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What Should You Worry About and Hope For in 2018?

Find out what challenges lie ahead of us this year, and how we can overcome them from leading thinkers.

planet what we should worry about

As we're sobering up from the end-of-year celebrations, it's time to ask: what should we reflect on, and hope for, in 2018? Can we do anything about it? Philosophers Julian Baggini and Barry Smith, gender theorist Jack Halberstam, psychiatrist David Nutt, astrophysicist Liv Boeree, Times columnist Philip Collins and literary critic Stanley Fish speak about the biggest challenges we face in 2018 and how we could overcome them.



 

Jack Halberstam

Jack Halberstam, Author of GaGa Feminism and Professor of English and Gender Studies at University of Columbia

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"I hope that we can change everything. And if we cannot, I hope everything can change us."

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The short answer to the question “What should you worry about?” is: everything. The long answer is also everything. That’s the bad news. The good news? 

Well, the good news is that under the intense pressure of a cascading series of crises - political, environmental, social and economic - we are being forced to think beyond the usual liberal language of improvement and progress. We are now far from being societies for whom cliches like “it gets better” have much meaning. Just seven years ago, these words, offered by journalist Dan Savage as succor to bullied gay teens in the US, launched an empowerment campaign steeped in the worst and most hackneyed languages of neoliberal repair. Youth were asked to believe that however bad their present day experiences might be, don’t worry, it can only get better.

As we have seen, it can definitely get worse. And it has. What we can see now from the vantage point of one of the worst US presidencies in history and in the face of a global shift towards right wing popularism is that to quote William Blake "Improvement makes strait roads, but the crooked roads without Improvement, are roads of Genius.” Which leads to my few hopes for the coming year - I hope we can find these crooked roads without improvement and follow their twisty routes to more original forms of protest and political action. I hope we can stop parsing Trump’s every word and start to think beyond the two party system. I hope we can find the right balance between punishing men who have clearly abused their positions of power and used them to harass women, and instituting new systems of policing in the university and elsewhere. I hope we can think beyond our narrow interests and find opportunities for solidarity and cooperation. I hope that we can change everything. And if we cannot, I hope everything can change us.



 

 

Julian Baggini long

Julian Baggini, Co-founder of The Philosophers’ Magazine and author of The Ego Trick

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"We are one innovation away from efficient battery storage that will enable us to switch entirely to renewable energy."

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My fears are too widely shared to bear repeating. My hopes are for one or more positive global game-changer. We are one innovation away from efficient battery storage that will enable us to switch entirely to renewable energy. One global treaty could reverse the plastification of the oceans as effectively as the Montreal Protocol reversed chlorofluorocarbons' (CFC) depletion of the ozone layer. It's hard to be optimistic and right to be sceptical, but we have to resist fatalism and cynicism.



 

 

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Liv Boeree, Poker player, astrophysicist and TV presenter

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"I hope we all learn to question ourselves a bit more before we act."

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My main hope for 2018 is that careful deliberation using evidence and reason becomes cool again! I've noticed a worrying trend of emotional, knee-jerk decision-making, especially in some highly influential public figures.

Emotional decision making, often in furious defence of deeply held, unquestioned beliefs, can seriously hinder us from achieving our best results. And when our leaders fall victims to it, it compounds the potentially catastrophic risks we're facing on a global level from things like environmental degradation or new technology - problems more complicated and higher stakes than anything we've faced before. So I hope we all learn to question ourselves a bit more before we act.



 

Phillip Collins long

Philip Collins, Columnist for The Times and former Chief Speech Writer to Tony Blair

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"When the most powerful nation in the world is governed by a man who does not respect his office then it has to be hoped that the American constitution will hold him back."

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The best hope for 2018 is that the worst should not happen. When the most powerful nation in the world is governed by a man who does not respect his office then it has to be hoped that the American constitution will hold him back. In Britain, the main hope for 2018, although there is not much chance of it coming to pass, is that the country forgets its recriminations about the European Union and turns its attention to the problems that leaving the EU actually creates.



 

 

David Nutt 1 233x200px long 

David Nutt, Psychiatrist and former Chief Drugs Adviser to the UK Government

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"I hope the new year brings into frank public debate the opportunities that could be gained by having a rational rethink on policies relating “illegal” drug policies."

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I hope the new year brings into frank public debate the opportunities that could be gained by having a rational rethink on policies relating “illegal” drug policies. Allowing access to the therapeutic potential of psychedelics cannabis and MDMA [ecstasy] would revolutionise the treatment of many intractable disorders such as depression, addiction, pain and PTSD with little or no increase in recreational use. The intransigence of the current Tory government means that we will need Labour to lead this debate. It would be a brave move but one that would consolidate proof that they are the party of rational and progressive policies.

 


 

 

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Barry C. Smith, Director of the Institute of Philosophy

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"It has always been true and always will be true that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and I’m beginning to see a backlash against post-truth."

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There has been much talk of living in a post-truth age while those who seek to lie and dissemble throw out the term fake news when confronted with inconvenient truths. The popular press and some academics jumped on this bandwagon, citing supposed empirical support for the idea that countering falsehoods made people believe them even more firmly. But a recent meta-analysis of this supposedly convincing research shows no such effect. Besides, it has always been true and always will be true that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, and I’m beginning to see a backlash.

Remember, that the populism that has swept through the political system of late, championing authenticity above other values was in response to a decade of political spin in which media manipulation was rife. People were sick of it and rejected it wholesale, even if, like the blind Samson, they brought down the houses and swept away much else besides.  But now, the pendulum is swinging back.

Our new masters want to control the agenda and manipulate the media just as much, and it is becoming clear to many that their easy solutions are unlikely to bring about the promised new dawn. Frustrations will grow and amid the dim of claim and counter claim, slogan and denouncement, so reminiscent of the pamphleteering propaganda of revolutionary France, people’s ears are open to hearing truths well expressed without bombast or over-assertion.

It was Bernard Williams who once said, the voice of reason speaks in a certain accent, at a particular point in time, informed by a particular history, but when peole hear it they recognize it as the voice of reason. We haven’t heard too many of these voices but I can feel the rising tide of change.



 

 

 17 12 14 stanley fish long

Stanley Fish, Literary critic and regular New York Times contributor

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"My bet is on the structure of institutions whose main work is to sustain itself and thus provide us with a stability that may be precarious, but is nevertheless real and relatively enduring."

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I tend to place my faith in established institutions, both local and international. These institutions-- the U.S. Congress, the United Nations, NATO, the European Union, et al.-- are inefficient, cumbersome and ill equipped to respond rapidly to crises. These same qualities, on the other hand, confer on them the capacity to muffle, slow down and dilute the force of those who seek to radically alter the received order of things. There will always be rogue actors working to bring about the apocalypse, the great awakening, the renewal of purity, the promised land; but my bet is on what President Trump and his allies call (derisively) the "deep state" -- that in-place structure of commitments, obligations, regulations, agreements, protocols and laws whose main work it is to sustain itself and thus provide us with a stability that may be precarious, but is nevertheless real and relatively enduring.



 

17 10 05 News MPU

See the speakers above debate the biggest ideas of our times at the Institute of Art and Ideas' annual philosophy and music festival HowTheLightGetsIn. For more information and tickets, click here.
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