The majority of participants referenced human ingenuity and collective action as sources of hope and inspiration. Image: Cathryn Virginia

We Asked 105 Experts What Gives Them Hope About the Future

Welcome to the bright side of Motherboard’s two-part poll about the future.

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Dec 5 2018, 2:18pm

The majority of participants referenced human ingenuity and collective action as sources of hope and inspiration. Image: Cathryn Virginia

The expression “may you live in interesting times” can be interpreted as both a blessing and a curse, which makes it seem especially resonant these days. As humans stare down multiple threats to our civilization—biased algorithms, climate change, political extremism—it is easy to feel overwhelmed by all the “interesting” developments taking place around us.

That’s why we asked 105 thinkers two questions: What gives you the most hope about the future? What worries you most about the future? Their hopes are listed here. If you’d like to read only about the respondents’ worries, click here. If you would like to browse the main article about this project, which includes responses to both questions arranged by professional field, click here.

The following responses are organized by these general themes: Young people (26), technology (19), equity and social justice (18), abstract “big picture” responses (15), human ingenuity (13), human kindness and compassion (10), and critiques of hope (4).

Because participants often touched on many of these themes in their answers, these categories should be interpreted as reading guidelines rather than strict divisions.

We hope these responses offer some much-needed rays of sunshine to brighten the doom and gloom of the standard news cycle.

What gives you hope about the future?

Young People (26)

Healthy interactions and the human motivation for innovation during collapse, darkness, and pain. The new pathways, connections, and communities that are being formed as we adapt to a changing world. The desire to create and implement Indigenous and new technologies, social and behavioral innovations, contemplative practice, and policy tools for addressing society’s most pressing issues. The intense creativity of the youth and science fiction future they dream to create.

—Selena Ahmed, assistant professor of Sustainable Food and Bioenergy Systems and director of the Translational Biomarkers Core at Montana State University

The resilience of nature and the awareness of new generations.

—Selen Atasoy, neuroscientist and postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford

“Kids these days know that brushing their teeth prevents cavities, and also that human activity is contributing to climate change in a major way”

The new generations and a shorter pendulum rod. History is pendular: thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Pendular cycles are becoming shorter and shorter and my hope is that the newer generations will learn a lot faster than we did from history.

—Walter E. Baethgen, director of the Regional and Sectoral Research Program and leader for Latin America and the Caribbean in the IRI at the Earth Institute, Columbia University

Youth movements. Young people are reinventing activism and democracy, finding radical new ways to understand and tackle long-standing injustices.

—Caroline Bettinger-López, law professor and director of the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Miami School of Law

Kids these days know that brushing their teeth prevents cavities, and also that human activity is contributing to climate change in a major way.

—Tabetha Boyajian, astrophysicist at Louisiana State University

Children‘s questions.

—Paul-Olivier Dehaye, mathematician and founder of PersonalData.IO, Switzerland

The activity of young people and the understanding of needing to change behavior and shift towards an action-based climate where people are held accountable.

—Danielle L. Dixson, assistant professor of marine bioscience at the University of Delaware

So many of the students I teach at a very non-elite university in the South do not seem, for the most part, to buy into the worldviews that inform the things I am most worried about.

—David Golumbia, associate professor in department of English and MATX PhD program at Virginia Commonwealth University and author of The Politics of Bitcoin

Seeing the hope, the inspiration, the motivation of the younger generation—the students who come to me asking about and wanting to be involved with humanity‘s future in space. It makes me feel like we’ll be okay in the long run.

—Tanya Harrison, planetary scientist, director of research at Arizona State University‘s Space Technology and Science Initiative, and science team collaborator for the Mars Opportunity rover and the Mars 2020 missions

I‘m not optimistic that the current generation of “leaders” will solve the climate challenge, but young people give me hope.

—Robert Max Holmes, deputy director and senior scientist at Woods Hole Research Center

Radical creativity—the next generation of thinkers is moving beyond disciplinary and other boundaries that cabin how we imagine our futures and the paths we might take toward those futures. They‘re deliberately combining science, visual arts, critical theory, fiction, engineering, and so on, with the goal of making knowledge that does not reproduce inequality.

