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What are you optimistic about?

Each year John Brockman asks his nebulous band of futurists and pundits a question. The Edge Annual Question for 2007 is:

What are you optimistic about? Why?

I wasn’t asked to participate, but if I had been, my answer would have been something like the following.

I’m not an optimist by nature, so a question like this is a bit difficult to answer. But as I look around at friends, family, coworkers, and acquaintances, what gives me hope is while these people might sometimes be pessimistic in what they say, they are optimistic in what they do. The cost of saying something, publishing something even, is cheap these days, but actually doing something still costs emotionally, physically, economically, socially. As a barometer of how we’re all doing, this is a good sign…in spite of what we hear in the media and from each other.

What are you optimistic about? Why?

Reader comments

Brian ConnollyJan 02, 2007 at 5:50PM

I'm optimistic about myself and what I have not yet done but am still able to achieve.

Because I'm still young. Because I'm able-bodied. Because I'm educated. Because I can.

Javier ArceJan 02, 2007 at 5:57PM

I'm not an optimist by nature, too... I'm an optimist because I feel there is no other better option.

Dave ConreyJan 02, 2007 at 6:00PM

I'm optimistic about the possibility of new opportunities. I think 2007 is going to be an incredible year because I'm actively working on making better things happen. I'm stoked about my blog, I may take my writing to a manuscript and I'm stoked about finally making room in my office for my easel and art supplies. If I can work my way into a better position at my current employer or another, I'll be set for the year.

Eric WrightJan 02, 2007 at 6:37PM

Materials and technology keeps getting cheaper, so we can do more with less. But creativity can't be commoditized, so people become more valuable. I think this is a a good trend.

Joe CasabonaJan 02, 2007 at 6:44PM

I am optimistic about this year for a few things- I graduate college, my web design business had a benchmark year in 2006 and is picking up speed for '07 already, and I made some resolutions and am sticking to them.

helenjaneJan 02, 2007 at 6:56PM

I'm optimistic because everything I have imagined for myself so far has come true. It was really that easy.

Mark LarsonJan 02, 2007 at 7:11PM

I'm optimistic that my relationships will keep getting stronger, deeper, broader, and more varied, both in quality & quantity.

I'm optimistic that I'll figure myself out more this year and get a better sense of what the hell I'm doing (sorry, can't bear to call it my Life Plan, Purpose, and/ or Vocation).

I'm also optimistic that somehow I'll be able to go hiking for a couple months this summer on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail. Many details between here and there, but I can make it happen.

OCPatriotJan 02, 2007 at 8:22PM

I have had two cataract surgeries, a valve in my heart, and I live in a beautiful home in Orange County. I and my wife worked hard; we had nothing when we first got married. We have retired comfortably. Yes, we are lucky. I knew a woman from Sarajevo, who was as well educated as I was, who dressed well and probably would have passed for an American career woman, who wanted to visit the U.S. They wouldn't issue her a visa, claiming she had no property to return to in her native city. She was shot at in the street during their bad times. She wasn't so lucky. I am optimistic because at the time of the Golden Age of Greece, when democracy was being born, when Pericles talked so passionately about democracy, there were slaves in Thrace who pulled dog carts in the tin mines where the tunnels were three feet high. The world has always been a mixed bag, with people like Idi Amin and the end of apartheid happening at the similar times; with the defeat of Hitler and Japan and Mussolini yet the rise of Stalin; always mixed, always terrible with people killing other people, deliberately or inadvertently. So I am optimistic that there awful mixture will continue; that we will cure diseases like polio and malaria, yet kill people with atomic weapons; that we will have a much nicer western Europe while Africa has only spots of hope. I am optimistic because it will continue to be a mixed bag.

TiaJan 02, 2007 at 8:55PM

I am optimistic for one simple reason: Regardless of life's circumstances, every second is an opportunity to choose better.

MattJan 02, 2007 at 10:03PM

Dawkins says, "...I am optimistic that this final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue deathblow to religion and other juvenile superstitions."

I'm optimistic that man's self-deceptive temporal bias, often referred to as "optimism", will finally come to an end. Why? See above enlightenment.

juan pabloJan 02, 2007 at 10:59PM

I'm optimistic that my blog will rule in my country.

amy.leblancJan 03, 2007 at 2:26AM

i am optimistic that there is an election next year, and that there is a turn of tide coming in politics, as was shown in november. i am optimistic that science is able to increasingly settle arguments about previously subjective experiences, like climate change, and therefore more things will be done to clean up our world and/or prevent further damage; for example, i am very optimistic about alternative energies. i am optimistic about the one good side effect of globalization, and that is that the average american is quite aware of what's going on in other places in the world, at least moreso than 50 years ago, thanks to television, which does have its merits; i think people are starting to think much more in terms of global impact than they used to, which can only be a good thing. for myself, i am optimistic that i'll finally be getting out of debt this year, which means that i will soon be able to travel like i've always dreamed of.

in general, you are quite right: i am a pessimist in words and say i have little faith in human nature, but in practice, i think most people try to do good things within their context, and as people are learning more and more about the world every day, that does make me optimistic.

LondenioJan 03, 2007 at 3:50AM

I am optimistic because the world is becoming more complex and uncertain. Complexity and uncertainty makes the world interesting and --more importantly-- favors the nimble.

Scott BerkunJan 03, 2007 at 4:40AM

I'm optimistic for the simple reason that we're not dead yet - I mean, really, there's all sorts of good reasons for us to have snuffed it by now, and we've certainly had our chances on the last few swings 'round the sun. If we can survive the countlessly cruel stupidities I've witnessed, not to mention the supreme idiocy of our ancestor's crusades, inquisitions, domino theories, and temperature themed wars, what is there possibly to fear that we haven't seen? With our trusty tools sarcasm, satire, and a bottle of fine red wine, I say bring it on.

bretJan 03, 2007 at 7:46AM

im optimistic my newly formed business will succeed because im smart enough, im funny enough, and gosh darnit people like me.

im not optimistic that ill find a significant other....i have not had any luck finding a special woman to put up with me for long yet...i dont think 2007 will be any different.

AndrewJan 03, 2007 at 8:25AM

optimism is overrated, because it often sets you up for failure. that said, i'm optimistic that 2007 will be the year of environmental understanding. the year in which we all see the way we are destroying the environment and the year where more of us look at solutions to rectify it.

TonyJan 03, 2007 at 10:43AM

I'm optimistic about reading all the books I've bought.

wahJan 03, 2007 at 11:13AM

I'm optimistic that our species will continue the ancient and unbroken trend of gaining power and wisdom, and will, somehow, overcome the greed, bigotry, and hatred that leads us unto war.

NewfredJan 03, 2007 at 4:19PM

I don't really get the question. Optimism, that is, seeking 'the best', is only meaningful when we know what 'the best' is. The question is really an ethical one: 'What is optimal?', 'What is optimism?' To these questions we are culturally hard pressed to give meaningful answers. If the only answer we can give is individualistic -- 'I am optimistic about myself' -- then the ethical value of 'optimism' is lost to selfishness, and the question has become meaningless.

bottomunionJan 05, 2007 at 6:29AM

half full, half empty, or just a half glass of water?
I guess all that really matters is that there is water in the glass.
And if I'm thirsty, well, then I'm a happy man.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.