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Although the mainstream media of print, radio, and television are dominated by horror stories and apocalyptic claims under the idea “If it bleeds, it leads”—thus the huge amount of coverage given to purported catastrophic climate change, for example—tied to publishers and producers understanding people pay more attention to negative rather than positive news and the need to sell ads, by any reasonable measure the world is getting better and better for humans.
Writing in Singularity Hub, Raya Bidshahri, founder of Aweacademy, draws data from Steven Pinker’s newest book, Enlightenment Now, to demonstrate human progress proceeds apace, and human flourishing, as measured by health, lifespans, peace, prosperity, and safety, is increasing.
In 2017, “the world had 12 ongoing wars, 60 autocracies, 10 percent of the world population in extreme poverty, and more than 10,000 nuclear weapons, . . . [whereas] 30 years ago, there were 23 wars, 85 autocracies, 37 percent of the world population in extreme poverty, and more than 60,000 nuclear weapons”—clear improvement across all measures, according to Bidshahri, citing Pinker. Bidshahri also points out, “We are living longer than ever before. For most of human history, life expectancy at birth was around 30. Today it is more than 70 worldwide, and in the developed parts of the world, more than 80.”
In addition, more people are literate and live in democracies now than ever before. In the 1600s, just 15 percent of Europeans could read and write; today, more than 90 percent of the world’s population under the age of 25 can, and now two-thirds of the world’s people live in democracies, as opposed to autocracies, various types of monarchies, or under distant colonial rule.
As to safety, deaths from accidents are historically low, with Bidshahri writing, “Over the last century, we’ve become 96 percent less likely to be killed in a car crash, 99 percent less likely to die in a plane crash, 95 percent less likely to be killed on the job, and 89 percent less likely to be killed by a natural disaster thanks to advancements in infrastructure.”