The Rational Optimist

This is the best time ever in history. Seems every generation has been pessimistic, announcing the end of times, the decline. They've been consistently wrong for the entirety of human history. I beseech you to think you may be mistaken in assuming the worst for the future. I envy my son.

I'm a Rational Optimist (thank-you Matt Ridley*).

Pessimism holds back the advance of our culture, which holds back the advance in standards of living. Pessimism is cruelty to the underprivileged. Pessimism is the selfishness of the complacent. It makes me angry. Having been one of them once, I'm like a reformed smoker: intolerant. They need to get over it. For the first time in history we have the very real possibility of lifting every single human into a decent standard of living, even while the actual numbers blow out. That would be the greatest achievement of the human race.
It's not going to happen while we cripple economies with guilt-laws and stifle progress with anti-scientific hysteria.:

Of course nothing we do in the wealthy nations to turn lights off or save printer cartridges or bike to work occasionally is going to make the tiniest difference in the face of an emerging middle class of several billion people. Some actions, like buying the bloody stupid hybrid cars, actually make the world worse. It's all just sop for middle-class guilt.
Of course India are going to burn coal, until they are wealthy enough to object to the pollution, as China now are.
Of course nuclear power is the obvious solution to any rational observer, but only if we sell the latest nuclear technology to India (and China, and Egypt and Kenya and Nigeria and...) for less than the cost of coal. Instead we've got Japan and Germany shutting nukes down and the USA afraid to touch new ones.
Of course wind and solar are not viable alternatives: "duh!" says every engineer on the planet.
Of course rice genetically modified to be a more complete food source would be a good thing.
How is this not obvious? Because people who don't get it are irrational. Optimism is rational. 



* If you haven't read Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist, you must.

Comments

People wax lyrical about the

People wax lyrical about the beauty of rural Britain, or my own New Zealand. Neither of them bear even a remote resemblance to their natural state, they have been totally transformed. I'm not saying for the better but they're not destroyed.
However, the one thing that indisputably is better off after ten millennia of progress is humanity.
We live longer, happier, healthier lives. We get to have the internet to argue on, and world travel to marvel at its wonders, and space travel to understand it's beauty and fragility.
We live in the best time ever in history except the time that's coming. If you want to spend it wallowing in despair and bile, go on then: your loss.
I believe humanity has the power and will to preserve a world which we can enjoy. Will it look the same? Of course not, no more than Dorset looks like the lion-infested jungle it once was.