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If you ask someone what happened in 2022, most people answer "the war in Ukraine". It's also the first thing that pops into mind for me. But when I scrolled through all the optimistic news we published this past year, a completely different, much brighter picture emerged.
All the positives that happened do not negate the horrors of Ukraine or other miseries around the world, but it does show that we should not only fixate on the negatives. That's only part of the story.
Animals making a comeback
A strong trend is all the different animal species making a comeback. Humpback whales, sea turtles, black bears, alligators, and storks.
50 years ago there were less than 100 Indian rhinos in the wild. At this year's count, there were over 4,000.
Also in Europe, things are looking bright for several species. Many large mammals have increased by hundreds and in some cases thousands of percent in the last 60 years.
Dramatic changes take time
Traditional news media often miss the very biggest stories because they take time. Like that 415 million Indians have left poverty in the last 15 years. That's about the same number of people living in the entire EU.
In India, a lot of rice is eaten, so the fact that a research group succeeded in creating a super rice that managed to increase the yield by 40 percent, is good news.
Or that the number of fatal accidents among Swedish children has halved in the last 30 years.
We learned in April that fewer people died in natural disasters in 2021. In 2021, a total of 10,492 people died due to natural disasters. That is well below the 61,212 deaths per year that was the average from 2001 to 2020.
For the tenth year in a row, the Swedes broke records in recycling.
AI for the benefit of humanity
Artificial intelligence has (again) had a strong year. Recently, OpenAI released its chatbot ChatGPT, which took the world by storm. In five days it reached one million users. Something that took Facebook 10 months and Instagram almost three months. For me, it was like when I searched and played songs on Spotify for the first time. I could hardly believe it was true.
Now I asked it to write a speech about optimism in the same style as Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, and three seconds later it spited this out.
Before ChatGPT, however, it was AI that creates images that got the most attention. It allows millions of people to become artists.
In 2022, we also saw computer programs that can see what reading difficulties a child has.
DeepMind has been stacking AI breakthroughs on top of each other and 2022 was no exception. Among other things, by helping to read ancient texts, programming, writing scripts for theater plays and films, playing Stratego and Diplomacy, helping mathematicians develop algorithms, and facial recognition for turtles(!)
But heaviest of all is an earlier breakthrough, the mapping of proteins. Last year, a tool was released that makes it possible to understand what a protein looks like. Something that previously needed to be done in a lab at great expense, for a single protein. Now DeepMind has mapped 200 million proteins. These are almost all cataloged proteins known to science.
Cleaning oceans and beaches from plastic
Boyan Slat is the name of the teenager who, on holiday in Greece, saw how the ocean was destroyed by plastic and decided to fix it. Ten years later, his solar-powered barges prevent 50 tons of plastic per day from reaching the sea, by intercepting and capturing it in the rivers. Out at sea, his shisp picks up the plastic that still made it all the way there.
In Australia, plastic litter on beaches has decreased by almost a third.
Exciting new vaccines
Researchers from the University of Oxford have tested a malaria vaccine that works so well that there is the hope of completely stopping malaria from spreading. It would then save the lives of 400,000 people, mostly children, every year around the world.
Work is also underway on a vaccine against HIV based on the new mRNA technology.
The kids will be alright
Children who play more computer games than average also increase their IQ scores more than other children.
During the pandemic, there was a lot of concern about young people's mental health, but no deterioration has been noted among young adults, according to the Institute for Future Studies.
Nor do they, or anyone else, risk getting brain tumors from cell phones, according to a large 20-year study.
Tough times for serial killers
Some who do not look optimistically to the future are serial killers. Considering all the podcasts, TV shows, and movies about these horrible people, you'd easily think the number is on the rise. But no.
In fact, serial killers are dying out. In the last 30 years, they have decreased by over 80 percent.
Heavy arguments for optimism
Enough about the world, time for some navel-gazing. The most-read article of the year on Warp News was actually published last year. Wired's founder, Kevin Kelly, wrote The Case for Optimism.