—Lisa Ikemoto, Martin Luther King, Jr. Professor at University of California, Davis School of Law

The political engagement of young people that we have seen since the election of Trump, and specifically the leadership of young women in the reproductive justice movement.

—Carole Joffe, professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) and professor emerita of sociology at the University of California, Davis

If you look at how much our world has changed since we began to industrialize in the mid-19th century, two things strike me. First it‘s an incredibly short timeline that we have made these planetary changes. Also, we are capable of amazing innovation and the ability to change if we want to. I am hopeful that the younger generations will be much more pragmatic, and fiscally responsible, with our future. The ability to live is one of the few things that unites us as a people.

—Gabe Klein, transportation expert, founder of CityFi, author of Start-Up City, and former commissioner of Chicago and Washington DC departments of transportation

My undergrad students. They believe in science, hate hate, and are doing some damn clever things to help the world with those devices that we all keep saying are melting their brains.

—Douglas McCauley, associate professor of marine science at the University of California, Santa Barbara

“Seeing stars in kids‘ eyes when talking about science”

The younger generation who are angry, really good at organizing, and remind me of my grandparents’ generation—all of whom were anti-fascist activists. Good luck to them. They are going to need it.

—Farah Mendlesohn, historian, associate fellow of the Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and managing editor of Manifold Press, UK

When I explain a new scientific concept to a 10-year-old schoolgirl, and her eyes light up, and she exclaims, ”That is so cool!”

—Shobhana Narasimhan, theoretical physicist at Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research in Bangalore, India

Seeing stars in kids‘ eyes when talking about science (in general, or astronomy in particular) —yes, the cosmos is marvelous and yours to discover!

—Yaël Nazé, author and astrophysicist at the University of Liège, Belgium

The next generation is neither afraid of nor in awe of digital technologies, and better equipped than past generations (including most of our current political establishment) to make good use of them, be skeptical of and interested in, rather than complacent or frantic about, the companies behind them. It faces the question of how we make sure technological progress also delivers broad-based public benefits.

—Rasmus Nielsen, director of the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, professor of political communication at the University of Oxford, and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Press/Politics

The extraordinary potential of younger generations to take on huge challenges with fresh ideas, unintimidated by past failures and comfortable with complexity. That and the pure joy in the faces of children, my grandchildren, and kids everywhere. Experience that and you feel compelled to “think positively.”

Irwin Redlener, president emeritus and co-founder of Children‘s Health Fund, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at The Earth Institute—Columbia University, and professor at Columbia University Medical Center

Young people. My students, and young people around the world, are standing up for their right to inherit a livable plant, and it inspires me every day.

—Travis Rieder, assistant director of education initiatives, director of the Master of Bioethics degree program, and research scholar at Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics

Young people. They are committed, engaged, inclusive, and sensible (for the most part). I hope that they vote!

—Jenny Saffran, language acquisition expert and professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison

The energy and hope I see among college students.

—Emin Gün Sirer, associate professor of computer science at Cornell University and co-director of the Initiative for CryptoCurrencies and Contract (IC3)

We have lots of bright young people who are so much better educated and have so many more resources and opportunities than previous generations. They will clearly carve out a better, more equitable and environmentally friendly society.

—Hugh R. Taylor, immediate past president of the International Council of Ophthalmology, Melbourne Laureate Professor, and Harold Mitchell Chair of Indigenous Eye Health at the University of Melbourne, Australia

Young people and the power of networks. Particularly the ones who are standing up and using whatever platform they have for good. They’re questioning dated policy, challenging stereotypes, and teaching all of us a lesson in speaking out for what is right.

—Jess Wade, physicist at the Blackett Laboratory at Imperial College London

Teenagers.

—Lucianne Walkowicz, Baruch S. Blumberg Chair in Astrobiology at the Library of Congress and astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago

The students and alumnae of wonderful institutions of higher learning like Spelman College.

