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Is there any reason to be optimistic?

Diseases, inflation, war… the list goes on.

A glance at the headlines is enough to set anybody on edge. And with an endless media stream, it’s hard to escape those headlines.

Worse, as we saw in the last blog, evolution shaped our brains to be acutely aware of any potential dangers. As a result, our news media and politicians focus on the grim to capture your mindshare.

This dire combination has a profound impact on our mindset: it literally shuts off our ability to take in good news.

So, what’s the solution to this challenge?

For me, it’s about cultivating an Abundance Mindset—shifting from cynicism to hope, from pessimism to optimism, and from scarcity to abundance.

Making this mindset shift is especially important for entrepreneurs, who need to see opportunities where others see problems.

In today’s blog, I’ll summarize science writer Matt Ridley’s important work on developing a more optimistic and abundance-focused perspective, combatting what Ridley calls “moaning pessimism.”

Let’s dive in…


Making the Shift from Pessimism to Optimism

One of the best stories about the importance of shifting one’s mindset from pessimism to optimism involves Matt Ridley, the award-winning author of the brilliant book, The Rational Optimist.

Ridley is an Oxford-trained zoologist, but he’s spent most of his career as a science writer, specializing in the origins and evolution of behavior.

And lately, the behavior that has most caught his attention is humanity’s predilection for bad news. As Ridley puts it:

“It’s incredible, this moaning pessimism, this knee-jerk, things-are-going-downhill reaction from people living amid luxury and security that their ancestors would have died for. The tendency to see the emptiness of every glass is pervasive. It’s almost as if people cling to bad news like a comfort blanket.”

In trying to make sense of this pessimism, Ridley, like the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, sees a combination of cognitive biases and evolutionary psychology as the core of the problem.

He identifies the cognitive bias “loss aversion”—a tendency for people to regret a loss more than a similar gain—as the bias with the most impact on abundance. Loss aversion is often what keeps people stuck in ruts. It’s an unwillingness to change bad habits for fear that the change will leave them in a worse place than before.

But this bias is not acting alone.

“I also think there could be an evolutionary psychology component,” Ridley contends. “We might be gloomy because gloomy people managed to avoid getting eaten by lions in the Pleistocene.”

Either way, Ridley has come to believe that our divorce from reality is doing more harm than good and has lately started to fight back. “It’s become a habit now for me to challenge such remarks. Whenever somebody says something grumpy about the world, I just try to think of the other side of the argument and—after examining the facts—again and again I find they have it the wrong way round.”

This conversion to positive thinking did not happen overnight. As a cub science reporter, Ridley encountered hundreds of environmentalists fervently prophesying a much glummer future.

So, the question is: What caused the shift?


How Data Drives Optimism

About 25 years ago, Ridley started noticing that the doom predicted by experts was still nowhere in evidence.

Acid rain was the first sign that the facts were not matching the fanfare.

Once considered our planet’s most dire environmental threat, acid rain develops because burning fossil fuels release sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides into the atmosphere, causing an acidic shift in the pH balance of precipitation—hence the name. First noticed by English scientist Robert Angus Smith in 1852, acid rain took another century to blossom from scientific curiosity to presumed catastrophe.

But by the late 1970s, the writing was on the wall.

In 1982, Canada’s minister of the environment, John Roberts, summed up what many were thinking, telling Time magazine: “Acid rain is one of the most devastating forms of pollution imaginable, an insidious malaria of the biosphere.”

Back then, Ridley agreed with this opinion.

But a few decades passed, and he realized that nothing of the sort was happening: “It wasn’t just that the trees weren’t dying, it was that they never had been dying—not in any unusual numbers and not because of acid rain. Forests that were supposed to have vanished altogether were healthier than ever.”

To be sure, human innovation played a huge role in averting this disaster.

In America, that handwringing produced everything from amendments to the Clean Air Act to the adoption of catalytic converters for automobiles.

The results were a reduction in sulfur dioxide emissions from 31 million tons in 1970 to just 1.8 million tons in 2021—a 94% reduction. Nitrogen oxide emissions declined from over 27 million tons to 7.6 million tons during the same period.