For TED, he made a shorter version, which now has over two million views.
"We should be optimistic, not because our problems are smaller than we thought, but because our capacity to solve them is larger than we thought."
- Kevin Kelly
This year he was joined by an intellectual giant, David Deutsch. He is a professor at Oxford and the father of the field of quantum computing. His book The Beginning of Infinity is one of the two best books I have read and contains strong intellectual arguments for optimism and why the future should come sooner.
For Warp News, he wrote about optimism, cynicism, and pessimism.
"Although they may have sometimes inspired others to think outside the conventional box, no wonderful discovery, invention, or idea is named after a cynic."
- David Deutsch
Optimist's Edge galore
During the year, we have published a new Optimist's Edge each week. That's the advantage fact-based optimists have when looking at the world.
Food of the future
There is a lot going on in the food area. Fruit and vegetables that do not need a plastic cover, sugar that is not so harmful, refined with CRISPR, and food from the air are produced. Or how about some milk without cows?
We have started to grow food in new ways too, vertically.
Space is becoming increasingly accessible
Launching things into space is getting cheaper so that it will soon cost a thousandth of what it did just a few years ago.
It makes space available for much more human activity, such as building large space colonies near Earth. Or why not a space parasol to reduce global warming, as our astronaut Christer Fuglesang suggested?
But more space also helps us solve problems on Earth.
Democracy is humanity's best hack
If all countries and all people lived in democracies, humanity's major problems would be solved or dramatically reduced.
Too bad to be true
The media logic is to think "that sounds too good to be true." But scrutiny should also take place from the other point of view: "That sounds too bad to be true."
Warp News has started a series of such articles, and the first two are written by former Dagens Nyheter (Sweden's largest daily newspaper) journalist and editor, Anders Bolling.
Climate and the environment are the most popular things we write about. Maybe because other media rarely write anything positive, while we show that there is hope.
The entire green transition creates enormous opportunities. We will live in a better world where we can travel more and cheaper, eat better and cheaper, and use electricity more and cheaper - and it will be clean and environmentally friendly.
During the year, we met several entrepreneurs involved in creating this green future.
Like Pernilla Westerberg who makes climate-friendly dog food from insects, William Bergh who creates a market for recycled electric car batteries, the renaissance man of nuclear power, John Ahlberg, as well as Fredrik Billing and Tore Stenbock who want to solve the hassle of charging the electric car.
After talking to all these entrepreneurs, I felt that a wave of solutions is underway. "Nothing is happening" for the climate is heard time and time again, but it is not true. An incredible amount is happening.
Visiting the future
During the year, our Warp Premium Supporters have visited companies involved in creating this green future several times. Like the electric aircraft company Heart Aerospace and the vertical farmer Ecobloom.
Exciting Premium Supporters
Premium Supporters are our paying members. Among these, there are many exciting people. Like Wall Street legend Jim O'Shaughnessy.
And internet pioneer Jonas Birgersson.
Energy in abundance with the energy society
Together with Jonas Birgersson, we have started Project Energy Society. We want to reach a society where clean energy is so abundant that it is not even worth measuring consumption.
In energy, we find one of the biggest and most optimistic events of the year: The breakthrough for nuclear fusion.
For the first time, scientists have succeeded in creating a fusion process that produced more energy than was used to power it.
Warp News in other media
During the year, we have been seen here and there in other media. Here are some examples. A lot of Swedish media, but also some international.
Gerd Leonhard who has started The Good Future Project invited me to a discussion about why optimists create the future.
Tea and freedom.
Happy New Year!
If you follow the usual news coverage, it can feel pitch black. "We live in troubled times" is repeated like a mantra. The problems are real and serious, but so are the opportunities. While terrible things are happening in Ukraine, the world is improving in many ways.
The world becomes what we make of it, and no group has more influence the future than the optimists.
Happy New Year!
Editor-in-Chief, Warp News