Why I Remain a Long-term Optimist in Troubled Times


10 trend lines that point to a brighter future

by Stephen Dinan, President & CEO of The Shift Network and author of Sacred America, Sacred World

It’s easy to despair about humanity’s future. But I’m a dad to two amazing little girls, which makes me think about the long game we are playing to ensure they have a future worth living. I also run a company that features thousands of the wisest voices on the planet. I am surrounded by things that give me hope grounded in reality.

1. The Clean Energy Revolution will be close to complete by 2050. The world will be powered by renewable energy, electric vehicles, batteries, and grids that ensure abundant power at little cost to our planetary health. The phase of human history where we explode carbon fuels to power our lives will be nearly over, based on current rates of adoption. By 2035, it’s likely going to be hard to buy a new non-electric vehicle in many developed countries.

2. The world’s wisdom at our fingertips. Every year, we get easier access to more of the inherited wisdom of the world. My company, The Shift Network, is part of this revolution, amplifying the wisest voices in the world and sharing their practices to grow spiritually, psychologically, and in well-being. Consciousness, it turns out, is contagious. Wiser people live happier and more fulfilling lives. Companies will lead the way in adoption to optimize team performance. More conscious individuals lead to a more conscious planet.

3. Mostly Veg Diet. Eating lower on the food chain uses less of almost all resources, from land to water to carbon. A limited-resource planet can feed roughly 6 times as many vegetarians as dedicated carnivores. A plant-strong diet is healthier for most individuals and the planet. The number of U.S. vegetarians rose from 290,000 to 9 million in 15 years. This shift is vital so we live within the carrying capacity of the planet and stop the deforestation and pollution that come from excess meat production. By 2050, I don’t see a fully vegetarian world but one in which plant-based diet is the norm.

4. Psychedelic healing will help people navigate psychological challenges, heal traumas, and open to an expanded and healthy worldview. Legalization and research are accelerating around the world. Processes of growth that might take years of spiritual practice can unfold rapidly in a well-facilitated setting with sacred plants or psychedelic pharmaceuticals. The legalization of psychedelic medicine with proper supervision can move humanity toward a more unified, sustainable, and peaceful future, perhaps faster than any other single movement. Given how many of our societal ills are sourced in unresolved traumas and mental illness, the implications are vast. 

5. The trendlines for intermarriage between races will begin to put racism in humanity’s rearview mirror. Intermarriage in the United States went from 5% of marriages in 1970 to 18% in 2015; by 2050, that will be about 50%. The future of America (and the world) is shades of brown, helping us phase out the long history of madness that came from seeing skin color as meaning anything more than varieties of pigmentation. Global media will reinforce the sense that skin color as a group-defining characteristic is on the wane, which will contribute to harmony, cultural exchange, and reduction of violence.

6. Cryptocurrencies will be globally accepted and help empower a free-flowing global exchange without the excessive “tax” of financial intermediaries. We’re now at essentially the same stage of adoption of cryptocurrencies as the Internet was in the late 90s, with about 3.9% of people in the world owning one or more. Despite current crises and market meltdowns, longer-term trendlines look solid. New, more useful, more ethical currencies will emerge that help mitigate the destructive forces of finance and remove state-backed monopolies. Cryptocurrencies will push us towards a unified global economy.

7. Peace through shared language. While the accelerating global adoption of English has the shadow of colonialism behind it, it will help us create a more peaceful world by reducing fear and otherness. When people understand the thought processes of others and share cultural understandings, friction diminishes. To be in business globally now almost requires learning English. The number of English speakers rose by 25% from 2011 to 2021, faster than any other language. It is the language of science, technology, business, and, increasingly, politics. It is now almost inevitable that we will we unify around English as the lingua franca of the world. 

8. More gender-balanced politics. By 2050, close to 50% of our global politicians will be women. Women political leaders tend to collaborate more effectively than men. Countries with women heads of state in the pandemic clearly outperformed their male counterparts. Gender balance in politics will temper and realign our public decision-making processes with less toxic competition. Rwanda went from the 1994 genocide to being called the Switzerland of Africa, with a greater than 50% female congress and a healthy culture in less than a generation. Healthier democracies are central to a more sustainable future and female representation in the leadership ranks is central to that evolution.

9. Science will build bridges with spirituality. Research on meditation, the biofield, the efficacy of distant prayer, qigong healing, and psychic abilities is expanding our understanding of human beings to include aspects of us that extend and exist beyond our bodies. There will be increasing validation of the concept that consciousness survives bodily death and something like reincarnation is a fact. This next scientific revolution will usher in a more holistic understanding of human beings and our place in the universe. 

10. Massive micro-financing of entrepreneurs. Small-scale businesses create resilience and sustainability at a hyper-local level. The emergence of massive micro-finance programs such as Kiva, which has now crowd-funded micro-loans of $1.6B to 1.6 million entrepreneurs worldwide, will accelerate with the ubiquity of cell phones, distributed finance, and crytpocurrencies. Entrepreneurs around the world will gain the ability to get their micro-enterprises established. That can effectively create a more resilient economic system and end mass poverty. There is already positive progress, with a reduction from 16% of global citizens living in extreme poverty in 2010 to 9% now. It is plausible that we can banish extreme poverty globally by 2050.

I believe our world is going to be a brighter place by 2050 because the steady and even accelerating progress of these trendlines (plus many more) are pushing us forward out of the war-ridden, self-destructive, polarized mess we find ourselves in towards a global future with dignity for all.

We are, very slowly, growing up as a species. A new dawn is coming.

This is an excerpt from a piece published on Substack; read it at https://stephendinan.substack.com/p/why-i-remain-a-long-term-optimist?sd=fs&s=r



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