I'm an optimist from way back. And what I love about the world of science is that good science is directed to the search for truth. Proper science allows new data and better explanations to swim to the surface. This is a big strength of science.
Science doesn't pretend to know everything, but who does? The path to the right answer could be saying "I don't know". A readiness to happily self-correct leads to a better solution.
Climate change? Science and technology is already providing us with answers and paths to shift to a carbon-neutral future. We just need governments to take action.
Wind and solar energy are now the cheapest forms of mass energy production. NextEra, a wind and solar electrical power supply company has a higher market capitalisation than Exxon (which used to be the biggest fossil fuel company on the planet). In the first half of 2020, NextEra made a profit of $US1.7billion while Exxon made a loss of exactly the same amount.
The reality is that, overall, the world is safer and more peaceful than ever before.
Improved battery storage solutions are a big part of the clean energy package. Pumped hydro is also a really viable option. Hydrogen is going to be essential for long-haul travel such as shipping and planes. Airbus already has three designs for small to large commercial aircraft, aiming to be flying by 2027.
New transport systems, including self-driving and electric vehicles will make our cities cleaner and more enjoyable as noisy polluting vehicles disappear.
We should be celebrating the extraordinary achievements Australia has made in the fight against COVID-19. We should remember that on the first of August this year Victoria had 500 new cases of COVID, compared with 700 cases in the UK on the same day. Now the UK has still ended up in a second lockdown, but with the terrible toll of lots more COVID related deaths/disabilities.
So, despite some glitches, Australia's COVID response has shown the world the benefits of governments and scientists working together.
Sure, vaccine sceptics still get publicity - sometimes with tragic results, such as the Samoan measles epidemic last year. (Vaccination rates in Samoa were down to about 35 per cent and 81 people died - sadly most of those were children under five.)
Yet despite the profile of the anti-vaccine campaign, scientific data shows that most Australians are genuinely sold on the benefits of vaccination, including the younger social-media generation. Cervical cancer rates are plummeting due to human papillomavirus vaccination - another Australian development.
Medical science is making fantastic advances. Recent improvements in treatments for melanoma, lung cancer and other diseases add to both length and quality of life.
Personal assistance technology is enabling people with complex disabilities (such as high-level quadriplegia) achieve independence, mobility and integration in the community. Voice-activated technology and dictation systems mean you can write without needing fingers to type.
"If it bleeds it leads" has long been the slogan in commercial media. So, no wonder clickbait journalism pushes stories of tragedies over stories of quiet goodness. Social media has a dark side with cyber-bullying and trolling. Suicide rates in teenage girls have tripled in the past 15 years, linked to exposure to social media. This shows the need for technology and communities to work together in developing effective governance of the internet. We can do that.
The internet has plenty of upside, but it can't be allowed to run without rules. The challenge is to use its unbelievable power for good.
Instant international communication is a complex blessing. We see news as it happens from all over the globe. While that means war and disaster gets enormous coverage, so can inspiring 'good' stories. The reality is that, overall, the world is safer and more peaceful than ever before.
The Flynn Effect shows the IQ of young people is increasing. Children are smarter than ever before. Their brains, stimulated by better communication systems and technology, grow and adapt with bigger working memories and greater ability to analyse and solve problems.
Our global village needs to work together, and with science and technology we can. We know we have big problems that we have to face - and we know we can fix them.
We have plenty of past examples to show that science can make a difference. That keeps me positive.
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