💡 The Optimist's Dilemma
As an optimist, you are often faced with an interesting dilemma: the rest of the world thinks that the world is getting worse, and you yourself think that it will get better – should you try to convince everyone else that it really gets better, Nicklas Berild Lundblad asks.
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As an optimist, you are often faced with an interesting dilemma: the rest of the world thinks that the world is getting worse, and you think that it will get better – should you try to convince everyone else that it really gets better? Or is it that we have evolved biologically to see the worst possibilities and not the best? Is it – simply put – worth trying to recruit optimists?
From a purely selfish perspective, the answer is probably "no." Suppose we believe that everyone else is systematically underestimating progress. In that case, we can formulate everything from life plans to investment portfolios on top of that assumption and probably have a real competitive advantage. If everyone else underestimates how it will go, the optimist is in an excellent position to invest and plan in a way that everyone else lacks.
On the other hand, optimism is inclusive – we optimists believe that the world can be even better if the pessimists let go and enter the game.
Pessimism is a friction in progress, a kind of weight that weighs down the human project. Interestingly enough, it is probably the case that the upside in recruiting pessimists to the side of optimism is greater than the upside you get from just investing in such a way that you bet against pessimism.
This is quite important – it explains partly why Warp exists as a project but also why optimists are evangelists. Pessimists do not believe that anyone else can change and therefore do not missionize. But optimism is missionary because it believes that life would be even better if more people saw the positive in life.
The pessimist does not think it can get worse; the optimist thinks it can only get better – only people adjust their expectations.
Warp has already made its mark in this regard. The other day I saw a collection of mostly positive news in one of Sweden's largest newspapers, and the question of the future is high on the agenda in politics. Politics' view of optimism is interesting – it's a little about how one sees the future.
From one perspective, it benefits politics to be pessimistic, to say that everything is going down the drain. This is why the politician is needed! But for the politician to be needed, dystopia must have a few cracks – small, small cracks where the politician can intervene and change the future. The natural tendency of politics is therefore pessimistic, but with a small, optimistic point.
A better world is possible, the politician wants to say, but not likely. At least if you do not vote for Party X.
The optimist's evangelism is often held against her. These optimists who want everyone to be more positive, see the world in brighter days, look to the future – who are they to pull the wool over someone's eyes? The only reasonable answer to that question is a reversal – who is the pessimist to take away from man his hope? Her power of action?
Optimism is not deterministic. The world does not get better automatically; it gets better because we make it better. On the other hand, pessimism must be deterministic because it must point in a clear downward direction. Pessimism must shorten man out of the equation.
This is ultimately why optimism is a humanism, and pessimism antihumanism. Optimism puts man at the center and is based on a belief in his ability. Pessimism, on the other hand, wants to ignore man and pass him into a pattern that leads down into the abyss.
And the more people who believe that we are perishing, the weaker the curve becomes towards another, and better, world.
There are essential nuances left to debate for the optimist. The conservative optimist believes that improvement is slow, the liberal that it can be achieved in large steps – but it is an ideological discussion within optimism.
Pessimism can never support an ideology because it does not believe in man.
Pessimism is – when we strip it of its supposed wisdom – a nihilism.
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