In 2018, Bill Gates guest-edited an edition of Time Magazine, which focused on optimism. According to Gates, “being an optimist doesn’t mean you ignore tragedy and injustice. It means you’re inspired to look for people making progress on those fronts, and to help spread that progress more widely” (Gates, 2018). In the same year, Steven Pinker published Enlightenment Now and the Roslings published Factfulness; both of which make a clear case that the world is better than we think. These were all attempts to counteract the paranoid pessimism of our time.
They emerged as islands of hope, in a time where most of us subscribed to doom.
But these optimistic islands, as promising as they were, have been flooded by the despair of a global pandemic, polarisation, war and growing inequality gaps on a planet close to collapse. Trying to peddle hope in a time of burnout is mostly met by a Nietzchean response that holds hope to simply prolong the suffering of man.
The 2020s have been a messy decade for our blue planet. We’ve run afoul of massive storms, increased racial violence, war, political turmoil, and continuing climate crises. No matter what country you call home, what industry you make your living in, or what family dynamic you are part of, millions feel powerless and scared.
In a study by Eckersley and Randle (2020) testing public perceptions of the future threat of humanity, most respondents believed our way of life will be ending in the next one hundred years. They list several studies that echo the subjective perception of dread in the current system and our expected, collective future.