Conditional Optimism

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The old saying goes: A pessimist says that glass is half empty. An optimist says the glass is half full.* But what do you call the person who picks up the glass and fills it? How about a “conditional optimist,” one who believes they can create the future by taking action? This is an idea that was recently discussed on the NPR show Marketplace by Nobel honored economist Paul Romer.

It’s easy to be pessimistic about the future, thinking that our children will never have the same opportunities we had, or optimistic, thinking that we have faced many crises before and overcome them, so we will again. Prospective democracy requires thinking deeply about the future and then taking action to create the future we want for our children and grandchildren–the next generation of voters. Romer’s ideas about the attitude of conditional optimism seems like a fit.

I recommend his interview if you want to feel positive about the future. You can listen here.

Be hopeful, be active


*And one for fun: An industrial engineer looks at the glass and says, That’s twice as much glass as we need for the job!

What If We Had a Secretary of the Future?

Corporations employ people to imagine and prepare for the future. Why shouldn't the federal government? 

One of my favorite shows on National Public Radio is Marketplace for their wide-ranging and eye-opening reports and opinions. Take a listen to an idea about a Secretary of the Future to make government more forward-looking. It sounds a bit off the wall, except that similar roles are being developed in the private sector.

Thanks to Dr. Douglas Harris from Loyola College and Johns Hopkins University for passing this along.