- Agenda ** What is Radical Optimism with a focus on under reported signs of optimism (10-15 minutes) ** Personal Introductions and ask everyone to name one thing that bothers them *** For things the wiki has content on, discuss and see if it's satisfying. If not on wiki, brainstorm and research later. ** Vote on topic for next meetup ** Walk to dinner for those interested
- What is Radical Optimism? ** Look for optimism in life. Radical because it looks for optimism in everything, including the worst situations. The key aspect is that the optimism should be based on reason and evidence. ** Why Radical Optimism? Partly to balance out and correct the cynicism and realism in the media, education, and common wisdom. Ideas are contagious! Also partly because there's evidence that it's good for you: Positive psychology has run some double blind, placebo controlled experiments and found that optimism and positive emotions improve life. Covered in more detail below, but two examples are that optimism is correlated with reduced heart disease, and that your optimism when first seeing your doctor may improve the doctor's quality of diagnosis. ** Website at radicaloptimism.org that compiles negative thoughts and proposes ideas about optimistic ways to look at them. Ultimately it will be a place for conversation and debate, but right now it's moderated to avoid spam - you must request to join. Based on the wikipedia technology. ** How to apply Radical Optimism - research found two techniques increased happiness and and decreased depressive symptoms: using your strengths in new ways (authentichappiness.org) and writing down three things that went well each day. Another way is simply to be aware of your thoughts and emotions, not to fight them, but to consider them. Write down how you feel and then if you can't find any optimistic ways to look at it, search the website to see if it covers it - if not, use the contact page to send an anonymous email to request the topic is researched, or bring it up at a meetup. ** Optimist: If there's one thing to take away from radical optimism, it's that we have the power to rationally consider our state in the world and in our mind, despite terrible tragedies, endlessly difficult emotions, the vastness of the universe, the frailty of our luck, and death itself. We can choose to evaluate the bad with the good and change our view of the world, and perhaps the world itself, all through more balanced and reasoned thought. Practically, this means that the next time you have a sudden negative emotion or sense of the world, you can be aware of it and consider it before it consumes you. ** Some under reported signs of optimism: *** Emotions **** Positive psychology has run some double blind, placebo controlled experiments and found: ***** Prevents depression, broadens attention, increases creative thinking ***** Correlated with better moods, perseverance, success, more marital satisfaction, and physical health, including less chances of heart disease. ***** Positive emotions reduce some racial biases ***** Brief raising of positive mood enhances creative thinking and makes positive physicians more accurate and faster to come up with the proper liver diagnosis ***** The ratio of positive to negative statements correlates with the quality of work environments and marriages, for example. **** Other useful resources on emotions are philosophy and one recommendation is Allain De Botton's book The Consolations of Philosophy *** Society **** The world population has increased seven fold from 1 billion in 1820 to 7 billion today, yet what you're not often told is that over this same period: ***** The average wealth of a human as increased eight fold. Relatedly, global poverty has gone from 80% to about 20% and continues to decline. ***** World Life expectancy has more than doubled from 25 to 65. This implicitly also tells us about disease, health, accidents, etc. ***** Average global inequality is currently flat or decreasing. While inequality may be rising in rich countries, inequality is probably falling much more quickly in poorer countries. Interestingly, the world income distribution is starting to look like a classic bell curve. ***** Average number of years of education are increasing. ***** Average annual number of hours worked are decreasing. ***** Average calories of food per day available to the average person has been and continues to increase ***** Most positive developments are correlated with average wealth such as child labor. This is good news because that has been and continues to increase around the world. ***** Pinker: "Violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millenia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children. No aspect of life is untouched by the retreat from violence." ***** Seems to be a downward trend of the worst human wars and atrocities. ***** Energy use, which some argue is one of the main engines of all of this growth, continues increase, suggesting that things are not running out any time soon. ****** The latest trend, fracking, does have some mild earthquake dangers and like any resource that needs to be dug out of the ground has costs and dangers, but there is no known case of groundwater contamination. **** Won't we hit limits if the human population keeps