Reasons For Optimism 81-84

81. Airway made by 3D printer saves baby’s life.

82. The global poverty rate has dropped by half since 1990, and the absolute number of the absolute poor has dropped from 1.9 billion to 1.2 billion.

83. 31 Charts That Will Restore Your Faith In Humanity. It’s a bit linkbaity, and some of the info is a little old or ambiguous or may be familiar to you already, but overall it’s pretty uplifting.

84. A solar plane is flying across the United States. It’s making lots of stops and going very slowly, and probably not even saving any energy since the alternating driver has to meet up at the stops, but it’s continuing to break various sorts of distance records and on pace for an around-the-world flight by 2015. Exciting proof-of-concept!

Reasons For Optimism 76-80

76. A new estimate of the Bakken Formation that has been transforming North Dakota says there is more than twice as much recoverable oil as the previous estimate. U.S. oil inventories reached an 82-year-high this week. Meanwhile, demand continues to hold steady even as job growth continues to the best levels in five years.

In other words, we have more oil under the ground and more oil above the ground than ever even as we’re needing to use less of it than ever, making an energy shortage less and less likely as we slowly transition away from fossil fuels.

77. Another nugget of good news on the online patents & innovation front: A judge has thrown out Craigslist’s attempt to sue a competitor for using their submissions to make a better website.

78. Google is innovating in the fast-growing continent of Africa with a payment card called BebaPay (h/t @justinwolfers).

79. Just a few months after introducing 3d printers in their stores for printing, Staples announced they will start selling them as well. Looks like the devices are continuing to follow the personal computer’s path to widespread use.

80. Scientists are making progress on a cure for leukemia.

As always, Expected Optimism has a few more good reasons.

Reasons For Optimism 69-75

69. There has been a lot of momentum in the move to re-legalize the unlocking of cell phones, from a generally supportive White House petition response to calls for reform from industry groups to legislation introduced in Congress. (If you’re interested in progress on this front, follow leading activists @sinak and @DerekKhanna)

70. The Obama Administration has set rules for greater public access to publicly-funded research following a White House petition and open advocate Aaron Swartz’s suicide. There are still limitations, but it is an improvement to the status quo, and should enhance the public goodness that justifies its funding.

71. While federal drone policy is finally in the headlines, about 30 state legislatures have been moving to limit drone surveillance within their borders. Various legislation has been introduced in Alaska, California, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas, and has begun completing steps to passage in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Washington. (For progress on this front, follow @drones)

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Reasons For Optimism 55-58

55. Africa’s rapid economic development continues. “64 recent major discoveries of fuel deposits” will help the continent meet its growing energy needs, and connecting more Africans to the electric grid will save millions of lives from the respiratory illnesses caused by “kerosene lanterns and charcoal cookstoves,” among many, many other coming improvements to their standards of living.

56. At the other end of the spectrum, obesity may be declining in children of low-income families in the US.

57. Doctors have restored a man’s sight with adult stem cells.

58. SpaceX has successfully test-launched their reusable Grasshopper rocket at a new record height. It’s pretty cool to watch the rocket defy gravity as it calmly hovers and lands. SpaceX is working on fully reusable launch vehicles with the goal of making space travel dramatically cheaper.

See the latest from Expected Optimism for several more reasons for optimism.

Reasons For Optimism 50-54

50. Over Thanksgiving I randomly caught some segments of a (CNBC?) TV program about John Deere and the combines they design and manufacture. They are constantly working on new models that harvest crops more efficiently and more cheaply and are easier to repair and a host of other endless improvements. The show felt like a brief glimpse into the millions of quiet, incremental innovations that capitalism is constantly bringing us, and perhaps part of the reason we are still able to feed an entire planet despite the doomsayers of decades ago. It’s easy to get caught up in the big and more visible bad news and forget the subtle productivity improvements that are quietly advancing in thousands of industries year after year.

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Reasons For Optimism 46-49

46. Poop Transplants Are Saving Lives. Um… self-explanatory.

47. A new report says the Marcellus Shale natural gas reserves are larger than expected. We’re still not running out of energy.

48. Volvo says that by 2014 they will have cars with low-speed autonomous following capability. The driverless revolution is coming.

49. Judge Protects Cellphone Data On 4th Amendment Grounds, Cites Government’s Technological Ignorance. Always nice when the judicial branch blocks the overreach of the other branches. It’s almost like how our government is supposed to work!

Reasons For Optimism 42-45

42. 3D Printers Are Reshaping Modern Medicine. Dude, we can print human tissue! We’re still “at least 10 years away” from literally printing new organs, but I’m amazed that it’s even on the horizon. Meanwhile, they’re figuring out how to help wounds heal quicker and how to use 3D-tissue models to test drugs quicker and cheaper than 2D models.

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Reasons For Optimism 39-41

39. There are a lot of bad software patents out there that are probably restricting innovation. Stack Exchange has a new sub-site for crowd-sourcing patent applications to help find “prior art” for silly patents that aren’t really anything new. It’s hard to say how useful this will end up being, but I find two things very encouraging from a political perspective: 1) It was enabled by a small change to government patent law. 2) It was essentially the Patent Office director‘s idea.

Continue reading Reasons For Optimism 39-41