—Celeste Watkins-Hayes, professor of sociology and African American studies at Northwestern University, faculty fellow at Northwestern’s Institute for Policy Research, and author of Remaking a Life: How Women Living with HIV/AIDS Confront Inequality

Technology (19)

Part of the human imperative is to innovate, but sometimes innovation also requires regulation to keep it from having harmful effects. With the accelerating pace of technological change, many industries have now taken the challenges and responsibility of regulating into their own hands—developing rules that industry members are expected to follow even if they do not have the force of law. This approach—called “soft law”—has the potential to both allow rapid technological innovation and rapid regulatory innovation to limit negative consequences of new technology.

—Athena Aktipis, assistant professor of psychology and Lincoln Professor of Ethics at Arizona State University, director of the Cooperation and Conflict Lab, co-director of the Human Generosity Project, and chair of the Zombie Apocalypse Medicine Alliance

AI—especially, in medical diagnosis.

—Jeffrey D. Berejikian, Josiah Meigs Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of Georgia, and associate professor in the Department of International Affairs

Technology can bring us closer together, enhance our relationships, and connect us to friends old and new. Tech won’t replace our relationships; it will enhance them.

—Kate Devlin, senior lecturer in social and cultural AI in the department of digital humanities at King‘s College London and author of Turned On: Science, Sex, and Robots

“The democratization of access to basic services like education, healthcare, mobility, and security for the emerging middle class”

Social mobilization and open dissemination and sharing of information that social media facilitates.

—Davina Durgana, international human rights statistician, USA

The advancement of technology and its ability to solve real-life problems and thereby improve the quality of human lives.

—Tanzima Hashem, professor in the department of computer science and engineering at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology

Social media and communications technology will help distribute opportunities and knowledge, and help more widely across the globe.

—Sameer Hinduja, co-director of the Cyberbullying Research Center and professor of criminology and criminal justice at Florida Atlantic University

Developments in machine-learning and AI. I‘m confident machine-learning will be much more useful for defense than offense.

—Mikko Hyppönen, computer security expert and chief research officer at F-Secure, Finland

Artificial intelligence, CRISPR: changing inherited diseases via DNA editing. Note that I also put AI [in my “worries” answer]. I always use the analogy with nuclear power; it can make war, or aid the energy needs of mankind.

—Jules Jaffe, research oceanographer with the Marine Physical Laboratory at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego

The democratization of access to basic services like education, healthcare, mobility, and security for the emerging middle class across cities in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Cheaper and more efficient infrastructure is driven by artificial intelligence and the proliferation of the mobile phone, and it empowers young people to learn, innovate, and build a better future for themselves.

—Dr. Ayesha Khanna, co-founder and CEO of ADDO AI and co-author of Hybrid Reality, Singapore

The ability to communicate online: Despite bots, trolls, and filter bubbles, the internet continues to be an unprecedented democratizing force that gives individuals who previously lacked a platform the ability to share new perspectives, highlight hitherto ignored problems, and organize to solve them, as movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo have demonstrated.

—Jake Laperruque, cybersecurity expert and senior counsel at the Constitution Project at POGO, USA

Science and technology.

—Jingmei Li, senior research scientist at the Genome Institute of Singapore

“More and more governments in the developing world are seeing science, technology, and innovation as pillars of society”

The possibility of computing and robotics will lead to a day where there are no more disasters—because disasters can be predicted and prepared for and because the response and recovery are immediate and seamless.

—Dr. Robin Murphy, professor of computer science and engineering at Texas A&M University and author of Robotics Through Science Fiction: Artificial Intelligence Explained Through Six Classic Robot Stories

More and more governments in the developing world are seeing science, technology, and innovation as pillars of society. I can foresee more investment in science education and development in the future.

