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Misery and pessimism

On my recent holiday (cruising the South Seas don cha kno) there were get togethers by people of various interests. One of these was engineers. Anyone on the cruise who had been an engineer of any type was invited to sit in with a group of others, and drink coffee and chat for an hour or two.

On one occasion a question was asked: who present thought that things would be worse for future generations than they are today? A pile of hands went up. Then the same bloke asked: who thought things would be better?

My hand shot up, of course, and that was it. Me. Alone. These were engineers of all types, mechanical, electronic, chemical, production. Men who know how the world works and know how to keep it working – and not one thought their grand children and great grand children would have better lives and higher living standards than they.

Of course, that let to discussions, some people curious why I was an optimist, the sole optimist present, and some not impressed at all. Still, I found this fascinating, every single one of these men had bought into the Malthusian cool aid (yeah, mixing my metaphors).

Anyway, that leads to this article at The Conversation, on the future of space development. The writer is optimistic about the future, even if she has been suckered by the Marxist inspired Space and Moon Treaties, but again, every commentator to the posting – bar one, me – has bought into the miserablist narrative. Space is a waste of money and lets drop the whole thing. Besides, we’re all gunna die anyway.


Can anyone explain why?


  1. RAB says:

    Well this guy is an optimist Cats. We’re all going to live forever. It’s life Jim, but not as we know it…

    I’m not sure I want to be a Cyberman though.

  2. Odin's Raven says:

    Here’s someone who attempts to explain why.
    Archdruid Report

  3. john in cheshire says:

    Why so much pessism? My opinion is the absence of faith in God and specifically Jesus.

  4. John Galt says:

    For myself, I too am optimistic about the expansion of space exploration and more importantly space exploitation into the private sector.

    While the private exploitation of space is in its infancy, it is going to do for space what the commercialisation has previously done for shipping (especially containerisation) and airlines.

    What was a luxury for only the very rich in the 1930′s became a summer holiday for the masses by the 1980′s. Equally, once you are out of earth’s gravity well, things become a lot easier.

    All of this reliance on bird choppers and other idiocy to provide clean power (bugger the Warble Gloaming nonsense) or the everlasting dream of fission will become moot. Get a decent sized construction plant up in geostationary orbit and build orbiting solar power plants which get power directly from the sun on a massive scale using multi kilometer wide arrays which are the thickness of spiderwebs. This can then be beamed back down to ground stations on earth using targeted microwaves and we get lots of cheap energy available 24*365¼

    Although the private space transport companies are primarily using rocket power for the time being, I reckon that the holy grail of orbital mechanics a ‘space elevator’ is nearing technical feasibility, thanks to massive advances in nano-technology. As soon as we’ve got a working space elevator then rocket technology will only be required for getting heavy payloads into orbit. All of the manufacturing components, food, water, etc. can be lifted using the space elevator and the cost of lifting a litre of water into orbit will fall from thousands of dollars to mere cents.

    That is just one aspect of the future which is opening up, there are other realms such as virtual reality, 3D imaging and communications which will create whole new industries just as the internet has done.

    The only reason to be pessimistic is that governments the world over will try and control who and how these technologies are expressed and in so doing demonstrate their totalitarian mindsets.

    If humankind has a future it is beyond the surface of this ball of rock, but until we can travel 100 miles vertically as easily as we travel 100 miles horizontally we won’t have the freedom we need to expand and get away from the small, bureaucratic and 2-dimensional mindsets of our governments.

    I might not live to see it, but I am optimistic that a carrier of my genetic code will one day live under a different star.

  5. Paul Marks says:

    The things are linked Cats – the lack of hope in the future and the fact that the only one you mention making plans for the future (the lady space writer) had bought into the collectivist space treaties.

    Of course technology can deal with expanding population (or whatever) but ONLY IN A FREE SOCIETY – if society is not going to be free (if it is dominated by the collectivist ideas of “Social Justice”) then we are not going to do well – not well at all.

    And who controls the education system? And so on?

    So there is a ration reason to be gloomy.

    However, after I starve to death (or die choking on my own blood and vomit is some back ally) I rather hope I will suddenly find myself in a bright (but not humid) sunlit country – and feeling like myself again (not the wreak I have become) and to hear a voice saying……

    “Well you really messed up Paul – but you tried, and you always had faith, so I forgive you”.

  6. Andrew Duffin says:

    Was it really the Malthusian kool-aid? (Although I agree, there’s a lot of it about).

    I would be pessimistic too, but my pessimism is based on the likeliehood of the ever-expanding leviathan state, with its ever-increasing stifling over-regulation of everything, coupled with rampant eco-fascism, inhibiting natural human ingenuity to the point where material progress stalls or even reverses.

    Probably the unresisted resurgence of Islam, and its demographic reconquest of Europe, will make things even worse.

    If our children are going to continue to enjoy an increasing standard of living, they’re going to have to start standing up for themselves against these destructive forces, pretty soon and with some vigour.

  7. Julie near Chicago says:

    Yes, Andrew. But the early-middle-aged ones at least — or many of them, at least — think the status quo is pretty good, except of course for the racism and the Evil Corporations and the fact that some people are reduced to near-minimum-wage and that others don’t even have health insurance. Sigh ….

    Of course they grumble about The Govt, but then people have always throughout history grumbled about that. Or at least in the malcontented West. It’s, like, you know, a duty of citizenship.

  8. Julie near Chicago says:

    Raven — Interesting piece, as are some of the comments. (One of them says something that boils down to a piece of advice: Learn to grow your own food!)

  9. Mike Mellor says:

    You’re talking about, will there be more cool stuff in 20 years? Well of course, look back 20 years. Will life be better in 20 years? Of course not, look back 20 years.

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