Lazy optimism

I'm starting to notice a pattern in thinking I like to call "lazy optimism.” This refers to an optimistic sentiment that is highly non-specific and can be applied in a variety of situations:

This type of optimism is lazy because it’s highly nonspecific. You could say these things about most technologies or trends, if you try hard enough:

You can apply these arguments to literally anything. It won’t help you decide between paths to take. Contrast lazy optimists with thoughtful optimism:

This form of optimism includes a real, specific argument. There are no guarantees about veracity, but they are specific and cannot be transplanted into another context.

I do understand the value of lazy optimism. For those who have already bought in, lazy optimism is a good way of rationalizing everyday work and keeping the big goal in sight. But lazy optimism is vacuous, and it should not be the way that you form your opinions.

In the recent past, lazy optimism pushed a lot of people towards working on crypto. Now, it is pushing people to work on AI. There are long and thoughtful lines of reasoning that may lead you to be optimistic about AI and crypto. There are also short and vacuous ones.

Making decisions based on lazy optimism is not a good thing. When hype is high, you aren’t forced to justify your beliefs, and you can act based on concensus. When the going gets tough, opportunity costs increase, and you are forced to justify your belief. Most human capital moves onto the next thing, and this decision is justified via lazy optimism applied to a different domain.

My advice: go through the hard work of cultivating thoughtful optimism. Periodically re-evaluate your beliefs and adjust your actions accordingly, and choose anti-consensus options at the expense of short-term status. Your future self will thank you for it.