Would the world be a better place if Adolph Hitler never existed?
While many people will argue over who exactly was the worst of the worst, with names like Pol Pot, Josef Stalin, Idi Amin, Ivan the Terrible, Genghis Khan, Nero, Osama bin Laden, Attila the Hun, and Hirohito entering the conversation, it’s easy to attribute a face to the evil we all despise.
But when we take a more philosophical approach and ask what the world would have looked like if our own poster child for evil had never existed, we begin seeing human progress in a whole new light.
Rest assured, I’m not a fan of Hitler or any of the other psychopaths who’ve splattered blood over the pages of history. But evil does play an important role, and often times, a positive one.
As an example, some of our biggest advancements in science and industry happened during World War II when our backs were up against a wall and the word “deadline” actually referred to the time when more people would die.
Similarly, many drawings from DaVinci and Archimedes were dedicated to creating better war machines, which also gave us much of our foundational thinking for advancing mathematics, physics, medicine, and engineering.
Our ongoing struggles with evil are never ending, and it’s up to us to stop it wherever and whenever possible. And it may be ludicrous to think we’ll ever be in danger of having “too little” evil. But knowing that we are driven by adversity, and that hardship and difficulty often brings out the best in us, is it reasonable to think there may be ways to actually “optimize evil?”