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Optimism
January 1, 2007 9:43 AM   Subscribe

What are you optimistic about? Why? The Edge Annual Question — 2007. "The nearly 160 responses to this year's Edge Question span topics such as string theory, intelligence, population growth, cancer, climate and much much more. Contributing their optimistic visions are a who's who of interesting and important world-class thinkers."
posted by homunculus (30 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ironically, not much at all.
posted by Optamystic at 9:51 AM on January 1, 2007


I, too, am optimistic about string theory.
posted by sour cream at 9:56 AM on January 1, 2007


I'm optimistic that we will continue to have something rather than nothing, which is a more generous gift than we could ever reasonably demand.
posted by Arcaz Ino at 9:57 AM on January 1, 2007 [3 favorites]


1)- The Continuing Evolution of the World Wide Web

2) - The Continuing Evolution of The Internet & High Speed.

3)- The Continuing Advances in Medical Science

4) - The Continuing Advances in Mobile and PC Tech


Considering the advances that societies have seen just one decade, just try to imagine the above four technologies during the 2100s.

Then, try to imagine them in the next century. :-o


What technologies and science will our great-great grandchildren have.

Unfortunatly, besides technology, it is difficult to be optimistic about politics.
posted by Bodyguard at 10:07 AM on January 1, 2007


I believe the world will continue to decline. However, I'm optimistic that we'll be able to document and understand the process, even if we're powerless to stop it.
posted by SPrintF at 10:14 AM on January 1, 2007


And it gets harder to be optimistic about science when it becomes politicized.
posted by homunculus at 10:14 AM on January 1, 2007


I'm getting a raise soon.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:29 AM on January 1, 2007


I'm optinistic about half-full cups of liquid, and nothing else.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:32 AM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


The fundamental good of man outweighing the cynicism, religious mysticism, and other isms of man.
posted by sfts2 at 11:30 AM on January 1, 2007


i'm optimistic that my crude oil etf shares will skyrocket after israel attacks iran. i'm also optimistic that ucla will win the ncaa basketball title.
posted by bruce at 11:33 AM on January 1, 2007


I'm optimistic that honkytrash McMansions will be torn down as the planet exceeds its carrying capacity for humans and we realize how dumb it was to build suburban monuments to ourselves on formerly arable farmland. Or am I too early to this party?
posted by maxwelton at 11:35 AM on January 1, 2007


I'm optimistic that the success of the prenatal anti-gay treatment will lead to a reduction in Metafilter fisting threads.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 11:53 AM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Thanks Homunculus, I had forgotten about the Edge and its wonderful essays.

When I think back to how curious I was as a child growing up in Missoula Montana in the 60's and 70's, and how frustrating it was to simply get information of all sorts, I would have given my left nut to have had the Internet.

Yes, the Internet is a force for good for humankind, and I'm grateful to be able to enjoy it in my lifetime.

Like Dennett, I'm optimistic that information technology will help to erode the human pathology that is religion.
posted by Tube at 12:01 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


Spore... Super Smash Brothers Brawl...
posted by Laugh_track at 12:08 PM on January 1, 2007


The fundamental good of man outweighing the cynicism, religious mysticism, and other isms of man.

Optimism?
posted by Arcaz Ino at 12:13 PM on January 1, 2007 [2 favorites]


I'm optimistic that I'm gonna get so high tonight, shit will be off the hook!

I'm optimistic that there will be some really kick-ass games coming out for the Wii.

I'm optimistic that that chick totally digs me and I'm going to get some.
posted by papakwanz at 12:26 PM on January 1, 2007 [1 favorite]


I'm optimistic that honkytrash McMansions will be torn down as the planet exceeds its carrying capacity for humans and we realize how dumb it was to build suburban monuments to ourselves on formerly arable farmland. Or am I too early to this party?
posted by maxwelton


Too early, yes. Wait until rusty old cargo ships packed to the gills with immigrants and refugees start washing up on the American shores of the Gulf of Mexico to make that "optimistic" pronouncement.
posted by Burhanistan at 2:14 PM on January 1, 2007


