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When I spoke to 300 sixth-formers at JFS School I was asked if there was anything I was pessimistic about in the future.  The context was that I am optimistic about humanity’s ability to deal with any problems that might arise regarding population, availability of food and water, resources, energy and environment.  I am confident that our technology and creative ingenuity will help us to take these things in our stride, and that for most humans the future will offer more prosperity and opportunity.

Was there anything I was pessimistic about?  I replied that one considerable cause of concern is the entitlement programmes we are committed to.  Governments have promised so much by way of generous pension, healthcare and welfare programmes that there may simply not be the resources to fund them.  Promises have been made to bid for the votes of today’s electors, but they will be drawn from tomorrow’s citizens, and they seem to have already gone far beyond what those citizens will be willing or even able to pay.

The problem is essentially political.  Those who see themselves as beneficiaries will vote against governments which attempt to reduce or remove those promises, making it a very difficult problem for democracies to deal with.

Even here, however, I managed to put one note of optimism.  It won’t be my problem.

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