The GOOD NEWSletter #6: TIME for Optimism

Optimism is radical. It is the hard choice, the brave choice. And it is, it seems to me, most needed now, in the face of despair. ~Guillermo Del Toro

Dear Friend,

When I started this newsletter, I expected to write about optimistic technological advances. In fact, I have a backlog of content coming your way. But then something caught my eye. Do you still subscribe to magazines? If not, I bet you only read them in doctor’s offices. That’s where I saw the latest issue of Time Magazine, a special issue on The Art of Optimism. Of course, I couldn’t resist sharing it.

In the intro to this issue edited by film director and producer, Ava DuVernay, she explores “not only the idea of optimism but its representation. The literal visibility of the proverbial bright side.” The first article below from this issue of TIME touches on a non-technological solution to a technical problem. The remaining two articles are other non-technical topics that tell why we need to develop optimism and how to do it!

Artificial Intelligence Has a Problem With Gender and Racial Bias. Here’s How to Solve It

There is no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) is already having a major impact on our lives via the big five tech giants: Alphabet (aka Google), Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Microsoft. However, AI has a lot to learn! For example, if facial recognition AI is only trained on white males, the results are often artificially stupid!

In this piece from TIME, Joy Buolamwini of the Algorithmic Justice League discusses the ways that machines can discriminate in harmful ways.

She gives several examples such as the Microsoft AI description of a photo of Michelle Obama as a “young man wearing a black shirt” and a “hairpiece.”

Photo credit: Joy Buolamwini

Good News: Computer vision experts, the ACLU, and the Algorithmic Justice League have all uncovered racial bias in facial recognition technology. Joy launched the Safe Face Pledge to mitigate abuse of facial analysis and recognition technology. So far, three companies have agreed to sign the pledge.


Why We Need to Spark (Real) Optimism in Ourselves Again

Umair Haque is one of my favorite writers on Medium. His article on optimism struck a cord in me. I know how hard it is to avoid pessimism, with all the natural disasters, climate change, political crises, extremism, and authoritarianism. He says:

I have come to believe that one of the great challenges for organizations and leaders — and maybe just people — in this day and age is sparking a powerful sense of optimism again. A healthy and enlivening one. A moving and motivating one. And above all, a guiding and orienting one.
Photo credit: Umair Haque

Good News: We can and must spark optimism by spreading the word of and working toward things that matter, like “curing diseases, feeding the poor, mitigating climate change, addressing inequality — or as tiny but vast as giving a handful of people a sense of meaning, purpose, and belonging again. Then we give people a reason to realize themselves — and in that pursuit, they feel optimism.”


How To Be Optimistic: 4 Steps Backed By Research

So finally, here’s the answer on how to be optimistic. Should you see a glass as half empty or half full? According to Eric Barker: “If you want to live a better life, and you care what research has to say, there’s a clear answer to this question: half full.”

Research has come up with a long list of benefits to being optimistic: better health, longer life, happiness, and it makes you more successful in business and makes people like you more. So how do you become more optimistic (besides reading The GOOD NEWSletter)?

Photo credit: Gerd Altmann

Good News: Turns out that the solution is your “explanatory style” — the 3 P’s: permanence, pervasiveness and whether it’s personal. When problems arise, dispute negative thoughts by making sure your explanations are:

  1. Transitory, not permanent.
  2. Specific, not pervasive.
  3. And the causes are external, not “all-my-fault.”
Pessimism can be a useful tool when the downside is big, but used as your default it makes life feel futile and hopeless. And what does research say predicts achievement better than intelligence, grades or personality? Hope.


Fortunately, TIME has an online version, so check out the full Art of Optimism issue for the artful representation of optimism by 15 short articles and 45 videos that are guaranteed to bring a smile and some optimism into your life.

Optimistically yours,
Rod Murray

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