Watch 'the Paranoid Optimist' - Charlie Jane Anders talk on optimism in the face of disaster



In this TEDx talk at Harvard College, Charlie Jane Anders (Science Fiction author and co-founder of io9) discusses something near and dear to my heart - how a person manages to be optimistic about the future of mankind while, simultaneously, acknowledging that there are some catastrophes on the horizon.

There are a few points where we seem to disagree, or at least that I feel need clarification.

Ander's asks early on "who wants to live online" - a reference to the idea espoused by Ray Kurzweil, Stephen Hawking and others that we will one day be able to upload a human mind to the internet. The way it is presented it sounds like they are going to stick you on Tumblr between fan pages devoted to One Direction and Benedict Cumberbach.

The way I understand it, your mind would be saved and (instead of dying) you would live in a virtual reality or realities of your choosing. You would be able to download yourself into a robotic body to experience events in the real world or even be transmitted to a robotic body on Mars or elsewhere. You would be able to talk with friends and family, consult on projects in your field and continue scholarship and creative work. To me, that doesn't sound too bad (especially when death is the alternative).

I also think that most science fiction is dystopian because it makes it easier to write stories. Telling a compelling story set in a successful utopia is difficult. Star Trek managed it (until JJ Abrams took over) but only by having the bulk of the story happen away from Earth. It is simply easier to set your story in a bleak, post-apocalyptic world ruled by tyrants. I don't think most science fiction writers (with a firm understanding of science and technology) are as pessimistic as their stories would suggest.

Other than that, Anders talk hits on a lot of important points - both the reasons to be confident that humanity has a long, bright future ahead despite the coming fallout from climate change and other potential disasters.

 
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