An Optimist’s Tour of the Future by Mark Stevenson

March 13, 2013

In Redes, they’re showing today an interview with Mark Stevenson, the author of An Optimist’s Tour of the Future.

I have ordered two copies, one for the School in case people want to borrow it and one for myself. As I listen, he says some things that many people in social activism share — starting with a love to the scientific method, I mean, true research, not the kind of Science we had in the past, always used to show women’s inferiority and the like, to back up what religious leaders said of women. Still, there is something that makes me deeply sad – he totally ignores the existence of women on the planet. How can anyone explain all the positive change in the planet ignoring women’s participation? WE WOMEN ARE FUCKING CHANGING THE WORLD THROUGH NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION! We are not “helping men to do so”, we’re part of this on our own initiative! With no need of religious dogmas or political party ideologies! (meaning, in the name of human rights for all, and not in the name of God, the Fatherland, or any Political Party!)

If we had the time, we would apply a LANGUAGE NONVIOLENT DIRECT ACTION to the translation at Mujer Palabra! Yes, it’s been translated, and most probably by someone who had no issues wording the world for all in the masculine.

Anyway, there are things to learn from this book. And hopefully, I’ll be wrong about his men-only frame of mind! 🙂

Prueba documental – so you can see for yourselves if I’m misquoting



  1. Michelle,

    The interview had no gender bias and was about general principles. I have no idea where you got that impression from. I’m a long standing feminist. Beyond the moral imperative I do not believe we can have a just and pragmatically optimistic world without gender equality. I’m with Kofi Annan’s analysis.


  2. Hi! Glad to know!

    However, please, consider this: you have something to learn about language. In your book, you use patriarcal language and it seems you’re totally unaware. Yes, you mention some women, that must be your feminist part, but when you explaing the world you use patriarchal language. “Man” is the title of the first part. “Mankind” and the like (e.g. I teach EFL students “Humankind”, which is a word used by a lot of native speakers). How am I, a woman, supposed to start reading when you do not consider it important to even include us in a name? Why should you do that? Names are the minimum respect we expect from people, right?

    So I suppose you should go into that and consider my view here, for I’m a long standing feminist AND a linguist, a translator and a language teacher.

    You could read a bit about how language conditions thoughts and how male language prevailing in the history, politicis, technology, sociology, religion, philosophy… “Man” is far from neutral. It’s obliterating our existence. We’ve got some good work on that in Spanish, if you read this language, at Mujer Palabra, http://www.mujerpalabra.net, where quite a few women and men who did not want to see themselves as sexist — we’re all sexist unless we work really hard on it, it’s so deeply ingrained, you, a feminist man is totally unaware of how male your language is — have found reason to question their use of language.

    Thanks for replying to this post!

    I’ll try to read it, then. Got the copies today. But it hurts when you find that language.

    But then — we women know so much about being optimist! 😀


  3. PS: after re-reading my first post:

    True, true, not in the interview. The interview was great. That’s why I looked for the book! I had just browsed the table of contents of your book after that and found you used patriarchal language. (I do mention later on I’m concerned about the book, not the interview.) Still, I ordered the copies, because that’s what we feminists have got: the ability to learn from any source in spite of obstacles! 🙂

  4. Ha ha. Move the goalposts and cherry pick your sources? First you accuse me of “totally ignor[ing] the existence of women on the planet” – which you backtrack on (and by the way is fantastically insulting) and then you accuse me of using patriarchal language without (by your own admission) reading the book.

    You’ll find the book uses gender neutral language throughout (unless you’re reading a translation, which I have no control over and I cannot vouch for). You’ve picked one word – changed, it must be said, by my editor. That is something to consider – which battles to fight in that respect and I take your point on Mankind v. Humankind. It may interest you to know that I had six test readers for that book, all women, all feminists.

    Feminists and all pragmatic optimists require a commitment to evidence first. Leaping to conclusions on a body of work without actually reading it is shabby. You might find Audre Lorde worth reading and reflecting on.

    I’m also highly amused/ offended that you assumed I covered women in the book because of my ‘feminist part’. That’s insulting to me and them. I included them because they are at the forefront of their research and the battle to make the world better.

    • Listen. You are not listening, or reading properly. It’s surprising! You didn’t read properly the first message, and you’re so sure of yourself that you don’t even read the rest!. Surely because you see yourself as a brilliant thinker and then it’s easy — women are always suspect of being unable to reason, of always exaggerating.

      Your comment is silly and a good example of not listening/reading. I’m surprised.

