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reminds me of a Carl Sagan monologue from Cosmos:

"Those worlds in space are as countless as all the grains of sand on all the beaches of the earth. Each of those worlds is as real as ours and every one of them is a succession of incidents, events, occurrences which influence its future. Countless worlds, numberless moments, an immensity of space and time. And our small planet at this moment, here we face a critical branch point in history, what we do with our world, right now, will propagate down through the centuries and powerfully affect the destiny of our descendants, it is well within our power to destroy our civilization and perhaps our species as well. If we capitulate to superstition or greed or stupidity we could plunge our world into a time of darkness deeper than the time between the collapse of classical civilisation and the Italian Renaissance. But we are also capable of using our compassion and our intelligence, our technology and our wealth to make an abundant and meaningful life for every inhabitant of this planet."

so intelligent, inspirational and full of hope, but listening to it 30 years later I can't help feeling bummed out, as it seems as though our civilization has chosen its path.

also, Idiocracy.

That's an inspiring quote. But it is flawed. It is designed to instill passion and motivation in the listener's heart. But it is missing a virtue which is a strictly necessary ingredient for making an actual positive impact on the world: subtlety.

If you are motivated by addressing humanity's long-term challenges, please do not attempt to bludgeon others into being more thoughtful or compassionate. Instead, learn first how human society works. Learn how to motivate social change in the least destructive way (all change is costly to someone). Learn why people oppose you, and what their interests are, and try to come to a common ground. Don't go off half-cocked. Learn subtlety.

Nobody talks about subtlety. It is an under-appreciated virtue, and one of the most important.

Idiocracy is an entertaining movie, but it's not a very accurate critique of society: http://xkcd.com/603/

Also, don't be disheartened by the continual persistence of stupidity and triviality. There are amazing things happening all around us, never forget that. For two generations human civilization has had the unprecedented capability to cause the near extinction of mankind, and yet that hasn't occurred. Measure that in the context of history, it's fairly remarkable. Meanwhile, war is becoming less common (honestly, check the data), more and more people are getting lifted out of poverty every day, amazing innovations are occurring continually, and we continue to reach for the stars. There will always be setbacks from time to time, but you shouldn't let that dishearten you.

Within the next 30 years there is every reason to believe that there will be more developed nations, fewer people in abject poverty, yet more communication between peoples around the world, and perhaps even hundreds of people living and working in orbit and off-Earth.

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