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The Optimist's Telescope

Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age
Written by: Bina Venkataraman
Narrated by: Bina Venkataraman
Length: 10 hrs and 6 mins
Categories: History, World

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Publisher's Summary

A trailblazing exploration of how we can plan better for the future: our own, our families’, and our society’s.  

Instant gratification is the norm today - in our lives, our culture, our economy, and our politics. Many of us have forgotten (if we ever learned) how to make smart decisions for the long run. Whether it comes to our finances, our health, our communities, or our planet, it’s easy to avoid thinking ahead.

The consequences of this immediacy are stark: Superbugs spawned by the overuse of antibiotics endanger our health. Companies that fail to invest stagnate and fall behind. Hurricanes and wildfires turn deadly for communities that could have taken more precaution. Today more than ever, all of us need to know how we can make better long-term decisions in our lives, businesses, and society. 

Bina Venkataraman sees the way forward. A former journalist and adviser in the Obama administration, she helped communities and businesses prepare for climate change, and she learned firsthand why people don’t think ahead - and what can be done to change that. In The Optimist’s Telescope, she draws from stories she has reported around the world and new research in biology, psychology, and economics to explain how we can make decisions that benefit us over time. With examples from ancient Pompeii to modern-day Fukushima, she dispels the myth that human nature is impossibly reckless and highlights the surprising practices each of us can adopt in our own lives - and the ones we must fight for as a society. The result is a book brimming with the ideas and insights all of us need in order to forge a better future.

©2019 Bina Venkataraman (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“Bina Venkataraman illuminates how we can make better decisions for ourselves, our communities, and Earth itself. She introduces us to an array of colorful and unexpected characters, from ancient philosophers to tech entrepreneurs, all while distilling the science of foresight into practical advice we can all use. A timely and valuable book.” (Anne-Marie Slaughter, author of Unfinished Business)

“A thought-provoking and eminently readable debut…Venkataraman’s thoughtful and clear-eyed assessment of how to teach oneself to make more carefully considered decisions should prove a valuable tool for anyone wishing to think less in the short term and more toward the future.” (Publishers Weekly)

“We live in an age marked by problems of enormous scope and complexity - climate change, income inequality, food security - and yet we are still relying on tools and solutions that have failed us repeatedly in the past. In The Optimist’s Telescope, Bina Venkataraman marshals a wide-ranging collection of astounding and provocative examples of our myopia and offers insightful practices for short-circuiting our short-sightedness to address the huge challenges we face as citizens of Earth.” (Joi Ito, director of the MIT Media Lab)

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  • Chef Justin
  • 04-09-19

Awe inspiring! did not want it to end!

This author needs to write another book asap! Wonderful insight from meetings and conversations with an eclectic group of philosophical people from many backgrounds with impressive resumes, Venkataraman is delightful and passionate!

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  • Robert
  • 11-09-19

Thought provoking.

This book was was excellent. I found the information and strategies inspiring and pragmatic. I highly recommend it.