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How to Practice Long-Term Thinking in a Distracted World

The future: how to imagine it optimistically

On Monday evening, I spoke with Bina Venkataraman, the author of the new book, The Optimist’s Telescope, at an event organized by the New America Foundation. We talked about how people—and organizations—can plan for the future, and what it means to be optimistic today. We also debated whether it’s worth it to save a baby today if it means a million people will die a century from now. The conversation has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Nicholas Thompson: So what I want to do in this conversation with Bina is start out with some personal stuff, move to some organizational stuff, and then try to get to some complicated stuff. So let's begin with the personal: Why did you write this?

Bina Venkataraman: Well, there's two answers to that question. The first is that I think we are part of a generation of humanity who have never faced higher stakes for thinking ahead. We're living longer than our grandparents or their grandparents, and we're going to need to think about our own futures and how we plan for them. If you look at problems like climate change, our knowledge of how we impact the future is far greater than previous generations of humanity. But we are in a culture that's encouraging instant gratification. And so I started to wonder: Is it actually possible to think ahead?

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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