Every year now since 1996, EDGE has been asking a few really smart and/or talky people to answer a Big Question. This year, it was, "What are you optimistic about, and why?"
Set aside for a moment the tautological critique that most of the folks' answers reveal they're optimistic about what they're most interested in already, otherwise, gee, maybe they should change jobs or something.
The three that caught my attention were about kids and babies--and dads.
When I started Daddy Types, I was inspired by a story I'd read of women joining the military. Apparently, the influx of women's feet precipitated a redesign of combat boots that ended up improving comfort and performance for male soldiers as well. Now, according to at least some researchers, the reverse trend may even be more important.
JOHN GOTTMAN, Psychologist; Founder of Gottman Institute; Author (with Julie Gottman), And Baby Makes Three
The other thing that I am optimistic about is how much men have changed in the past 30 years. Thirty years ago we'd have only women in our audiences. Men becoming dads really want to attend these workshops and they want to be better partners and better fathers than their own dads were. That makes me optimistic. We have found that change to be there in all walks of life, all socioeconomic levels, all the races and ethnic groups we have worked with in this country. We have now trained workshop leaders in 24 countries, so I am optimistic about prevention. I believe that this knowledge can change families, avoid the deterioration of couples' relationships, and contribute to Dan Goleman's social intelligence in a new generation of children. Peggy Sanday's study of 186 hunter-gatherer cultures found that when men are involved in the care of their own infants the cultures do not make war. This greater involvement of men with their babies may eventually contribute to a more peaceful world. That thought makes me optimistic.
GARY MARCUS, Psychologist, New York University; Author, The Birth of the Mind
Metacognition For Kids
"What children of today need is not so much a large stock of readily Googleable information as a mental toolkit for parsing what they hear and read."
ALISON GOPNIK, Psychologist, UC-Berkeley; Coauthor, The Scientist In the Crib
We change the world bit by bit, generation by generation. We pass on our own innovations and the new worlds they create to our children — who imagine new alternatives themselves. We work to imagine alternatives that will make our lives better, but, even more impressively, over generations we can revise what we mean by leading a better life. Our moral lives are no more determined by our evolutionary past than our physical or social lives.The Edge Annual Question — 2007: WHAT ARE YOU OPTIMISTIC ABOUT? WHY? [edge.org via boingboing]
I can see only small glimpses of the future and they are all heavily rooted in the past. But it's a good rational induction that my children and their children and all the new children to be born will see the world in new ways, discover new possibilities and find new ways to make them real, in ways that I literally can't imagine now.