17 votes

Are you optimistic or pessimistic about humanity's future prospects?

I thought it would be fun to take Tildes's temperature on humanity's future prospects. If you respond, can you include your approximate age, your opinion, and maybe a brief explanation of why you think/feel the way you do.

I'm in my early 30s. I'm cautiously optimistic. I think it's an interesting time to be alive, as its the first time humanity is facing a problem of this scale. I think it'll pull through in one way or another. It may get bad for a bit, but nobody will let it stay bad for very long. I also think humanity has more control over the current situation than it realizes, it seems like the last two generations and maybe the current gen were content to let tunnel-visioned, big business interests do the metaphorical driving. Hopefully that'll stop soon, and we'll put people without a profit motive in the driver's seat.

Thanks for participating!

10 comments

  1. Loire
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    In the 17th Century the planet underwent a (relatively) rapid bit of climate change we now refer to as the Little Ice Age. Massive crop failures led to famine. Rivers and canals froze deeper and...

    In the 17th Century the planet underwent a (relatively) rapid bit of climate change we now refer to as the Little Ice Age. Massive crop failures led to famine. Rivers and canals froze deeper and longer. Shipping and trade was locked down by frozen harbors. The population of European countries were decimated. Iceland supposedly cut in half. Cold dry air lowered precipitation resulting in drought. Livestock populations collapsed.

    Climate change led to mass migrations. Long winter seasons resulted in mass unemployment and supposedly massive increases violent crimes, including robbery, murder, adultery, and rape. Kings/national leaders became increasingly brutal resulting in horrendous wars, religious exterminations, and witch hunts. In short there was a widespread break-down in politics, economics, and religion. Starving peasants broke into cannibalism.

    It was a massive crisis in Europe.

    That was the result of an average decrease of -0.6°C. By all accounts we are looking at 1.5°C increase in temperature at a minimum. While I'm no expert, I can't see us keeping it any lower than 2.0°C. We are starting to see big changes being made, that I think will continue on, but it's much to late. We are in for a century of crisis.

    Am I optimistic? I'm optimistic that we survived the 17th Century Crisis and eventually progressed to bigger and better things. Despite the people that act like the planet is going to melt, the planet has been hotter and life in some form will continue on. I'm optimistic that we are on the road to turning this around, whether or not we are doing it fast enough.

    But no I'm not optimistic in the sense that everything will be better. The latter half of the 21st century, and possibly even the early 22nd century are going to be hell for humanity. I'm just happy I wont be here to see much of it.

    18 votes
  2. MarkusG
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    I'm in my late teens. It seems like being an optimist is a very unpopular viewpoint if you watch a couple big media outlets. However, I'm pretty optimistic. I recently picked up Steven Pinker's...

    I'm in my late teens. It seems like being an optimist is a very unpopular viewpoint if you watch a couple big media outlets. However, I'm pretty optimistic. I recently picked up Steven Pinker's book, Enlightenment Now, which goes over all the ways in which humanity has improved in the past few decades. It includes a quote by Barack Obama which I really like: "If you had to choose a moment in history to be born, and you did not know ahead of time who you would be - you didn't know whether you were going to be born into a wealthy family or a poor family, what country you'd be born in, whether you were going to be a man or a woman - if you had to choose blindly what moment you'd want to be born, you'd choose now." (2016)

    That's not to say that we should just ignore the problems that news outlets love to capitalize on. Climate change, police misconduct, etc. are all real issues, but it gets discouraging to ignore the progress we've made an only focus on the negative.

    As Pinker mentions, good news happens slowly. The fact that, for instance, rapes are down 0.x% this year isn't very exciting, but it adds up over the years and can be very encouraging when looked at in hindsight. Bad news, on the other hand, happens quickly. 9/11 and other terrorist attacks, for instance, happen over the course of a few hours. Progress happens slowly, while bad news happens in distinct moments.

    I also recommend checking out JRE #1073 with Steven Pinker.

    10 votes
  3. [3]
    monarda
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    Mostly I am not optimistic. There is always a little ember hope that burns inside me, but it is tempered by my experiences. I think there will always be people who seek power, and seeking power...

    Mostly I am not optimistic. There is always a little ember hope that burns inside me, but it is tempered by my experiences. I think there will always be people who seek power, and seeking power often does not align with what is best for humanity. I also continuously see my species seek short term gains at the cost of sustainability. It's interesting because at the individual level I think most people are good, but for some reason that does not seem to equate with being good as a group. I'm 50.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      Shneebs
      Link Parent
      Mid 20's here, I seem to agree with every point there, it slightly disheartens me that the extra 25 years experience hasn't shown you any hope. I really want the world to turn around, but I think...

