Recently some books have been published which paint an optimistic picture of the future. In The Rational Optimist Matt Ridley explains that over the course of history many things have become better and he argues that the future will be better instead of disasterous (which many people seem to think). In The Better Angels of Our Nature Steven Pinker has documented how violence has declined over long stretches of history and he predicts it will continue to do so. And in Abundance Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler explain technological advances which are now being made and prepared which, according to them, will have the ability to meet and exceed the basic needs of every man, woman, and child on the planet within decades.

 

Throughout history, many pessimistic and fatalistic views of the future have consistently been disproved. Both religiously inspired doomsday scenario’s have consistenly been proven false and rationally inspired predictions of global disaster. Of course, specific negative predictions may come true but general predictions of disaster generally don’t. But still they keep popping up and remain popular. I think one reason for this has to do with the unpredictability of the future. Whenever we make predictions we tend to extrapolate from current problems, trends and possibilities.

 

But as the future unfolds unforeseen breakthroughs happen and new possibilities become available. We may (and are likely) to find radically new and more effective solutions to fighting poverty, hunger, crime, war, and inequality and to building health, peace and freedom. Many of these ways will be enabled by new technologies. Others will be enabled by the emergence of new mindsets. Since the past has consistently shown that problems can be solved and disasters can be avoided -even if we could not possibly foresee how- it seems wise to prepare oneself for a future of inconceivable possibilities.

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