Origins of The New Optimists

The idea for The New Optimists was spawned in early 2009 when . . .

. . . I (Kate Cooper) asked lots of scientists the simple John Brockman question “What are you optimistic about?” Rather to my surprise and much to my delight, over 80 scientists responded, two-thirds of them professors, one a Vice Chancellor. (And several them got their prof-ships after the event, though I’m not actually taking credit for this.)

Much has happened since. For starters, what they said was duly compiled into a hardcopy book The New Optimists: Scientists view tomorrow’s world & what it means to us. It was launched in September 2010 with more than a bit of a fanfare on the first day of the 2010 British Science Festival.

The organisations listed below generously supported this original project:

The scientists who feature in the book are leading medics, life scientists, engineers, chemists, computer and digital media scientists, environmental and energy experts, all of whom work in the West Midlands.

Jenny Uglow wrote the Foreword, beginning with the words “this is the most exhilarating of books”  . . . which we thought was a pretty stunning opening.

At the official book launch, this big celebration dinner on 14th September, the first day of the 2010 British Science Festival Birmingham, the BBC’s David Shukman was our guest speaker. Simon Harper nobbled many a scientist (uncharacteristically dressed to the nines) pre-champagne for a quick interview, the results of which are on The New Optimists YouTube channel, along with a fair few later video interviews.

The basic idea for “The New Optimists” began, as implied earlier, under more prosaic circumstances. Myself, a laptop, a kitchen table and the kids finally off my hands. I’d realised for some time that  web-based technologies had dramatically changed the publishing game. I knew, too, that social media was rapidly changing the communication game. Opportunities therefore abounded. But what opportunity should I seize?

With the 2010 British Science Festival in my home city of Birmingham, I realised this was an opportunity to showcase some of the groundbreaking science research going on nearby.

This initial idea slowly morphed into a fully fledged project with all sorts of activities involving well over 100 people, including the book being made and published . . . and this website and a social media campaign to get word out about it, scientists appearing on various platforms, and other people writing about it all.

As the essays began to come in, I realised I needed a multimedia publishing venture. So hence the setting up of the Linus Publishing Company. Why Linus? The story behind that is told here.

In 2011, I completed the legal mechanisms so that any profits from this venture will go back into science in the region, a studentship say; IPR on everything, plus the Linus Publishing Company are now owned by Science Forward Limited, a company limited by guarantee with charitable objects – so we can easily apply for charitable status later down the line.

And if you want to know even more about me, then you can do so here. More about the “team”  who were roped in to make it all happen is here, and, last but triumphantly not least, the list of scientists is here.

Since the first book was published, even more scientists have become involved, and other people have been brought in to make other things happen, such as the New Optimists Forum, a space for scientists to bend their informed minds on how thee, me and socio-political decision-makers in this-here and this-now might begin to meet the challenges of climate change, resource depletion and population pressures facing all of humanity.

Watch this space . . .


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