This absence got Ridley curious.

He began looking into other dark prophecies and found a similar pattern: “Predictions about population and famine were seriously wrong… Age-adjusted cancer rates, for example, are falling, not rising. Furthermore, I noticed that people who pointed these facts out were heavily criticized but not refuted.”

All this led Ridley to another question: If the really negative predictions weren’t coming true, what about the veracity of more common assumptions, such as the idea that the world is getting worse?

To figure this out, Ridley began examining global trends: economic and technological; longevity and healthcare related; and a host of environmental issues.

The result of this inquiry became the backbone of his book The Rationale Optimist, which makes the case that optimism rather than pessimism is the sounder philosophical position for assessing our species’ chances at a brighter tomorrow.


Why This Matters

The incredible news today, as compared to even a few decades ago, is that exponential technologies are giving each of us unparalleled access to knowledge, experts, and global communications at little-to-no cost.

One the best ways to see this is to look at how the internet revolution has continued to rapidly spread across the planet. In 2010, we had just under 2 billion people connected to the internet.

That number is now over 5 billion.

By 2030, it will rise to at least 7.5 billion—or 90% of the planet.

When we couple this with rapidly advancing AI, 100 billion sensors, robots and more, we’re creating an intelligent brain for the entire planet. This global intelligence layer empowers us to solve problems by mobilizing resources around the world.

This is at the core of what it means to have an Abundance Mindset: the idea that next year will bring more opportunities than this year.

In the fifth blog of our Scaling Abundance series, we’ll look at why upgrading your “cognitive software” is so critical in our increasingly dynamic environment.

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How do you keep up with exponential change?


We will experience more change this coming decade than we have in the entire past century.

Converging exponential technologies like AI, Robotics, AR/VR, Quantum, and Biotech are disrupting and reinventing every industry and business model.

How do you surf this tsunami of change, survive, and thrive?

The answer lies in your access to Knowledge and Community.

Knowledge about the breakthroughs expected over the next two to three years.

This Knowledge comes from an incredible Faculty curated by Peter Diamandis at his private leadership summit called Abundance360.

Every year, Peter gathers Faculty who are industry disruptors and changemakers. Picture yourself learning from visionaries and having conversations with leaders such as David Sinclair, PhD; Palmer Luckey; Jacqueline Novogratz; Sam Altman; Marc Benioff; Tony Robbins; Eric Schmidt; Ray Kurzweil; Emad Mostaque; will.i.am; Sal Khan; Salim Ismail; Andrew Ng; and Martine Rothblatt (just to name a handful over the past few years).

Even more important than Knowledge is Community.

A Community that understands your challenges and inspires you to pursue your Massive Transformative Purpose (MTP) and Moonshot(s).

Community is core to Abundance360. Our members are hand-selected and carefully cultivated—fellow entrepreneurs, investors, business owners, and CEOs, running businesses valued from $10M to $10B.

Abundance360 members believe that “The day before something is truly a breakthrough it’s a crazy idea.” They also believe that “We are living during the most extraordinary time ever in human history!”

Having the right Knowledge and Community can be the difference between thriving in your business—or getting disrupted and crushed by the tsunami of change.

This is the essence of Abundance360: Singularity University’s highest-level leadership program that includes an annual 4 1⁄2 day Summit, hands-on quarterly Workshops, regular Masterminds, one-on-one member matching, and a vibrant close-knit Community with an uncompromising Mission.

“We’re here to shape your mindset, fuel your ambitions with cutting-edge technologies, accelerate your wealth, and amplify your global impact.”

If you're interested in learning more about the Abundance360 leadership program, please request an invitation.


Request an Invite to the A360 Membership

I discuss topics just like this on my podcast. Here’s a conversation I recently enjoyed:

A Statement From Peter:

My goal with this newsletter is to inspire leaders to play BIG. If that’s you, thank you for being here. If you know someone who can use this, please share it. Together, we can uplift humanity.

Peter H. Diamandis

Written by Peter H. Diamandis


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