With everything going on in the world today, remaining positive about the future is extremely difficult. Cynicism is far easier, especially when all we tend to see in the news is negative. Climate change, political upheaval, conspiracy theories, willful ignorance, war, the threat of nuclear annihilation, and more threaten our very existence. The vision for the world seems dire at best, downright distressing at worst.
These existential risks are a breeding ground for nihilism. There are positives, certainly, but they tend to be insufficient or a double-edged sword. Significant strides have been made in combating many of these issues. Take climate change, a perennial problem. Everything from the growth of electric vehicles to massive climate spending by the Biden administration has improved our prospects for mitigating the worst effects. Nonetheless, even that is simply not enough. Electric vehicles will only make a small dent in overall green-house gas emissions and increased investments in clean energy do only so much. Technological progress has been impressive, yet we have been slow to actually apply that technology in any meaningful way.
Suffice to say, we are in a period if extreme change. Every generation thinks it lives in consequential times, but there is a very good argument to be made that these truly are consequential times. We hold vast information at our fingertips. Artificial intelligence could either free millions of the drudgery of hard labor or enslave humanity, perhaps even ending us. Gene editing, like CRISPR, could alter the very nature of humanity. These technologies make the world of today vastly different than the world of only a decade ago.
The world of 1850 was not so drastically different from the world of 1950. Sure, there was electricity and new appliances in the 1950s that the 1850s lacked, but someone thrust ahead a hundred years would not feel out of place in a typical home.
Someone from 1950 will almost certainly feel out of place in 2050. In fact, people from 1950 already feel out of place in 2022. Arguably, this is a major factor in the political upheaval we have seen in recent years. Drastic and rapid changes in demographics and social norms have threatened a social order that has persisted for many generations. Fear of being on the losing side of this change drives negative actions.
If anything, these technologies show us that there is a lot more opportunity than ever imagined. We have the ability to choose a path. We can say we want a more egalitarian systems, that we want to limit climate change and save habitats, that we want to manage technologies and ensure they are safe for everyone. What we lack is a vision for this future. We have a lack of imagination.
You often hear that we need a leader to provide us with this vision. Why? All of us are intelligent and capable of envisioning a world that is positive on our own. We do not need someone else telling us what want want. We often think we live in the best of all worlds already or we fear change and hence fear a the possibility of a world we do not fully understand. Rather than trying to understand it, we instead fall back on the comfort of the known. Rather than trust in our vision and out ability to navigate complexity, we fall back on the familiar even if it is not at all what we really want.
It does not have to be this way. I challenge everyone reading this to consider a vision for the world that encompasses your ideals while allowing for others to have theirs. This is not easy, but it is possible. We have to be willing to admit there is more than one right way. We have want a better world for our children and the future. Deliberately blinding yourself to reality does not change it. It just ensures a worse outcome. Rather than muddling our way through, hoping things magically get better, we have to actively pursue the future we want and build that vision together.