Brett: If you’re an academic, being able to explain all of the problems that are out there and how dangerous these problems are and why you need funding to look at them in more depth appears to be the intellectually serious position; whereas, someone who claims that we can solve it sounds a little bit kumbaya.
In fact, collaboration, cooperation and resource exploitation are the things that will drive this knowledge economy forward so that we can solve these problems.
It always seems more intellectually serious if you can stand out there with a frown on your face in front of a TED Talk audience and say, “These are all the ways in which we’re going to die, in which the Earth is going to fail, and in which we’re going to come to ruin.”
Naval: I’m guilty of having recorded one of these doomsayer podcasts about enders blowing up the Earth. That was the one podcast I regretted the most. We had a great conversation, but I don’t fundamentally agree with conclusions that we should slow down because the world is going to end.
The only way out is through progress.
I haven’t promoted that podcast as much as others. When I read Deutsch, I realized why: Pessimism is an easy trap to fall into, but it implies that humans are not creative. Pessimism doesn’t acknowledge all the ways that we have innovated our way out of previous traps.
Entrepreneurs are inherently optimistic because they get rewarded for being optimistic. As you were saying, intellectuals get rewarded for being pessimistic. So there is incentive bias.
If you’re a pessimist, you get your feedback from other people. It’s a social act. You’re convincing other people of your pessimism. But entrepreneurs get feedback from nature and free markets, which I believe are much more realistic feedback mechanisms.
So far, most of the pessimistic predictions have turned out to be false. If you look at the timelines on which the world was supposed to end or environmental catastrophes were supposed to happen, they’ve been quite wrong.