—Tebello Nyokong, distinguished professor of medicinal chemistry and nanotechnology at Rhodes University, South Africa

Carbon sequestration technology. It‘s not where it needs to be yet, but is making dramatic improvements in terms of cost and viability. Reversing the impact of climate change and the mass migrations it will cause requires us to not just curb our emissions but to pull CO2 out of the atmosphere and bury it back into rocks. The question now is, will we cut our emissions and start sequestering carbon soon enough to avoid the worst and deadliest outcomes of climate change?

—Sarah Rugheimer, astronomer, astrobiologist, and Glasstone research fellow at the Atmospheric, Oceanic and Planetary Physics Department at University of Oxford

The developments in technology in the past 50 years show how creative humanity can be, and in an accelerating pace, at that. I am optimistic that we will be better off, and better integrated, in the 22nd century, even if we do not all live on the same planet.

—Dimitar D. Sasselov, Phillips Professor of Astronomy and director of the Origins of Life Initiative at Harvard University

A new generation of powerful biotechnologies (genome editing, cancer immunotherapy, etc.) will enable profound breakthroughs in drug discovery, clinical therapy, and human health.

—Arun Sharma, research fellow in genetics at Harvard Medical School

Automatic electric automobiles may change our future life.

—Bin Wang, professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Hawaii at Manoa

We‘ve made incredible progress in solving hard computer science problems in research. If we could translate even a small fraction of these ideas into real-world solutions, we‘ll be in great shape.

—Jean Yang, founder of Akita software, on leave from being an assistant professor at Carnegie Mellon University

We will continue to advance fundamental science along with revolutionary development of technologies that will lift the living standards for an increasingly large fraction of people on the Earth.

—Jun Ye, fellow of JILA, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and University of Colorado

Equity and Social Justice (18)

The increasing value being placed on importance of recognizing First Nations culture within broader society. A different way of being with each other and the land is possible.

For each news story about plastic ocean pollution, there are others on people actively testing remedial measures and inventing biodegradable alternatives.

A focus on creativity, compassion, and connected thinking as critical skills for future work opportunities means we may be better suited to impacts of automation and artificial intelligence, but these also seem like skills well-suited for creating healthier societies.

—Kristin Alford, director of the futuristic museum MOD. at the University of South Australia

African scientists transforming the world one massive problem at a time by using the highest tech science and innovation to solve problems. Hunger will end when science becomes a diverse, inclusive place—and then all the other massive challenges will fall too. Striving for true partnerships in science and technology gets me out of bed.

—Laura Boykin, computational biologist and head of Boykin Lab at the University of Western Australia

“The #MeToo movement. Shame is shifting from victim to predator”

Seeing problems like the issue of bias in artificial intelligence being worked by such incredible and diverse minds like Renee Teate, Vincente Ordóñez Román, and Ines Montani (just to name a few) is a serious relief. These people are committed to solving a problem that has plagued humanity since the dawn of mankind. Their job is nothing less than eliminating human prejudice from electrical thought processing, and their work so far is astounding. Anyone doing this work are heroes to me and are doing a job that is desperately needed to secure a safer future for all of humanity.

—Emily Crose, cybersecurity expert and former NSA analyst, USA

Pissed-off women fighting for change.

—Jason De León, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and director of undergraduate studies in anthropology at the University of Michigan

Many more scientists are aware of how science has contributed to creating and perpetuating disparities and inequities and are working hard to bend the arc of science towards social justice.

—Mónica Feliú-Mójer, neurobiologist and director of communications and science outreach for Ciencia Puerto Rico

The #MeToo movement. Shame is shifting from victim to predator. Now is the moment to fill our courts with criminal and civil actions holding these malicious people accountable. Combined with education, it will deter.

—Carrie Goldberg, victims‘ rights attorney and founder of C.A. Goldberg, PLLC law firm, USA

(Sadly) that the #MeToo movement can even happen now shows we have made progress in 30 years. I hope and believe that progress will continue.

—Mark Halpern, professor in the department of physics and astronomy at the University of British Columbia, Canada

Our ability to imagine a new future, to conceptualize and explore new truths. Artists are trained to visualize original ideas, create discourse that can lead us with creativity. It is our time to examine our economic, political, and religious systems; do these systems work for all people? If not, how do we use an intersectional praxis to create solutions that are harmonious, thoughtful, and filled with empathy and connection?

