Lawren Jones


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Why all the pessimism?

I'm reading a lot of Ted conversations lately that assume we're in dire straits. Seems they're always phrased something like "How to we fix the (debatable) crisis before it's too late.

In my mind, none of the challenges facing our species is beyond our ability to manage in a timely fashion. And, like Peter Diamandis, I believe that an age of abundance is upon us. What do you think?

  • Mar 8 2013: We are in dire straits indeed.But we are still positive to live in the world,Because it is people who make the world beautiful:love,kindness...still around us.
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    Mar 8 2013: Excellent question Lawren! I agree with you that none of the challenges we're facing are beyond our ability to manage, and I believe that a big change has begun.

    When we look at the big picture, the challenges sometimes seem overwhelming, and I believe it is important to focus and build on what IS changing. A lot of the corruption in politics, business, religions, for example, has been going on for a very long time. Many times we did not know about it. We now have the communication systems which enable us to be connected with the whole world, so we now are more aware of many of the challenges. Awareness is the first step toward change, and in my perception, that is exactly what is happening now.

    Many people have difficulty with change, and it is much easier to say it's'll never happen....etc. That allows people to stay in the little box they have created for themselves. As Barry says...we have the ability to create a world of abundance if we make the right choices...the same technologies that could lead to abundance, could also lead to destruction. What choices are we, as a global community going to make? I believe, with new awareness, we will be making better choices. Now that we are more aware of what the challenges are, we can focus on taking steps to improve our world.
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    Mar 9 2013: Are you sure it's all pessimism?
    I am an optimist by nature. I see the positive side, the possibility side and the potential side of situations as interesting and exciting. This is my normal way of interacting with my environment. However, over time, optimism without any logical indication in its favor has started to appear to me as useless, may be even detrimental, just like pessimism.
    I think we mistake reasoned skepticism too as pessimism when we are mentally predisposed towards a euphoric optimism.
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    Mar 9 2013: Its good to be optimistic. Pessimists hardly solve any problems because all they see is gloom and doom. But it is also a good thing to be aware of the real state of things. It is better to stop sparks in a field of dry grass than to wait to quench raging fires.
  • Mar 9 2013: First of all,
    in my mind, it isn't pessimism.
    It is simply being honest about what one finds, sees, learns and understands about what is happening in our world.
    It isn't being pessimistic.
    I don't vacillate back and forth between the cage gerbel-wheel of so-called "optimism and pessimism".
    I prefer to find the truth, see it, speak and then see what can be done.
    That to me is a more positive manner of dealing with life.

    Today, especially in the land of American'ts, the majority worship lies. They want their lies more than anything else in the world. Their lies are what they use to soothe their minds. If they don't get their lies, then they use their fingers to twiddle on their smart phones, up, down, right, left and if that doesn't work then they stick headphones up their ear canals to listen to something other than their own thoughts and if that doesn't work, then they are on the phone, constantly, wherever they go so that they don't have to listen to their own thoughts. That is pessimism.

    Last but not least, they believe authority is the truth rather than the truth being the authority. Why?
    They don't want the truth.
    "There's enough time. I have faith. It will all work out. God will save us/US. God loves us/US and hates the rest of the world. Others in the world are there for our sadistic pleasures that we so enjoy: War, invasion, destruction, terrorizing, impoverishing, enslaving and killing.

    That is the truth of us/US. It's neither pesso or opti. It just is and it isn't changed because American'ts embrace pessimistic-optimissism.

    So, hmmm, you're right after all.
  • Mar 8 2013: I think that main reason for pessimism is the fact that mainstream media are constantly feeding us with bad news. There will always be murders and some accidents but that does not mean the world is not getting better overall. I stopped watching local news/TV long time ago to avoid this negative stream of information.

    Peter Diamandis explains in his TED talk about negativity and postive future of abundance:

    We are predisposed to pay more attention to bad news even thou the world is safer than ever before and advanced in technology, medicine and biotechnology are improving lives dramatically.
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    Mar 8 2013: Kudos, sir! You are making a valuable contribution by promoting optimism and singing a happy tune. But, be careful not to casually dismiss, or ignore altogether, the plethora of evidence supporting pessimism as touched upon by Mr. Palmer below. Keep it real.
  • Mar 8 2013: I certainly hope you are right.

    IMO, the twenty first century will be the most critical in history. We have the ability to create a world of abundance if we make the right choices. The same powerful technologies that could lead to abundance could also lead to our destruction.

    Nano technology can create particles so tiny that they literally can fall through your skin. If current policies continue, any company will be able to produce and market such particles, in any quantities, without prior testing of their affect on the environment or on human health. These particles will inevitably find their way into aquifers that serve millions of people. (I have heard that research labs are already causing this, but could not confirm that.)

    Gene modification (GM) is being used to design and build new forms of life. Exotic species are already replacing native species and wreaking havoc. GM species could save us, or one of them could break a crucial link in the environment (e.g. honey bees) and indirectly kill us all, or perhaps just destroy civilization.

    The reason for the pessimism is plain to see. Right now, we are destroying our environment. We are polluting the water, cutting and burning forests, and destroying the natural habitat of many species. Species are going extinct at a rate that has not occurred for millions of years. We are (at least) contributing to global warming, which could cause massive changes to climate and lead to drought, starvation, social unrest and likely to war. Another concern is nuclear weapons proliferation.

