Penquin Random House, 2019

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

Bina Venkataraman

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

Many of us never learnedor have forgottenhow to make smart decisions for the long run. In a world where immediate satisfaction is the norm, it’s easy to avoid thinking ahead. Whether it’s decisions about our health (our chronic overuse of antibiotics has triggered a shocking rise in superbugs that are resistant to them), our finances (20 percent of Americans save nothing for retirement), or our jobs (we slash R&D budgets to improve short-term profit and then can’t keep pace with competitors), we lack the tools to choose what’s best for the future. Today more than ever, we need to know how to make better long-term decisionsfor ourselves, our families, and the world.

Bina Venkataraman understands this. A former journalist and senior adviser in the Obama administration, she forged partnerships between government and business to combat climate change, and she learned firsthand why people don’t think ahead. In The Optimist’s Telescope, she draws from her own experience, the stories she has reported from around the world, and research in biology, psychology, economics, archaeology, and beyond to identify the best ways to make decisions that benefit us over time. She dispels the myth that human nature is impossibly reckless, and explains how culture and environment shape our behavior. She highlights the surprising and successful practices that each of us can adopt. The result is a book brimming with useful ideas and insights to help us make better decisions about the future.