy and sure signs of a progressive mind. Any true intellectual was sceptical about the survival of humanity.

There were good reasons for that. In the early 1980s we seemed to be a little stuck. A major nuclear exchange between superpowers was a very real threat, the environmental crisis was not recognised by the public (and much less by the politicians) and the world population just seemed to grow exponentially forever.

But the mood changed. A nuclear disarmament spiral started, most populations in industrialized countries became aware of the environment and demanded political action, the growth of the world population started to slow down.

Also, the internet and the web seemed to offer technologies for change and democratization. During the 1990s optimism boomed.

Boom! But then came the dot-com crash and 9/11. The liberating force of the internet was still there, even if hopeful and greedy investors didn't make money on it (but as we now know, it was released by the Open Source movement and phenomena like Web 2.0). Despite terrorism, the safety situation has not really changed in any quantitative sense.

Also, climate researchers have now reached agreement that the global warming is really here. The explanation is our own stupid and wasteful use of fossilized depots of energy in a world full of an energy flow from the Sun much, much larger than the what we need.

So it is time to be pessimistic again? No way! The environmental problems are much too serious to be left to the pessimists.

We need to make a change and do it right away. But we know what to do. We need a suite of high tech solutions that will enable us to plug into the good old resource base of humanity: Solar energy, recycled materials and a decentralized, peer-to-peer network to enable information flow.

We are about to make a very old niche in nature habitable for a huge human population through the use of hi tech solutions from the info, nano and bio toolboxes. We must awaken the enlightening spirit of reinventing everything, the future included.

We have to rethink the civilization we have developed since the introduction of agriculture in the last great climate crisis, at the end of the last Ice Age.

We have to create a Civilization 2.0 and we have to do it now. And the fine thing is that we have already started creating the technology and the dreams. Human beings have a talent for crisis management.

Without optimism, we would not be here. The rational evidence for giving up is always there, but we survived thanks to the the faith and the strength to go on and on, despite all warnings.

Pessimism is a self-falsifying prophecy. Optimism always wins. Until nobody is around to know that it did not.

Optimize optimism!