      Mid 20's here, I seem to agree with every point there, it slightly disheartens me that the extra 25 years experience hasn't shown you any hope. I really want the world to turn around, but I think the people that grab for power are not the people you want in power.

      2 votes
      1. monarda
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        Well, when I look at the larger problems we are facing I do feel hopeless. But there is plenty of kindness in the world, and I think being kind, and being open to kindness goes much further than...

        Well, when I look at the larger problems we are facing I do feel hopeless. But there is plenty of kindness in the world, and I think being kind, and being open to kindness goes much further than people give it credit for. At the individual level at least, it keeps my ember of hope alive.

  4. Bullmaestro
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    Pessimistic for several reasons: Far more hypergamy than in previous decades, far more people treating sexual desire as a commodity to exploit. Part of it is how the digital age has affected...

    Pessimistic for several reasons:

    • Far more hypergamy than in previous decades, far more people treating sexual desire as a commodity to exploit. Part of it is how the digital age has affected things.
    • Our response towards man-made climate change is several decades too little too late, and will probably lead to widespread ecological failure along with many settlements being submerged.
    • Society is becoming far more polarised around left and right wing beliefs, and it has actually seen right wingers like Trump, Farage and Johnson become hugely successful. Both sides are radicalising and if things keep going the way they are, I wouldn't be surprised to see greater civil unrest or even civil wars ignite.
    • Mental health is still treated as a joke by society.
    4 votes
  5. Tygrak
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    I am in my early twenties. I am not optimistic at all. I think gigantic societal change is coming almost certainly, what I am curious about is when will this happen. In the best case if we start...

    I am in my early twenties. I am not optimistic at all. I think gigantic societal change is coming almost certainly, what I am curious about is when will this happen. In the best case if we start radically reducing emissions that would already change most peoples lives quite a lot. That's the best case. If more politicians with their heads in the sand keep getting elected, the problem will just keep getting worse.

    Currently I don't have much hope in the leaders of the world suddenly shifting the gears so much. Since Brexit happened, followed by Trump getting elected I have almost no trust in politics. I don't think there is a big chance that we start working together good enough to deal with the problem cleanly.

    I am also scared that the bad changes will most likely come soon enough that I won't die before it happens. The same probably can't be said for my parents (also kind of hopefuly?) and other "old" people - like the people in power.

    3 votes
  6. mrbig
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    We are better than 100 years ago in many ways, but climate change is coming to fuck us over. I'm pretty sure we'll just let it happen. I wouldn't call it pessimism, though. Pessimism and optimism...

    We are better than 100 years ago in many ways, but climate change is coming to fuck us over. I'm pretty sure we'll just let it happen. I wouldn't call it pessimism, though. Pessimism and optimism are biases. The inaction of those in power in the face of global warming is a clear fact.

    So I guess I think we're all going to die, but we'll probably be a better society when we do.

    2 votes
  7. chas
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    It's obvious our species is doomed. As soon as we invented nukes, it was over. Maybe we survive 200 years, if all goes exceedingly well. Under a century seems more likely to me, given the state of...

    It's obvious our species is doomed. As soon as we invented nukes, it was over. Maybe we survive 200 years, if all goes exceedingly well. Under a century seems more likely to me, given the state of the world today. Humanity constantly propagandizes its own greatness, to the point that focusing on its flaws comes across as bad taste. I don't see us going on much longer given our problems (see: our brinkmanship during the cold war, our mismanagement of the environment, our meagre and over-hyped technological progress, our inability to coexist peaceably)

    1 vote
  8. papasquat
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    I'm optimistic. There are obvious societal and global problems all over the place, but currently crime, war, starvation, are all trending lower than they've ever been in history. I think climate...

    I'm optimistic. There are obvious societal and global problems all over the place, but currently crime, war, starvation, are all trending lower than they've ever been in history. I think climate change is the biggest issue looming over our heads, but as each year goes on, fewer and fewer people are doubting it, as the effects are starting to show themselves. In the near term, I don't thing it's going to be a particularly easy or comfortable half century or so, but after that, I'm pretty confident that it will be a solved problem.
    I think humanity tends to deal with most things in a similar way. A large event or development massively disrupts the course of human society, but we come out better off in the end, and learn to account for that particular development in the future.
    With the advent of data storage and retrieval spreading to more of the world, I think we're making fewer mistakes a second time as well. My main worry is that the climate crisis strains society enough that the cultural progress much of the world has made in the past 100 years is undone. It will eventually come back I think, but the less damage is done to our institutions and sense of decorum and morality the better.
    I would very much bet that humanity as a species will still be kicking around in 1000 years though.