It doesn't pay to be a pessimist

The Pessimists Archive has a history of successful ideas that were mocked by the public. It’s interesting to see what critics said about back then. I put out a Twitter thread highlighting some examples but it didn’t seem to get much traction:

Some of the examples are well-known (e.g. people doubting airplanes, the Internet, mobile phones, etc.) but there’s a few that surprised me. For instance, did you know people once feared teddy bears would destroy the maternal instincts of young girls? Or that people once thought elevators moving too fast would cause a sort of “elevator sickness”?

I was surprised to see how many article titles blamed a new invention for some societal problem. It was done with radio, elevators, television, etc.. It reminds me a little of people claiming today how social media is a big cause of crime or the root cause of demography’s failures or some other bold statement. That may be true by the way, I don’t know, but I don’t think we’ve changed much.

There’s isn’t an overarching lesson to be learned from these critics. Cynics have always said ridiculous things but that doesn’t mean they’re always wrong either. Take what was said about TVs; even today, we recognize TVs as a time suck. Those who said the same thing decades ago were pretty spot on, though society as a whole probably benefitted from the leisure TVs added to our life.

It’s easy to tie this into Web3 but nobody knows if crypto is truly The Next Big Thing. As I write towards the end, the only real takeaway from this is highlighting once again the risk/reward profile of game-changing inventions. Mark Cuban once said in business you only need to be right about one or two things to be successful. Even if you miss on several new ideas, hitting on a few is usually enough to reoup the losses. For that reason alone, it’s probably better to be an optimist than a pessimist.

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