Optimism-- that is, expecting good outcomes without satisfactory reason-- is antithetical to a truly scientific attitude, is it not?
posted by Arthur "Two Sheds" Jackson at 3:02 PM on January 1, 2007


I'm optimistic about the protocultural sentient insectoid race that come pouring forth from a baseship concealed in a dark nebula sometime next summer, and the bloody and irrevocably damaging wars to follow. But, more than that, I'm excited about the film adaptations to follow, including 2017's Spielberg/Hanks production Band of Bug Hunters, which will be hailed as "a gritty realization of the Insect Wars, a poignant, heartfelt exploration of proto-racism and one man's love for an insect bride."
posted by The God Complex at 4:30 PM on January 1, 2007


What with the highly probable return of Jesus this year, what isn't there to be optimistic about?
posted by dgaicun at 4:55 PM on January 1, 2007


Optimism is as dangerous as any other -ism. It results in poor planning.
posted by tehloki at 6:27 PM on January 1, 2007


I'm optimistic that the return of 24 and Prison Break will make Monday night TV tolerable again. Oh and that humankind will finally realize that...uh.. something something.
posted by hojoki at 6:28 PM on January 1, 2007


From one of the actual essays:

The tendency to think optimism is superior to pessimism is a deep-rooted illusion. Optimism is useful in propitious situations. Pessimism is useful in dangerous situations.

Optimism -- even a deluded, irrational, 100% counter-factual version -- can be very useful in dangerous situations. If you believe that you can get out of that situation, that you can ultimately overcome what faces you, you will be motivated to take whatever steps are within your power to achieve that goal. Pessimism, on the other hand, can weaken the will to survive.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:30 PM on January 1, 2007


When James Kim was stranded with his family, do you think it was pessimism that sent him away from his family on a dangerous, hopeful, and ultimately fatal journey? Or would he have been better off sticking with them, conserving energy (doing nothing) and just trying to survive?
posted by tehloki at 6:33 PM on January 1, 2007


great collection, humunculus, for New Year's day. Thanks!

Pinker's optimism on the decline of violence is somewhat exaggerated, IMHO, because he bases it on statistical grounds, i.e. relative numbers. But the absolute numbers of the victims of violence in the 20th century are staggering. And if you also take into account the fact that violent crimes become more brutal in nature, particularly when compared to the contemporary prevailing "ethical norm", then I think it is unfair to base judgements on statistical notions alone. Besides, extrapolating into the future, do we expect a time where no violence will occur? Stable violence?

Shermer's piece on Science and the decline of magic is very good and closes like that:
Science arose out of magic, which it ultimately displaced. By the 18th century, astronomy replaced astrology, chemistry succeeded alchemy, probability theory dislodged belief in luck and fortune, city planning and social hygiene attenuated disease, and the grim vagaries of life became less grim, and less vague. As Francis Bacon concluded in his 1626 work, New Atlantis: "The end of our foundation is the knowledge of causes and the secret motions of things and the enlarging of the bounds of human empire, to the effecting of all things possible.
Sic itur ad astra — Thus do we reach the stars."
Unfortunately he too seems to be a little more optimistic than warranted about the power of religion today.


Slowly plowing through the rest of the collection...
posted by carmina at 6:41 PM on January 1, 2007


Do you think it was pessimism that sent him away from his family on a dangerous, hopeful, and ultimately fatal journey?

Yes. He thought they would die if he did not try and save them. His pessimism killed him rather than his optimism that they would be saved.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:43 PM on January 1, 2007


tehloki: "When James Kim was stranded with his family, do you think it was pessimism that sent him away from his family on a dangerous, hopeful, and ultimately fatal journey? Or would he have been better off sticking with them, conserving energy (doing nothing) and just trying to survive?"


Hindsight, hindsight.
posted by jchgf at 7:51 PM on January 1, 2007


I'm optimistic that most of the music that blows me will never, never, ever stop blowing.
posted by Twang at 8:15 PM on January 1, 2007


Ah, yes, the "Third Culture." So, what iteration of "AI just around the corner!" comes with fries this year?
posted by mobunited at 4:14 AM on January 2, 2007


I am optimistic that Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez are going decide to go fight in Iraq.
posted by Deep Dish at 3:29 PM on January 2, 2007


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