Proof that we should be optimistic about the future


As a nation we love to complain. We complain about the weather when it’s raining and we complain when it’s too hot. We moan about traffic jams and queues, we moan when there’s too much choice and then we complain when there’s not enough. We truly are a bunch of miserable souls. But here we are living in a world where life expectancy has increased by a third in the last fifty years, birth rates are falling everywhere and we are enjoying the cleanest air and rivers we have experienced in centuries. We really have never had it so good.

Ok so we haven’t had the best start to the century. Terrorism has damaged our sense of security, war has torn countries and families apart, climate change has turned us into eco-friendly obsessives and the recession has tightened purse strings and seen unemployment soar, not to mention the Euro crisis. It seems to be going from bad to worse, so who could blame us for having a bleak outlook on the future?The Rational Optimist

Acclaimed science writer Matt Ridley says that these doomsayers have always been among us and have always been proved wrong. In his latest book The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves Ridley demonstrates that thanks to trade and unique human specialisation, the human species has always found an innovative solution to every obstacle faced so far. We are a super species!

Ridley is difficult to argue with as he backs up his statements with very clear and very persuasive examples.  Take innovation for example; he takes us from when hunter-gatherers first ventured out into Africa right up to modern day entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. We have always built upon innovation after innovation to provide new and more advanced gadgets which people are going to want to buy.  This is all thanks to collective intelligence which the human species learnt to develop. And thank God we did. Just imagine if we tried to make everything ourselves believing in the ‘myth’ that self-sufficiency is best. We would still be stuck in the cave man era making our own tools, getting our own fire wood and catching our own food. We could have been tucking into a freshly caught rat tonight, yummy!

So Ridley’s got a point, the human species just keeps jumping over these hurdles and developing solutions and gadgets which were thought impossible just 50 years ago. So why is it that people still recall ‘the good old days’?

If they are referring to the past 60 years then the ‘good old days’ consist of a high child mortality rate and low life expectancy. Not to mention that ‘those who had never had it so good’ would now be below the poverty line.  Do you still want to go back to the ‘good old days’? I thought not.

We all have this dream to live like Kings and Queens when in actual fact we already are. Using Louis XIV as an example Ridley illustrates how like Louis XIV we too have 498 people preparing our dinner. Only we have a choice of restaurants, supermarkets, hotels and cafes. We have so much choice that we live better than Louis XIV did and we don’t even have to have the mountains of gold that he had. We have evolved from slavery and work for each other and that is what prosperity is.

I think it is safe to say that we should leave the past where it belongs and have faith that the human species will do what it does best and that is survive and innovate. Let’s all take a leaf out of Ridley’s book and remain optimistic. Live life and enjoy.

About the author 

Pete Baikins

Pete Baikins is an international authority on gamification, a lifelong gamer, successful entrepreneur and a lecturer. As CEO of Gamification+ Ltd he mentors and trains companies world-wide on the use of gamification to solve business challenges. Gamification+ won the Board of Trade Award from the UK's Department of International Trade in January 2019.

Pete is co-host of the health gamification podcast Health Points and is also Chair of Gamification Europe, the annual conference for Gamification practitioners.

Pete is an Honorary Ambassador for GamFed (International Gamification Confederation), having previously been the Chair from 2014 to February 2019, whose aim is to spread best practices within and support the gamification industry.

After 15 years as a Lecturer on gamification and entrepreneurship at the University of Brighton he now guest lectures on Gamification at King’s College London and at ESCP Europe at post-graduate and under-graduate levels.

Over the past 20 years Pete has built and sold two businesses. One was in security software and the more recent one was a telecoms and internet connectivity business. He is also an Ambassador for Brighton & Hove Chamber of Commerce in the UK.

  • I really enjoyed reading the book. It confirmed my opinion that the rate of progress we have achieved in the last hundred years will continue.

    I am of the opinion that he has missed the effect of us all learning from eavh other and the cumuylative acceleration that results.

    This means hat we are continuously automatically raising ouselves to a new starting base.

    Not only that but also we have a greater percentage of the global population having more “thinking time”. This in itself is also increasing geometrically; and it’s further multiplied by the increase in global population.

    I am jealous of the life the next generation will enjoy let alone the generation thta follows them.

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