Recent polling data demonstrates that more and more Americans are uneasy about the future. There are plenty of problems on the horizon to keep us busy, but it’s important to remember that the future also brings new innovations and opportunities. In no particular order, here are ten reasons you can be optimistic about the future.
Falling Crime Rates
Turn on the evening news, and you might get the impression that the world is being torn apart by criminals and that violent crime rates have never been higher. In reality, the exact opposite is true. Crime has been falling steadily for decades. Rapes, murders, and assaults are at historic lows.
More American Entrepreneurs
It’s trendy to bemoan the decline of the American education system. Critics love to quote numbers about Chinese dominance in math and science, but they fail to understand a crucial truth about the American education system: that while we are slipping in categories that are driven by rote memory and practice, American students have never had more collective confidence or creativity — two skills that are becoming increasingly important in our rapidly evolving information economy. While confidence and creativity may not get you a 1600 on your SAT’s, they are the exact qualities that animate our great innovators like Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. The future belongs to the bold, and no school system creates more bold thinkers than the United States school system.
Rapidly Accelerating Internet Penetration
It’s amazing to consider that there are nearly five billion people on this planet who do not yet have access to the Internet. Internet penetration rates have been skyrocketing since 2006, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. If you think the Internet is amazing now, wait until the other five billion people show up at the party.
Improving Conditions for Women
For the greater part of human history, women have been relegated to background roles. It’s easy to forget that as recently as 1920, women did not even have the right to vote in the United States. Now, women graduate college more quickly and more frequently than their male counterparts. Women also account for just under 47% of the U.S. workforce and have a lower unemployment rate than men.
It seems like the stuff of science fiction, but it’s becoming a reality — designer organs grown from cells from your own body. In the future, the organ donor may be a relic of the past. If you need a liver, a doctor will simply take a few cells and grow them in a liver‐shaped mold. The result is a liver that is customized to your unique chemistry and has almost no chance of rejection, and a world in which death by organ failure is all but obsolete.
The Large Hadron Collider
The Large Hadron Collider is the largest and highest‐energy particle accelerator ever created. It is 17 miles in circumference and located on the Swiss border near Geneva. Basically, it is the most ambitious and important science project in the history of mankind. It is expected to answer some of the most baffling and fundamental questions about our physical universe, such as the nature of dark matter and the existence of alternate dimensions. Experiments are ongoing, but the real fun begins in 2014, when the LHC is turned up to full power (it is currently operating at about half its eventual capacity).
The Human Genome Project
The Human Genome Project was a massive initiative designed to enlist thousands of scientists in the pursuit of a single goal — the mapping of the human genome. In 2003, the project was completed (ahead of schedule), and now the long, arduous process of analyzing and interpreting the data is underway. There have already been some extraordinary discoveries, such as genes that seem to be directly related to aging. By deactivating these genes, we may be able to double the life of the ‘average’ human. Other possibilities are finding genetic markers for diseases and dysfunctions that will give new insights into possible cures and preventative measures.
The average luxury car can now sense traffic, alert you when you are within a few feet of a car, and moderate the speed and steering of your vehicle. It doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see where this is all ending up — automatic cars that drive themselves. In fact, several prototypes have already successfully demonstrated this capacity, and mainstream automakers insist that the technology is available to make these features safe — provided we can get over our apprehension about being hurled down a highway by a computer program.
Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are miraculous communication tools in countries where freedom of speech is not guaranteed. They give dissidents the means to organize quickly and without fear of retribution. Nearly all of the major revolutions in the Arab world have been preceded by rallying cries on social networks; most notably the Egyptian Revolution, which literally began as a Facebook Event request. Social networks are the ultimate tools of democracy; they elevate ideas over authority and promote the free flow of information.
Most people understand the perils of inbreeding. When there is not enough genetic variety between the two parents, the children often end up with recessive defects that would not occur if either of the parents was more genetically distant from the other. This principle works both ways. As people begin to mate with people of more disparate genetic backgrounds (a trend that is unique to our era of global travel and migration), recessive defects are all but eliminated from the human gene pool.