New Scientist has a look at the propensity people have for apocalyptic predictions and some reasons why to be optimistic - Reasons to be optimistic for the future.
WE HUMANS have a natural tendency to believe that our own generation is living in extraordinary times. The past is littered with apocalyptic predictions, and within living memory dire warnings have been made about nuclear conflagration, communist takeover, a new ice age, global famine, a population crisis, deadly new airborne viruses, the millennium bug, the singularity... The list goes on.
As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, apocalyptic thinking is thriving. There seems little doubt that we confront a host of unprecedented problems on an unprecedented scale, from economic meltdown to environmental degradation.
Are we just falling prey to our doomsaying disposition? No. The fact that so many earlier catastrophic predictions did not materialise does not mean that current anxieties are unfounded. The global reach of today's problems means we are truly living in extraordinary times.
That past predictions did not come true wasn't entirely down to dubious forecasting or good luck, however. Humans may tend to make mountains out of molehills, but when confronted by genuine existential threats - which appears to be most of the time - we have the ability to face them down. As a species, we are good at meeting the challenges before us.
When confronted by genuine existential threats, we have the ability to face them down
It is in this spirit that we launch a four-week campaign exploring ways to make the world a better place. It will come as no surprise that our starting point is the power of reason. From that springs an ironclad belief that the world can be made better through the application of science and rational thinking. ...
So talk of making the world a better place is not starry-eyed idealism. It is about survival - the long-term survival of the civilisation we have built and the lifestyles we have come to enjoy. On pages 30 to 39, we look at just a few of the radical changes we should be considering, from legalising drugs to taking Fridays off work, forever.