—Gia M. Hamilton, founder of Afrofuture Society and author of Modern Matriarch

The rise of citizen-science movements around the world.

—Gabrielle Hecht, Frank Stanton Foundation Professor of Nuclear Security and professor of history at Stanford University

International cooperations in fundamental science (such as LHC, LIGO) and their impact on cutting-edge technologies and education could smoothen geopolitical relations, bringing science to global decision-making. This may give incentive to developing nations and tech industries to devote resources towards sciences.

—Karan Jani, PhD, gravitational wave astrophysicist at the Center for Relativistic Astrophysics at Georgia Institute of Technology and a scientist with the LIGO experiment

Women, as they rise and claim their share of power and responsibility.

—Izabella Łaba, professor of mathematics at the University of British Columbia, Canada

There are going to be amazing things learned about the universe over the next decades, maybe reaching the point of answering the question as to whether life in the universe is extremely rare or common. But while that‘s exciting and deeply important to our perspective as humans in weeks like this, it seems trivial compared to the whole massive disruption and death and injustice thing. What gives me (a little) hope is the spread of opportunity and access to information and education to groups and places that historically didn‘t have those opportunities—increasing fairness and remedying injustice and also vastly increasing the pool of people who work to solve problems.

—Bruce Macintosh, professor of physics at Stanford University‘s Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology

An increasingly connected world may enable social innovations that will help us improve the human condition, rather than remain myopically focused on short-term gain.

—Michele Mosca, co-founder of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, professor in the Department of Combinatorics and Optimization of the Faculty of Mathematics, and founding member of Waterloo‘s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canada

The barriers to disseminating and sharing information have decreased substantially, making it unlikely that people who might contribute to the solutions will be unaware of the problems facing us. It‘s more likely that we will be able to find solutions by bringing together people from across multiple disciplines.

—Chetan Nayak, director of Station Q, Microsoft Quantum and professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara

A lot of young women have come out of their shells to lend their voices to menaces in society.

—Dr. Eucharia Oluchi Nwaichi, environmental biochemist, soil scientist, and toxicologist at the University of Nottingham, UK

“Righteous anger about our political moment is driving a powerful wave of activism and organizing”

The rise and growing power of the feminine, particularly the associated values and priorities, such as caring for each other, the planet and other creatures; (some) men‘s growing acceptance of their own feminine aspects; and the visible evidence of the disintegration of patriarchy (despite the backlash).

—Elaine Power, expert on food insecurity and associate professor at the School of Kinesiology and Health Studies at Queen‘s University, Canada

The fusion of many businesses, industries, churches, students, all to make faster progress.

—Diana Wall, director of the School of Global Environmental Sustainability and professor of biology at Colorado State University

Righteous anger about our political moment is driving a powerful wave of activism and organizing. So many people, including scientists and technologists, are advocating for justice instead of access to power. I want to believe that good will win.

—Audra Wolfe, science historian and author of Freedom’s Laboratory: The Cold War Struggle for the Soul of Science

‘Big Picture’ and Abstract Hopes (15)

We are proof that mental processes and intelligence spontaneously arise in appropriate “mashups” of proto-cognitive bits and pieces of memory, correlated states, and state transitions, and, therefore, that mental kinds are fundamental properties of nature. It’s not at all clear that life, per se, is a prerequisite for such mashups to occur. The idea that eventually we might well be viewed as surrounded by and embedded in as well as individually reflecting these properties seems wonderful.

—Chris Barrett, director of the Biocomplexity Institute at the University of Virginia

The fact that the future doesn‘t need humans.

—Matteo Bittanti, assistant professor in Media Studies and head of MA Program in Game Design at IULM University, Italy

“Everything I can currently imagine about it is likely silly and wrong”

[Quoting Ursula Le Guin] “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable—but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings.” From your lips to the ears of the Kindly Ones, O wise dame.

