Dynamic Optimism. [Was: Re: Psychadelic and other Garbage]

Max More (maxmore@primenet.com)
Wed, 23 Jul 1997 11:54:57 -0700

At 02:42 AM 7/23/97 -0400, Curt wrote:
>>Once you understand the difference between dynamic optimism and wishful
>>thinking, do you still disagree with D.O.? If so, what exactly do you
>>disagree with?
>The terminology. "Optimism" does have something of a Polyanna connotation
>(not to say that optimists are necessarily either Polyanna types or
>unrealistic). Qualifying optimism with "Dynamic" doesn't make me think "oh,
>that's the levelheaded realistic type", nor would I think it would make
>anybody else who hasn't read the essay think that.

I agree that, for some people, "optimism" has a Polyanna connotation.
Perhaps adding "dynamic" in front doesn't always avoid that. However, when
I use the term, I *always* explain it and seem to have practically always
thereby prevented misunderstanding. Those who actually read the essay
generally like the term.

The term "realist" is open to the same problems. I've met many people who
like to think of themselves as realists. Sometimes these people dislike
optimism. I've found that sometimes this is because they think like
pessimists, defeatists, or fatalists, and *believe* that is realistic!
Others who call themselves realists actually think dynamically
optimistically. They see realism as involving the virtues of dynamic
optimism. They just don't call it that. "Realist" to me, often evokes the
image of someone who believes they think clearly and reasonably when they
really want to label their perhaps unrealistic biases "realism".

>When I read "dynamic optimism", I think of my last CEO, who always believed
>the company would start making pots of money "next year" (it still hasn't).
> His optimism (here in the wishful thinking sense) certainly dynamically
>adjusted to the vicissitudes of reality. ;-)

Okay, so for you the term (without having read what I wrote about it)
evokes that image. I don't know the details of your ex-CEO, so I don't know
whether he is being dynamically optimistic and has a decent change of
making a breakthrough, or whether he's deluding himself. It's a difficult
question that I address in the essay. After all, you might have gone up to
Edison after his first hundred attempts to build a lightbulb and said:
"Edison, old buddy, be realistic. You've tried this a hundred times and
it's obviously not working. Give it up."


Max More, Ph.D.
President, Extropy Institute: exi-info@extropy.org, http://www.extropy.org
EXTRO 3 CONFERENCE on the future: http://www.extropy.org/extro3.htm