On Optimism

When hard times come, many people are just not up to optimism. The last few years seem to be the beginning of the apocalypse, inevitably awaiting humankind. There are many jokes on the net about people from 2022 begging for the return of CoVid restrictions, which, against the background of the war, seem like minor trifle. In itself, ironic attitude is a good trait for a person in a critical situation. However, we want to introduce you to David Deutsch’s principle of optimism.

D. Deutsch formulated this principle in his book “The Beginning of Infinity. Explanations that transform the world”. He writes that all evil is caused by the lack of knowledge, and optimism is primarily a way to explain the failure, not prophesy success. Deutsch states that there is no fundamental barrier, natural law, or supernatural will in the way of progress. When we fail to accomplish what we have planned, it is not because the evil gods hinder us, punishing us for this attempt. And, of course, not because failure was bound to happen, as pessimists believe. Failure is just a sign of our lack of knowledge at a certain moment. All good and bad outcomes are ahead, and none of the limitations, imposed by the laws of physics, is evil.

We are permanently at the beginning of infinity, and optimism combines the necessary conditions for development of theories and preservation of knowledge for the benefit of civilization. Yes, we can think that it is not easy to save the civilization, but this does not mean that probability of solving the arising problems is minimal. So they say about a mathematical problem: if it is difficult to solve, this does not mean that it is impossible.

Out of the principle of optimism, you should think not so much about your development (your own prosperity and comfort), but about the success of the social medium, of which you are a part. The more successful are the people around you and the greater your contribution to their success, the more successful you are. An important life strategy follows from this — to become a part of new projects, to understand them and be able to manage them. It does not matter if it is kamikaze-probe project or augmented reality glasses — successful systems solve personal problems and frustrations of their creators.

The central concept of systems thinking is a system of interest. Understanding of it and a well-considered skin-in-the-game stake (see N. Taleb’s “Antifragility”) will ensure the successful realization of ambitious projects, no matter how complex they may seem. Applying this strategy throughout your life will help you to get rid of anxiety, reduce unnecessary fuss and make your life interesting and full of meaning. That’s where optimism is.

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