—Brooke Bolander, speculative fiction writer and author of The Only Harmless Great Thing, USA

Everything I can currently imagine about it is likely silly and wrong.

—Lera Boroditsky, professor of cognitive science at the University of California, San Diego

[Quoting Galileo] ”The book of nature is open before our eyes.” There is so much beautiful phenomena in the Universe to discover and share.

—Robert Caldwell, theoretical physicist and professor of physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College

“Music. One sound and one silence can encompass and catalyze change in the world”

The universe is large enough that somewhere in it there may be truly intelligent life.

—Matthew Colless, director of the Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the Australian National University

Mother Earth will forgive us when we decide collectively to correct course.

—Justin Crepp, associate professor of physics and director of the Engineering and Design Core Facility at the University of Notre Dame

Music. One sound and one silence can encompass and catalyze change in the world.

—Nina Eidsheim, musicologist at the University of California, Los Angeles and author of Sensing Sound and The Race of Sound

👩🏿‍💻👩‍🚀👨🏽‍💻, 👨🏽‍🔬🤔👩🏾‍🔬👨‍🏫 ➕ 👨🏽‍🎤👩‍🎨👩🏽‍🎤, 🤜🤛🏽 🏗️ 👄👅👀👆👃🏿👂 📱🤳📡🔭🛰️🚀 🅾️🦎📶🕸️🔗🌐☁️➕🌕👽🌱✝️🎩📈🕘🕙🔬 🅾️🦎💥☄️🐒🤰🏿💃🏽🕺🏿💀🤖🌞

Translation: Technologists, scientists, and artists are together building multi-sensory explorations of virtual and extraterrestrial life that increase our scope of existence.

—Carla Gannis, artist and professor of digital arts at Pratt Institute

We are still in time to realize that we could be the salvation, instead of the destroyer, of our planet's life by keeping it healthy on Earth and helping its reproduction in the universe. And in this way, eventually, find a meaning for our own lives in the cosmic evolution of life.

—Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, PhD, associate professor at Tomsk State University‘s Biological Institute and research associate at Purdue University‘s department of forestry and natural resources

The utter unpredictability of the creative imagination of man.

—Riccardo Manzotti, associate professor in theoretical philosophy at IULM University, Italy, and author of The Spread Mind

Being an archaeologist often helps me to lean back, take a deep breath, and relax. Civilization‘s end has been announced so often, but happened (although, subjectively, it did from time to time) rather rarely. So, I‘m honestly not too alarmed about the future. Yes, it looks a bit cloudy right now, but I‘ve also got hopes about our species’ urge to survive. Culture finds a way (to paraphrase a well known movie tagline). It‘s almost like this old joke about the optimist who thinks that we live in the best of all worlds. And the pessimist, who‘s afraid that this is true. It‘s up to you and me to make the place a more comfortable one.

—Jens Notroff, archaeologist at German Archaeological Institute

Our persistent imagination and tireless pursuit of better futures.

—Cynthia Selin, associate professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Sustainability, Arizona State University

People.

—Huey-Jen Jenny Su, air pollution expert and president of National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan

The future hasn’t happened yet. We are creating it together, right now, in the present, which means that every person alive today has an opportunity to play a beneficial role in the future of artificial intelligence. We can choose something different—we can manifest our own preferred futures.

—Amy Webb, quantitative futurist, professor of strategic foresight at New York University Stern School of Business, and founder of the Future Today Institute

Human Ingenuity (13)

The possibility that collective learning will happen from all of the experimentation happening around the world with how to solve enormous problems, from trials of basic income payments to ways of making renewable energy work well in the market.

—Bruce Bimber, professor in the department of political science and the Center for Information Technology and Society at the University of California, Santa Barbara

“We do a lot of stupid things, but can think deeply with our big brains and are able to learn from experience”

It won’t be like the past. We will constrain consumption through a shift of at least two orders of magnitude in the efficiency of consumption of raw materials. This needs to be based on systemic innovations in almost all aspect of our economies.

—Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser to the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom and professor of biology at the University of St. Andrews

We have the ability to alleviate the problems if we design our systems with flexibility, rather than optimality, in mind. Doing so will require a sustained investment in “system architecture”—explicitly designing how information flows in complex systems. We should select for, and train, interdisciplinary thinkers who excel at communicating complex concepts to overburdened decision-makers.

—David Broniatowski, assistant professor at George Washington University's department of engineering management and systems engineering and director of the Decision Making and Systems Architecture Lab and the GW SEAS Data Analytics Master’s program

Human ingenuity. We do a lot of stupid things, but can think deeply with our big brains and are able to learn from experience. Dinosaurs weren‘t able to do this, so they couldn‘t save themselves from the asteroid. I have no doubt that, somewhere out there among the billions of humans on our planet today, is the genius that can figure out how to deal with climate change, by inventing new ways of harvesting non-traditional energy sources and making our societies more resilient. Let‘s hope that we can keep progressing to a more equal and just world, so that person (or those people) will have the opportunities to use their brains to save us.

Steve Brusatte, paleontologist at the University of Edinburgh and author of The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs

”The same drive that pushes us to explore our Earth, to head into space, and to think about the Cosmos, has given us the brainpower to survive”

Human ingenuity.

—Alexandra Cousteau, explorer, environmental activist, and filmmaker, Germany

Humans are very smart. We can think not only of solutions to problems but also are capable of remarkable insights and inventions. I work on fundamental science. The same drive that pushes us to explore our Earth, to head into space, and to think about the Cosmos, has given us the brainpower to survive and I hope it always will.

—Katherine Freese, George Eugene Uhlenbeck Collegiate Professor of Physics at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and guest professor of physics at Stockholm University, Sweden

Humankind created most of this problem and therefore humankind has the power to stop it.

—Mitchell Joachim, associate professor of practice at New York University and co-founder of Terreform ONE

The use of our expanding intellectual prowess to accelerate our appreciation of the universe.

—Chung-Pei Ma, Judy Chandler Webb Professor of Astronomy and Physics at the University of California, Berkeley

Humans are adaptable. That‘s how we got to where we are now.

—Asia Murphy, wildlife photographer, writer, and PhD student in ecology at Pennsylvania State University

"We will find our way out of this dark, dark valley. We always have"

Humanity has done wonderful things on Earth and can move on to do even more wonderful things among the stars, provided we keep a healthy reserve of boundless, irreverent, and unreasonable optimism. “The meek will inherit the Earth. The rest of us are going to the stars” (a quote often attributed to [Robert] Heinlein‘s Lazarus Long).

—Giulio Prisco, writer, technology expert, futurist, cosmist, and transhumanist, Italy

The number of good people who want and can do better, and people‘s desire to be inspired. I am also personally inspired by how much we have learned in the last century and the ingenuity and perseverance that has led to great achievements.

—Lisa Randall, Frank B. Baird, Jr. professor of physics at Harvard University

We have the recipe for success as a species: We are incredibly resilient and creative in the face of adversity, can build on the knowledge and developments of prior generations, and have a unique capacity for individual self-improvement over the course of a single lifetime. If you are reading this, you are amazingly lucky to be alive right now, because today is the best time to be alive in human history. Yesterday was the best time before that, and I can‘t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

—Daniel Szafir, assistant professor of computer science, creative technologies, and information science, and aerospace engineering and director of the Interactive Robotics and Novel Technologies Laboratory (IRON Lab) at the University of Colorado at Boulder

The amazing capacity of human beings to contradict the established “truths” and predictions of often pessimistic experts and gurus, and to bring our civilization forward with new ideas, discoveries, and innovations. This has been demonstrated several times throughout the history of humanity.

—Mehdi Tayoubi, co-director of the ScanPyramids mission and co-founder of the Heritage Innovation Preservation (HIP) Institute, France

Human Kindness and Compassion (10)

Survival is, despite it all, our most deeply-seated instinct, followed by love. Greed and hate are deviations and, ultimately, require too much effort to be sustainable. We will find our way out of this dark, dark valley. We always have.