      I’ll post some examples illustrating that you are being sexist when you conceive and name the world in your book in ENGLISH.

      You could hire me! (I’m joking — just in case you laugh and expose my true intentions: making money out of you!). It’s precious work and you’ve got things to learn!

      • Mark Stevenson, in his book An Optimist’s Tour of the Future, uses a language that reflects a patriarchal understanding of the world. Strangely enough (for a free thinker), instead of being interested in considering this, he’s reacted classically! Anyway, he’s not right. Being a feminist is not like a degree you pass once and forget about.

        He entitles the firs section: MAN, when it’s meant to be about HUMANS. This is quite bad considering it’s a title, and considering he actually uses “people” and other people he quotes use “human beings”, “humankind”, etc.

        One of the most telling patriarchal gender-biased wording can be found as soon as on page 22. It’s the male world of technology and science we all know so well: “when he’s 50, by which time he will no doubt have enjoyed a brief stint in the West End as a dancer, proved a number of unsolved problems of mathematics, built a robot wife and published several successful cookbooks.”

        Unfortunately and telling! Wouldn’t it be much better for our battered conceptual system to question what we are brainwashed into by saying “built a robot for doing the housework”? It’s very telling about the deep understanding of what women are. And no surprise. That’s what we all think by default unless we develop a feminist intelligence, and this is not done just by doing a set of things. It’s a deeper more revolutionary mental process.

        But enough of this. I would’ve kept on posing questions if Mark were able to hold a non-patriarchal discussion, which is based not on WAR but on COLLABORATION.

  5. This is a straw man argument and it shames you.

    For full context, the passage reads:

    Professor Bostrom’s… self-penned biography reads:

    “Beside philosophy, I also have a background in physics,
    computational neuroscience, mathematical logic, and artificial
    intelligence.(My performance as an undergraduate set a national
    record in Sweden. I was a busy young man). Before becoming
    a tweedy academic, I also dabbled in painting and poetry, and
    for a while I did stand-up comedy in London.”

    He is thirty-six. I’d hate to read his biography when he’s fifty, by
    which time he will no doubt have enjoyed a brief stint in the West
    End as a dancer, proved a number of the unsolved problems of
    mathematics, built a robot housewife and published several successful

    You re-quote and (amazingly in the same comment) *misquote* the passage saying it reads “built a robot for doing the housework” and then say “It’s very telling about the deep understanding of what women are.” If you really are a linguist you must be having a day off.

    You talk about collaboration but come out the blocks misquoting and misappropriating to fit in with a pre-determined viewpoint and agenda. You make the farcical assumption that my annoyance at you is because you are a woman (suggesting I see myself as a “great thinker” and “women are always suspect of being unable to reason, of always exaggerating”). In fact my annoyance is the fact that you’ve decided to attack me based on false assumptions and seek to falsify my work in an attempt to support your own agenda. For someone interested in injustice and stereotyping this astounds me.

    In fact, you should probably hire us. I co-founded two business that promote optimum learning and critical thinking -http://flowassociates.com/wordpress/who-we-are/ and https://flowindia.wordpress.com/about-flow/people/. You’ll notice that my co-founders are all women.

    One of the things we are keen to teach is the logical fallacy of the Straw Man technique, it being so endemic in politics, ethics, and religion (and on internet forums). Attacking a position not held by the other side, and then refuting that made-up position is not any kind of collaboration (which you claim to embrace) but an act of aggression which not only seeks to devalue another human being through misdirection but also distracts from the actual point of debate.

    • Thanks for clarifying, Mr!

      I won’t post more examples of the gender-biased stuff I’m finding (you’re so tense!). But I’ll use it for some analysis I’m involved in on the patriarchal frame of mind. I thought I’d learn some science from it but it turns out I’m just finding good examples for quite a different issue.

      Relax, your book is out there for everyone to check how feminist your frame of mind in analysis is.

      When you grow up and learn to be self-critic come back for a nice rational discussion.

  6. Ha ha. I think the person who makes false accusations, misquotes and, when they have it pointed out to them, rather than apologise or look at their reasoning skills, runs off into the hills is the one in need of some self criticism. Here you exhibit the characteristics of a bully. It’s something I’ve seen in a few activists I’ve worked with. They’ve become so used to fighting they make enemies of the people who might otherwise support them.

  7. Glad you’re having fun, sweetie. Do you have an agent?

    It’s funny what you consider a bully, considering your performance on this blog, where you’ve made it so obvious you are so bad at understanding what you read.


  8. I think your descent into gender-biased ad hominem attacks when you don’t like the evidence on offer does you few favours.

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