What are you optimistic about?
This question was posed by the editor of Edge.com to a number of leading scientists and academics (the main profile of authors for the site). The resulting book is an interesting read with an admittedly intensely scientific skew.
What made me most interested in the book however is the question itself. What a fantastic question. Consider it for a minute.
First, in answering the question, you are immediately revealing a great deal about yourself. Optimistic about world peace? Then you must believe we are violent people now. Think our political systems will improve? How terrible you must perceive them currently. You can’t answer the question without showing your pessimism towards the current state of affairs.
The second fascinating aspect of the answer is how amazingly it renders your world view. Again, if you are optimistic about the possibility of world peace, I can now tell a great deal about you. First, you don’t believe the world is currently peaceful. Second, you likely don’t profit from its current violent condition. You aren’t the CEO of a security firm. Not an arms dealer. You aren’t a general of some large and important army. Third, you have some spare time and luxury in your life. What starving man worries about world peace? None that I know. They are worried about eating. Being optimistic about world peace means you contemplate the topic a bit and hence have the available freedoms for such thought.
The last curious aspect of the answers lies in the subject of what the individual is optimistic about. In the book, most people were interested in science, many answered that religion’s influence would wane. Beyond being misplaced, it shows the bias of the scientist against religion. I can only imagine the bishops of the world being optimistic about the exact opposite thing; the re-invigoration of religion in our daily lives.
The book is a fun one indeed and was a surprising find in my hostel’s local bookshelf while in a hostel in Australia.