Review: Venkataraman’s The Optimists Telescope

The Optimists Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age
Bina Venkataraman

People are very bad at long term planning. There are good reasons for this. For most of our existence it was always a better idea to eat that food, eat that mushroom, have sex with that person, right now cause tomorrow was really, seriously, not promised.

But things have changed, and now, putting off the instantaneous pleasure both personally (put down the cake!) and as a society (invest in renewable energy!) are hugely important. So, how individually and collectively, do we push against an essential part of our nature? Venkataraman has some ideas based in behavioral economics and told through a series of mini narratives.

It’s an interesting book, but frankly, while the stories were new to me, most of the ideas were not. Perhaps that’s a sign that I read too much in the behavioral econ-lite genre? If you’re new to this kind of thing, this is a fine place to start, but for others, perhaps not much new.     

Recommended for the enthusiast.  

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