    Of course, the world could suddenly develop wisdom and change all of this. That is not likely.
  • Mar 8 2013: Lawren, I think you are right that none of the solutions are out of our reach, and we are in the age of abundance.

    I also think that we lack vision, hunger for difference, and real people power among other things
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      Mar 8 2013: Lionel,
      Sometimes, we may be short on vision simply because the challenges seem overwhelming on a global scale, and perhaps it is difficult to envision something beyond the challenges? From what I am seeing and hearing in our world, it appears that people ARE hungry for change, and I think/feel it is a matter of people taking back their real power.....changing from power and control OVER other people, to genuine power (respect, compassion, empathy, kindness) with each other.
  • Mar 15 2013: I'd be interested to know what you would think of looking at your question from a different perspective... One might infer that the vantage point you are taking of these questions is, itself, pessimistic. How do we not know that the people posting these conversations are themselves, optimists; having real feelings and attitudes that suggest the world can be better and brighter in the future. Merely asking questions that can help propel humanity to the height of greatness.
    I think Eric Idle said it best... "Always look on the bright side of life."
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    Gail .

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    Mar 9 2013: I think that global warming combined with its loss or arable soil and clean drinking water, combined with spiraling population, growth has already passed our ability to manage in a timely manner. Fixable, but it's long past time. Too many have died horrible deaths already.

    But to speak of the bigger issue, the pessimism, IMO, is because we live in a culture where we are no longer relevant except as pawns in a game that no longer serves us. We have been effectively silenced and enslaved. Our wants are unimportant.

    Excess population is a part of that as well. We are no longer connected. There are no more neighborhoods in cities. Neighborhoods, which were once a group of people, are now nothing more than zip codes. Too many feel too alone in a crowded world, but humans are a social animal and our culture keeps us isolated.

    I could have the best idea in the world, and it could fix almost all of our problems within a year or two, but as I have no voice (because SOTUS has said that money is voice for those pieces of paper (corporate charters that have been granted citizenship - the executives and lobbyists of which fund political campaigns), I must live under the oppressive tyranny of those who do have a voice.

    But, to carry the idea further, I believe that all that we now believe in is collapsing. I believe that a better world is on its way - after a bit of turmoil. So I see the age of abundance as being close and approaching, but not here NOW.
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    Mar 9 2013: I like listening to Diamandis and I think he is right.

    However economic freedom and opportunity has diminished greatly in the U.S. and Europe. This is because of the money that is sucked out of the economy by the government. The tax money and regulation money contributes next to nothing to the economy and drives investment off shore or into hibernation. So the economy gets saddled with a handicap of an extra burden of the non producing government weight.

    The conjecture is this is caused by China taking jobs out of the country and that jobs the middle class did in the past are gone. So you see movements created by Diane Sawyer to buy American.

    But the reality is that for every job that is sent overseas more jobs are created by the exporting of the job as the pie gets bigger as the market is bigger because of a reduced cost. E.G. Kitchen cabinets that are brought in from China are 1/3 the cost so many more people can now afford to have kitchens put in. The bigger pie now creates jobs for importers, installers, truckers, designers, appliance manufacturers, other tradesman, etc etc.

    What really hurts the economy is scaring away the investors as ALL new jobs are created by investment in small business.

    Please spare me the conjecture of that doesn't make sense because...

    With all truth the devil is in the details which almost always exposes the conjecture for what it is.
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    Mar 9 2013: .

    I worry about the "dire straits" because:

    (1) Our life goal is to keep our DNA alive;
    . . but not to be "abundance".

    (2) Our accuracy is ultra-high;
    . . (We can survive on an extremely narrow path
    . . in extremely dangerous environment)
    . . and hence can not tolerate any tiny deviation.

    (3) So, "abundance" makes us
    . . obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, cancers, ....
    . . climate warming, nuclear weapon, .... self-extinction.

    (For details, see the 1st article, points 1-3, 11, 14, at
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    Mar 8 2013: Lawren, I also believe there are great opportunities for positive contribution by each of us. Opimism/pessimism is in part a personality trait, so people are born differently inclined in that respect.

    Beyond this, though, sometimes things that are close and recent and negative can skew a person's idea of the whole in a negative direction. For example, many of us may have moments of becoming exasperated at all the hate, even if there is less hate now than there may have been a half century ago. The same is true for belligerance, intolerance, and prejudice.

    When I say that seeing negative things close up can be skewing, it has become easier to see things "close up" than used to be possible. Not only do we have access to more information, but here is a cultural bias, perhaps, in preferentially bringing bad news to people's immediate attention.

    I can think of other explanations as well.
  • Mar 8 2013: I think the scale of problems has over-whelmed many. Those of us living the Serenity prayer by Niebuhr are not paralyzed by the size of the problems.

    God grant me the serenity
    to accept the things I cannot change;
    courage to change the things I can;
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    As you point out, attitude is a powerful force. I think Kipling had it right.


    If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
    If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too:
    If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
    Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

    If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
    If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same:
    If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
    Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

    If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
    And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss:
    If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
    And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

    If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
    If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much:
    If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
    Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And—which is more—you’ll be a man, my son!