—Greg Asbed, human rights strategist at the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Fair Food Program, USA

“We‘re finally learning to talk about our feelings“

Finding examples of kindness in humanity. Even after disasters and wars, there are examples of this. That gives me hope that we will find a way to continue.

—Leroy Chiao, PhD, former NASA astronaut and ISS Commander, and CEO and co-founder of OneOrbit LLC, USA

People, and the best ideas of what humanity can be, are tremendously resilient.

—Rayvon Fouché, professor and director of the American Studies program at Purdue University

Sometimes we glimpse the very best of humanity when tragedy strikes. This gives me hope that no matter how bad it gets, we can help each other make it better.

—Haley Gomez, astrophysicist and head of public engagement in the school of physics and astronomy at Cardiff University, UK

The faces and voices and bodies that are leading with imagination and hope and a grounded consciousness, often from the periphery.

—Geci Karuri-Sebina, African urbanist and futurist, South Africa

As a society, I think we‘re finally learning to talk about our feelings.

—Jay Owens, technology writer and research director at audience intelligence platform Pulsar, UK

The sustained engagement I see among people, in science, life, and with one another.

—Melissa Wilson Sayres, computational biologist and assistant professor at Arizona State University

There are a lot of people who are kind and smart.

—Paul Shepson, atmospheric scientist, USA

The basic goodness, inquisitiveness, and inventiveness of humanity. We don’t always do things the best way, but in the large our species has at its core a genuine goodness and through that we’ve made a lot of progress in how we manage both ourselves and our planet. Moreover, we continue to create brighter futures through our inquisitiveness and inventiveness.

—Alan Stern, planetary scientist, principal investigator of NASA’s New Horizons mission to Pluto, and chief scientist at Moon Express

”Hope is a dangerous word”

Local governments and NGOs are doing great work to embrace facts and to make necessary changes to improve the environment and human health. I see effective actions that come out of grassroot efforts.

—Pamela Templer, professor in the department of biology and director of the PhD Program in Biogeoscience at Boston University

Critiques of Hope (4)

Equality and rights are rarely handed out, so hope alone will not do. Surely, humans are capable of devising alternate forms of democratic participation toward a more equitable distribution of the common and public good.

—Maurizio Albahari, anthropologist and associate professor at University of Notre Dame

Hope is a dangerous word. It’s what we do when we feel we’ve lost control or are powerless to do anything more. We “hope” someone else (like the government) will fix the problem, or a scientist will “science” us out of the mess we’re in. I encourage people not to hope, but to do. Do something. Clean a beach. Commit to bamboo toothbrushes rather than plastic. Replace your lawn with native trees. Do whatever you can that’s positive and within your ability. Sometimes it’s hard, but sometimes it’s easy. Either way, we can all do better and our future relies on it.

—Jennifer Lavers, research scientist at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania, Australia

I do not see where the hope should come from.

—Daniele Mortari, professor of aerospace engineering at Texas A&M University

I am not sure hope is the thing to count on in grim times like these. If you follow climate science, you know what “grim” means. And you might despair and give up, so hope is not all that reliable a thing if you want to be able to act. What if, instead of seeking hope, we seek meaning? So no matter whether things are hopeful or not, we can choose to live in a way that is based on an ethical consideration of what it means to be a human on Planet Earth, which includes working together. Lone rangers won’t save us! This is the age of a million heroes.

Paradoxically for me, after I decided to abandon the twin traps of hope and despair and started working with others on this issue, I’ve found a kind of hope after all. Consider the movements around the world that connect the struggle for human dignity with the need for a livable climate and biosphere. I am fascinated by the possibility of a new scientific paradigm emerging from the fact that climate change challenges so many of our conventional ways of thinking. It is an exciting time to be alive.

—Vandana Singh, science fiction author and professor in the department of Physics and Earth Science at Framingham State University