Back in the day on an old online service (the Internet existed, but it had not yet really begun to take off) GEnie, there was a Science Fiction Roundtable. As a member of SFWA (I was once under the belief that membership might help my career. What can I say; we’re all young and stupid once.) I had a “freeflag” to this group.
So, in one discussion I pointed out that one of the things I didn’t
care about in Tolkien was this idea that that the world was in perpetual
decline. Yes, I’m aware of the mythic underpinnings of such a
structure–classic myth with it’s Gold, Silver, and Iron ages, each
progressively worse than the one before. Still, it didn’t fit my
world view and that was a source of frustration with the world of
Middle Earth and since the world is very much a character, in some ways
the main character, well…
I got jumped on by a Special Snowflake who insisted that of course the world is in decline. We’re all worse off than our ancestors were.
I pointed out that all Caesar’s wealth could not have bought him a
single Tylenol(r) for his headache to be met with a response that the
Romans had access to Opium.
The answer to a proxy for modern medicine even at the low end was that they had opium? And I'll give them Ethanol and, are willows native to Europe? I don't know, but in the absence of knowledge, let them have willow bark as well.
Against that we have the contents of my medicine cabinet.
But the kicker was when someone else told me that she (yes, it was a
she) would have to get used to having slaves do all the stuff we do with
machines today, but it would really be no worse than living today.
First off, having machines rather than slaves to do menial chores is not in and of itself a major improvement on past society? Did she really mean that?
But the real question is, what unbridled hubris led her to think she would be the slave owner instead of the slave?
At that point I just gave up. The person in question was all holier-than-thou "I'm not interested in trying to convince you." (Good thing given that you're so utterly, egregiously, wrong.)
The world has generally gotten better over the years, the decades, the centuries. It may have its ups and downs. There may be reversals from time to time, but in the long run the trend has been upward.
And, thus, while I will occasionally venture into some dark explorations, my futures tend to be upbeat and hopeful. Problems are problems to overcome, not some inevitable collapse into everlasting hell. This is the kind of fiction I like to write. This is the kind of fiction I like to read.
I don't think I'm alone.