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Mike Cooper

The 'hardwired for hope' link is broken, Dave. Still reading the rest of the article, feel free to delete this comment. Cheers Mike.

Mike Cooper

I agree with your description of hope as the ultimate object of fear. So many potential big problems the world faces - the economy, the climate, the die-off of species, problems with energy supply going forward, social unrest, inequality, etc. - are basically ignored because humans are innately hopeful that we can solve the issues 'one day' without having to worry about them now. So we basically carry on doing the things we already do because we hope that they will work out.

And doint that also includes many many other Flatland biases such as groupthink, rationalisation, threat avoidance, anthropomorphism, maintenance of self-importance... so much human 'motivated reasoning' bullshit is involved in doing the wrong thing over and over again in the expectation that it will be right 'next time' that you'd think it would eventually become evident that that's all it is, bullshit. But of course, the fact that humans do very stupid things because they can't help it is the one thing that is inadmissible.

Te cho

So true. I as an entrepreneur previously was also so. Encouraged by lawyers. Bankers. Insurance agents. Real estate agents. Etc. what a surprise.

Dave Cohen

@Mike Cooper

Well, that link works now because

-- it's way too much to fucking expect that the fucking Washington Post would maintain it website

And the fix took awhile because

-- it's way too much to fucking expect fucking Google to maintain its Chrome browser


-- it's way too much to fucking expect fucking Verizon to maintain a decent DSL connection


-- it's way too much to fucking expect that my computer be virus-free because we live in a world made by humans.

See what I mean?


-- Dave


This might be what I find most frustrating about our predicament. Occasionally there's a commentary about the dangers of optimism, but it's exceedingly rare:

It's just a given that being hopeful about something is always a positive.

Lind didn't mention climate change, so I will. It's the obvious example here, but it still needs discussing. Over-optimism about climate change is rampant - and not just by the deniers, but by many of those supposedly leading the fight against it.

Al Gore:

Joe Romm:

Green activists take the straw man argument that a rejection of optimism is automatically pessimism, negating the third option of realism. Their concern is also that fighting climate change without optimism will only lead to despair and inaction, overlooking the obvious that optimism only helps us rationalize the continuance of the same patterns that are causing climate change. The only avenue for justifiable hope is by most people realizing that the problem is enormously difficult, that it actually requires radical changes, and that the pain of those changes is necessary to avoid greater future pain. And yet, so few are on that page, many are sending out overly optimistic messages that only sedate or confuse the majority, and most in that majority are more concerned about playing Pokemon Go right now, that any hope about the situation is doubly irrational. (Ignoring human nature and its inborn need for continuous growth, of course, makes it triply irrational.)

I didn't find the Dr. No part depressing. It is essential. Not every path is a good one, and we'll always choose the primrose path unless there's someone with influence advising against it. The only reason for hope to me are the Dr. No's of the world.


The world is in great hands operated by great minds Dave.

In Britain too:

The final solution, Yes:

If being an unhinged loon is a prerequisite maybe I should run.

Jeremy MG


"I am much more humble than you can understand."

I'm the best at being humble. No one is more humble than me. You won't find a person more humble. One of my many great traits is that I am humble. I don't mean to brag, but I am very humble.

Ken Barrows

I am not very social and usually stay at home, but doesn't it seem that optimism never has to be justified and pessimism always has to be justified? If so, we are not rational. Then again, no one has to prove s/he's rational.

The Wet One

So you're saying the future shown in Star Trek will never happen?

Eh, I guess I knew that already.

Still, it's a serious bummer.



I see this all the time, and generally Mr Nyet gets shouted down and abused for being such an ignorant idiot, with 'too simplistic' understanding. Being positive makes you sound intelligent, being negative makes you sound dumb.
Mr Nyet only works if he is listened to, as he obviously is in Russia.


I also noticed he couches it as 'excessive optimisim' which makes it very easy for everyone to ignore the insight because they are just being positive, not OVERLY optimistic. Like there is some safe level where everyone wins lol.

Dave Cohen


Re: The world is in great hands operated by great minds, Dave

Who could disagree? ;-)


-- Dave

Mike Roberts

Recently I've been wondering how to dredge up some optimism and started to think about some indigenous peoples. For example, as I understsnd it, aborigines started out messing up their environment but eventually figured out how to live sustainably - before Europeans ruined everything. Sustainability, though, might have just been a geologically brief bit of luck. Eventually, some of them would have started using coal and the inevitable would have happened. Or maybe not?


Have you read E.O. Wilson?
"He argued that all animal behavior, including that of humans, is the product of heredity, environmental stimuli, and past experiences, and that free will is an illusion. He has referred to the biological basis of behaviour as the "genetic leash".[15]:127–128 The sociobiological view is that all animal social behavior is governed by epigenetic rules worked out by the laws of evolution. This theory and research proved to be seminal, controversial, and influential."

Mike Cooper

@Dave: I hear you! I spend 90% of my day using IT systems. Mostly crap.

Russ Day

This follows the theme of Barbara Tuchman' "The March of Folly" written in 1984. Many themes all boil down to stupidity and hubris.

Alexander Ač


I guess nuclear weaponry renewal is a classic example of utopian optimism. "Mr. No", in this case Jeremy Corbyn, was useless as ever:

After more than five hours of discussion, parliament voted in favour of Trident renewal by a majority of 355 in a motion was backed by almost the entire Conservative party and more than half of Labour MPs.

It was opposed by all Scottish National party MPs, the Lib Dems and Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong unilateralist who spoke out strongly against the plans during the deabte.

So now we have a "yes woman" in charge of ^) million "yes people".

Theresa May would authorise nuclear strike causing mass loss of life

another great day passed on planet Earth.




In the economic sphere notable economist Robert Solow was mentioned a couple of posts ago. His famous quote "The world can, in effect, get along without natural resources, so exhaustion is just an event, not a catastrophe." certainly would qualify him as a cockeyed optimist. In fact the cornucopian mind set is at the center of modern political/economic thought, embraced by pretty much everyone. I can't conceive of any politician attaining an office above local dog-catcher who believes that there are limits to growth.

Dave Cohen


Thanks for the Solow quote! Hadn't heard that one.

Thus do growth instincts in the human animal get expressed by bat-shit crazy post-hoc rationalizations.


-- Dave

steve c


Hope would seem to be an irrational disconnect from reality, but I think of this study when I wonder why it might be a genetic disposition that would have improved odds of being passed on.

Alexander Ač

Another defeating day in Flatland (FAU - Flatland as usual). Senior (and successful) earth scientist at NASA Compton Tucker talks about record hot temperatures so far this year. When asked about possible solution(s) to climate change, his answer is straightforward. Dont hold your breath:

There is no reason to be pessimistic


Hope over experience on steroids!



Fighting Bob


Many thanks for the link.
Depressing though it was.
(And as always, thanks to Dave for another superlative post)
I am haunted by the images that were detailed in the essay.

And yes, that easy cruelty and disconnect probably would improve chances to rise to the top of the gene heap.

Thanks also to Russ Day for the reminder of "The March to Folly".
I chanced upon that book as our invasion of Iraq began to ramp up.
Timing eh?

I recall a relative's comment in that time of French Surrender Monkeys and Freedom Toast,
"It's America, we're going to wrap this thing up in 48 hours."

Thanks to all for their comments.

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