Review: Bina Venkataraman – The Optimist’s Telescope (S)

The Optimist’s Telescope: Thinking Ahead in a Reckless Age
Bina Venkataraman

“A trailblazing exploration of how we can think more strategically and effectively about the future–our own, our family’s, and our society’s. Many of us never learned–or have forgotten–how to make smart, long-term decisions, so we avoid making them. In a world where immediate satisfaction is the norm, it’s easy to do. Whether it’s decisions about our health (our chronic overuse of antibiotics has triggered a shocking rise in immunity to them), our finances (20% of us have nothing saved for retirement), or our jobs (we slash R and D to improve short-term balance sheets and then can’t keep pace with competitors), we avoid mastering the skills to make smart choices about the future. Yet today more than ever, we need to understand how to make such choices–for ourselves, our families, and the world.”

Considering that the book is titled “Optimist” it did not leave me feeling optimistic, as it primarily focuses on a pessimistic view of the future. While I comprehend its message, it fails to inspire motivation for future action.

Despite some historical tales and scientific insights, the book’s structure feels all over the place, leaving you a bit lost amidst the mishmash of stories tied to future thinking. It does have its engaging moments, but there are also some political and dull sections.

The book doesn’t deliver on its promise of offering tips on staying optimistic and thinking ahead, as suggested by its subtitle. Instead, it takes a gloomier approach to what’s coming our way. If you’re looking for strategies or fresh ideas on changing your mindset when dealing with current and future challenges, you won’t find them here.

In a nutshell, “The Optimist’s Telescope” may leave you feeling a bit let down, as it doesn’t provide the practical guidance or inspiration needed to tackle the uncertainties of the future, although a need to discuss the topic. I’d give it a 2.5 star rating.

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