29 May 2011

Radical Optimism? Protopia vs Utopia vs Dystopia

Technium Protopia
In a short Technium essay, Kevin Kelly makes a case for radical optimism, referencing Matt Ridley (author of The Rational Optimist). It is true that pessimism acts as a paralytic, whereas optimism can act as an activator or motivator.
1) Optimism is not based on temperament. (Ridley says he is not temperamentally optimistic.) It is a perspective that is, and should be, based on evidence and facts. It is a type of rationality that can, and should be, tested with facts. And tossed out if not true.

2) We behave better when we are optimistic. Progress depends on innovation, and innovation needs optimism; where optimism is most present, so is innovation. Hot spots of innovation in history were hot spots of optimism in otherwise pessimistic societies. What we believe about our trajectory matters.

3) A lot of pessimism is correct. If things continue as they are we are doomed. As Ridley writes: "If the world continues as it is, it will end in disaster for all humanity. If all transport depends on oil, and oil runs out, then transport will cease. If agriculture continues to depend on irrigation and aquifers are depleted, then starvation will ensue. But notice the conditional: if. The world will not continue as it is. That is the whole point of human progress, the whole message of cultural evolution." The world will not continue as is, but will change the game. _KevinKelly
Some optimists are temperamentally inclined to think positive. But most of us have to work at it. There is evidence to suggest that optimism can pay big dividends. And pessimism can sap one's energies, imagination, and will to solve problems.

A healthy optimism should not cause us to think that utopia is just over the horizon. But something called "protopia" may be closer than we realise. Protopia is an intentional trend toward improved circumstances -- a proactive bettering of prospects and living conditions due to applied intelligence combined with the optimistic belief in a positive future.
hPlus via Al Fin, The Next Level
It is sometimes the case that persons who become very wealthy may apply some of their wealth toward building a better future for not only themselves, but also for others. The billionaires listed above have all chosen to invest in a more positive future. Money alone cannot achieve a better future. It will require the energies of large numbers of intelligent, creative, and hard-working individuals if humans are to overcome the forces of dystopia and Idiocracy being unleashed by their governments.

And don't forget the "invisible hand" of constant creative reshaping -- the market -- as a protopian agent of change.
via Al Fin Potpourri

Humans were not made for utopia. Despite the best efforts of idealists, ideologues, revolutionaries, and community organisers, it is simply not in humans to work selflessly for the common good like some type of hive animal.

If government or cultural restraints prevent humans from improving their own situations, people will all too readily grow dependent upon outside assistance and entitlements. Such a dynamic leads to more powerful governments and less competent individuals and private sectors. Those who are at top levels of government or positioned to be favoured by government contracts and disbursals of funds, will be greatly advantaged by such trends.

That is why ambitious politicians often use quasi-utopian language in order to gain power. Sometimes these "revolutionaries" mean well, and sometimes they are sociopathic power mongers or narcissistic seekers of adoration. Their motivations are irrelevant, since the end result -- dystopia and Idiocracy -- is the likeliest outcome of a massing of power within a central government.

Of the three -- Utopia, Dystopia, and Protopia -- only Protopia has a future. While protopia can be assisted by persons of power and wealth, it is actually based upon a growing degree of competence, creativity, and optimism at the level of societal ferment. Such a shift in power -- from the top to the middle -- will only be possible with a diminishing of the nanny state's all-pervasive, top-down meddlings and dictates.

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Blogger PRCalDude said...

The thing I've noticed in the reactionary blogosphere is a ton of pessimism. As you said, pessimism basically paralyzes you and keeps you from being open to options. It prevents you from controlling what you can control and keeps you worrying about what you can't control. The "ACT" school of cognitive behavioral therapy advocates taking valued action whenever your mind tells you something negative, but too many people seem content just to listen and believe what their minds tell them, leading to a wasted life.

The most successful people I see carve out success for themselves rather than waiting for the future to be handed to them.

Thursday, 02 June, 2011  

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“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act” _George Orwell

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