Are you groaning under my previous “10 pessimisms” post? Then groan no more, as here are my 10 points for rational optimism for 2015:
News of serious medical health breakthroughs came thick and fast over the New Year, and they’re still coming. And the news is not the “hmmm… might get on the market in 2030?” or “Megacorp hypes NEW PATENT WONDERDRUG!!”. No, these are solutions that are here now or else are being fast-tracked to deployment. Other less noticeable health improvements are happening more incrementally, among the poorest — though a slow-but-steady move toward smaller families, better nutrition and healthier living conditions.
India is currently brimming with optimism under its dynamic and pragmatic new leader. The Indian economy is widely reported as set to grow at +5% in 2015. Of course, it’s a massive country with over 50 huge cities, and growth will not reach everywhere in just 12 months. But the outlook there is very positive, especially on the coasts.
A surprising choice, perhaps. But they’re having a positive impact on many aspects of the natural world, from agriculture to eco-crime. Sometimes several million small devices can have a big overall cumulative impact. Other forms of monitoring, from small affordable satellites to wildlife tagging systems, will also help monitor the natural world more efficiently.
4. Business growth.
The business climate should improve in many nations, bar a few systemic shocks from declining nations such as Russia and Japan. Jobs are growing rapidly in the UK and USA. The freer economies of Sub-Saharan Africa are doing rather well overall, with a bit of Chinese help. A few African nations are reported to be finding their own uniquely African ways to growth, and even starting to seriously tackle some forms of corruption. Africa’s growth will be further boosted by low oil prices, a drop in many other key commodity prices, and increasingly efficient agricultural methods. Possibly also by lowered trade barriers, which would do the most good.
5. Waste not, want not.
It’s great to see so many ways emerging to efficiently use previously wasted or spare resources. From Uber and AirBnB to bio-engineered bacteria digesting noxious waste, the world is successfully using new technology to make productive use of everything from spare cars to spare tyres. On a wider level such systems are effectively rapid real-world R&D labs for future changes in the ways that organisations operate.
6. Open Access.
We’ve seen sustained ongoing growth in ‘open access’ or otherwise free academic content online, and this will continue. Many institutes, foundations and governments are now mandating open access publication for their research. This, and the growth of MOOCs, will offer the world’s growing billions perhaps their only feasible chance to educate themselves after secondary school level. MOOCs are especially useful because they are inherently corruption-free, unlike much education in the developing world.
I’m optimistic about fine-tuned energy management and energy conservation technologies. These allow us to waste and use less energy, and to send it longer distances than before. Fracking will slowly but surely establish a toehold outside of the USA, along the way severely damaging the green left due to their hysterical over-reaction and lies. High-yield solar power, super-batteries, and oil-pooping bacteria will all remain in the “Gee whizz, great if you can make it work one day!” department.
The earth is greening rapidly. Wildlife seems to be becoming more abundant, perhaps by as much as 10% overall in the temperate part of the world. The causes are likely complex (increased carbon dioxide, precision agriculture, farmland reverting to wilderness due to population decline, and a co-mingling and maturing of all the conservation measures we’ve taken since the 1970s) but it’s real.
As a critical mass of consumers once again take their credit cards out of the wallets and blow off the moths this spring, we’ll be much more informed about major purchases than five years ago. Each micro-decision we make, when based on a few extra data points, may not make much difference. But aggregated over billions of people there will surely be positive consequences. This is especially true of advice and data on energy efficiency, durability, total lifetime costs of an item, eco-impact, corporate ethics and more. Even the clueless consumers now have much wider access to cleverer friends via social media, who can also give them advice on major purchases.
10. The Internet.
Of course. Especially the way that the Web allows people to bypass the shallow blather of the mainstream media.