Christian Long

Robert Wright: Optimism

In TED Talks on May 28, 2010 at 10:33 pm

Reflection by SYLVIA A.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Robert Wright:  Optimism

Optimism is something most people look at as something that involves the idea of hope; whether it is for a better future, for someone else, or even just being a hopeful person in general. But this video in my honest opinion does not deal with the interesting facets or optimism and pessimism. This video did not appeal to me due to many reasons. It claims to be about optimism, however to me, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case.

On top of all this, the speaker presents the subject in such a manner that I can’t help but disagree with the majority of what he has to say.

However, I will agree with one thing he said and that one thing only: that people are incredibly tolerable.

However, he is very wrong to overanalyze the situation in the American context, as the world does not hate America for the reasons he states, it involves a much more political stand point then psychological, the standpoint which he seems to find meaning in rather then the political. Also, what Mr. Wright is trying to get at is a subject that is much too broad to broach in a mere twenty minute time span that TED manages to enforce.

He also uses infuriating diction, with phrases such as “Non – Zero Sum Games” and “higher business morals”. “Non – Zero Sum Games” in particular, were absolutely outrageous to me. As much as I agree with the idea that there are an equivalent amount of wins to losses in the world, I highly disagree with the principle that success should be achieved via means of working together, as the whole idea is completely anti capitalistic, a system where numerous people have come out not only winners, but have created winners themselves, all by themselves. Capitalism is open to the idea of working together, but it does not demand it as Mr. Wright’s principles seem to heavily imply. There are also other multiple benefits that Capitalism has over Mr. Wright’s ideas.

For one, capitalism has a way of bringing people together without restrictions, and it allows and individual to choose a path of walking it solo to become successful, or to join business ventures with other individuals to become successful. Also, all capitalistic societies desire prominence, while this system almost desires mediocrity.

I highly disagree with almost everything said in this video, as it disagrees with many fundamental principles of business as well as having almost nothing to do with optimism, which is what the talk claims to be over.


    Capitalism was founded upon basic principles: production, supply and demand, and capital accumulation. It is a social theory whereby prices are determined by profit and loss, as well as market interest and fluctuations.

    Although I understand the need for a free market enterprise, such a theory should not imply that we are willing to disregard our environment, or sacrifice the needs and comforts of our humanity in an attempt to realize higher profits (a.k.a., BP, Lehman Brothers, Goldman Sachs, etc).

    Capitalism may be wonderful, but like anything else, it is still a flawed system. It’s a work in progress. It needs to be tweaked here and there in order to perfect its balance and to soothe the inordinate swings that occur day-to-day in our financial markets. If left unchecked, however, such a system will prove to be our economic downfall.

    How so?

    Well, for one thing, there is only so much profit a business can make from a product before it is left to cut costs in both quality and workmanship. In order to continually sustain a profit, businesses have to create those same products with lower quality ingredients and cheaper labor: which means that they must pull up stakes and move to other countries like China, Taiwan, or Mexico in order to survive. What does this eventually mean for people like you and me? It means that the very financial theory that promoted our country to super power status has turned on us. It means that the American workforce is now expected to work harder, longer, cheaper, and faster if we are to compete with the global economy now breathing down our necks.

    Where do we go from here?

    George Orwell had it right, to some extent, when he wrote his book1984. Many years from now, money will become worthless and the global populace will be employed and subject to hundreds (if not thousands) of individualized corporations that managed to survive attrition through merger aquisitions. It will be a feudalistic society: every corporation out for blood and vying for global dominance and absolute power. Our children and grandchildren will be there too: housed, clothed and fed by these various corporate entities; all the while being sent out on occasion, like brainless automatons, to errands of war, in an effort to absorb the weakest corporations into the fold. After all the dust settles, and everything is said and done, the remaining corporations will finally merge into a one-world government.

    Science fiction, you say?

    (…I’m left wondering.)

  2. I couldn’t agree with you more in your analysis. Yes, the global economy has made us more tolerant of differences, but that does not make each person equal in actions. Making enemies “happy” instead of “hateful” does not come from giving in to their culture. I’ve studied years in positive psychology research in putting together my new book, “The Optimism Advantage.” Free enterprise is built on optimism–the belief that I can pursue a dream through serving, hard work, and applied investment of time and resources and receive the benefit from that effort. Today we have too many people watching and waiting for Washington to provide the answers to their problems. They are teaching “learned helplessness” where your hope comes from government. True optimists are built from a track record of overcoming obstacles. The more you overcome, the more you believe you can do it again. Optimists are realists. They want to know the problems they face, so that they can get busy overcoming them. On the Internet, people don’t care about your age, race, gender or country of origin–serve and you will be rewarded. Hope your readers take advantage of my posts at Keep up the great work.

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