The title attracted me to borrow The Rational Optimist from the library. Rational and optimistic are characteristics for which I strive. I also picked up the book hoping to find positive actions to address great challenges. I read it, was disturbed and disappointed.

The author suggests that all generations are presented with potentially cataclysmic risks, and they are overstated or overcome. This disturbed my sleep for a couple of nights as it forced introspection. Was I abandoning my normal optimism? Have I succumbed to line of thinking that is not rational.


I turned to the back book jacket looking for credentials, and came up short. I dove into the reference notes, finding them to be thin, repetitive and lacking in peer-reviewed science. This book is an op-ed piece.

The themes presented are that prosperity solves our problems and that many problems are framed too pessimistically. Or stated like the pop song title, Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Problem is, the book is too hollow to substantiate don’t-worry-be-happy as a rational position in the face of great risks.

Anyone reading this far and being familiar with dynamic systems may appreciate that the author and publisher have time constants on their side. Consequences of the potential events the book explores will play out in a time frame much longer than the 15 minutes of attention the book may enjoy.

So I close with one of my common themes: Don’t out-source your thinking.