on growing? ***** Interestingly enough, for reasons that demographers still don't completely understand, amongst other reasons, as people get richer, they have less children. Global fertility is decreasing and may reach replacement rate, meaning population will stop its explosive growth and may even start to decline. **** What about the environment? ***** Climate change: Based on the latest United Nations' IPCC report (the current scientific consensus): The Earth has warmed by about 0.85°C (1°C = 1.8°F, so 0.85°C = 1.5°F) between 1880–2012. A doubling of CO2 alone is only estimated to cause about 1.2°C of warming. The predictions of warming beyond 1.2°C (1.5°C to 4.5°C) are based on climate models that simulate feedbacks to climate change. Unlike previous IPCC reports, the latest report does not even give a best estimate "because of a lack of agreement" and sensitivity to "observational and model uncertainties, internal climate variability and to assumptions about the prior distribution of ECS [(equilibrium climate sensitivity)]." The observed warming more closely matches the more optimistic models (i.e. lower feedback/climate sensitivity): "... estimates derived from observed climate change tend to best fit the observed surface and ocean warming for ECS values in the lower part of the likely range."Therefore, it seems more likely that the warming will be less dramatic and that may explain why currently observed temperature trends are on the low end of IPCC model predictions ****** If there's only mild warming, as seems quite possible, then this has a good chance of having net positive impacts, but even the more dire predictions for a moderate warming only show a few percentage point loss in average GDP. ****** While heat waves, rain, and tropical cyclones have increased, there is little global evidence that floods, droughts, small-scale severe weather phenomena, tropical storms, or major hurricanes have increased. ****** Global death rates due to climate disasters have declined dramatically ****** We continue to improve technology and the type of carbon we're using: gas is better than oil which is better than coal. ***** Global vegetation is increasing, partly due to the increased carbon dioxide, which vegetation needs. ***** Forest coverage is increasing where wealth is increasing, partly due to productivity and partly people's concerns. ***** Cropland usage per person is decreasing ***** Common pollutants are decreasing such as sulfur dioxide, nitric oxide and nitrogen dioxide (commonly emitted by cars), and other volatile organic compounds are decreasing ***** Indoor air quality is improving ***** Water quality is improving where wealth is increasing. ***** Sanitation is improving where wealth is increasing. **** Quote from Goklany's book The Improving State of the World (Ridley's Rational Optimist is another good one): ***** Despite "recklessly" increasing its numbers during the past millennium, humanity has never been better fed, healthier, or longer lived. The state of humanity has never been better. Since Malthus wrote his Essay on Population two centuries ago, the average person’s life span has more than doubled. He is better educated and wealthier. She is freer to choose her rulers and express her views. He is more likely to live under the rule of law and is less fearful of being arbitrarily deprived of life, limb, freedom, property, wealth, and other basic human rights. Her professional, social, and physical mobility, while still limited in many places, is less likely to be circumscribed by caste, class, location, or other accidents of birth. Not only is work less physically demanding, he works fewer hours, earns more, and has more leisure time at his disposal. The proximate causes for the improvements in the human condition... are the forces of technological change and economic growth, supplemented by trade in products, ideas, and technologies associated with those forces. Virtually every indicator of human welfare also improves with wealth, as do the environmental indicators that we know to have the greatest bearing on public health... In the United States, this upward march has been in progress at least since the 1880s... Pollution levels did not keep pace with the growth in population or consumption of energy, other natural resources, and chemicals... Despite a 100-fold increase in organic chemical usage, public health has continued to improve... The inverse trends between chemical usage and public health is consistent with the notion that new technology does not, in fact, make matters worse. If anything, it replaces worse risks with risks that are not so bad... In fact, the air and water quality in the United States and the world’s rich nations are better today than they have been in decades. The increase in their agricultural productivity has allowed them to reestablish forests and set habitat aside... ***** Although many of today’s developing countries haven’t been on the cycle of progress for long, Human Development Indices in their urban areas exceed those in rural areas. This might seem counterfactual to many casual observers given the obvious- and very visible- squalor and pollution in the cities of developing countries such as Mexico City; Teheran, Iran; and New Delhi, India.
Thursday, Aug 24, 2017 5:20:42 AM