Note: Just skip to the end of this post if you just want to read the 12 reasons.
I think a good deal about whether it’s easier to be negative about the state of the world today than it has been in the past.
Technological changes have meant we now have this nonstop news cycle and journalists can dramatize or belabor, at times. Technology has also given anyone the ability to have a voice and shine a light on the bad. These bad things may have gone unnoticed or reported on before everyone had a smartphone and became a journalist, of sorts. But now, in aggregate, it can create this sense that everything is falling apart.
But I have suspected it’s just the opposite. It seems clear that even if more people are empowered to share bad things that are happening with the world now that they have the ability to do so via social media, this very act is improving the world by exposing more that is wrong and ought to be fixed. This is really the true power of the press. Couple this with amazing advances in technology over the past few decades and I can’t help but thing we’re moving toward a more enlightened, healthy, peaceful period.
I felt vindicated in this when I heard Charlie Rose interview Bill Gates last year and he spoke on this and stress the importance of us seeing the progress because of ills of us being under the mistaken assumption everything is falling apart:
“I think this negative mind set where people don’t see the wonderful progress … it’s almost like olden days where in fact the american public — when asked about their kids’ futures or poor countries or a variety of topics — show that they are more aware of the problems than the good things that are happening. And I have a concern about that.”
And then just last week Ben Horowitz’s commencement speech at Columbia reminded me of this again:
- The number of people living in extreme poverty today is the lowest in the history of the world and one fifth of what it was in 1900
- Child labor is in steep decline and fell 1/3 between 2000 and 2012
- Compared to the late 19th century the number hours one has to work has fallen roughly in half
- The percent of income spent on food has fallen in half since 1960
- Life expectancy has increased six years between 1990 and 2012
- Child mortality has fallen in half since 1990
- People are getting taller, which is a measure of nurtition
- Worldwide battlefield deaths are down 20 fold since 40s
- The homicide rate is down half since the 70s
- Violent crime is 1/3 of what it was in 1976
- The global supply of nuclear weapons is down five fold since 1990
- 2014 was the first year in 40 that carbon emissions were flat