For as long as I can remember, I’ve been called an optimist. I think the people who called me that didn’t mean it as a compliment.
Throughout human history, the cynics, stoics and mystics had more respect than the optimists – but it turns out that history is on the side of those who have a generally positive view of their existence and the overall trend for humanity.
2019 has been the year of Greta Thunberg, Hong Kong, Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, Jussie Smollett, Venezuela, Christchurch, Notre Dame and Jeffrey Epstein – so you’d be forgiven for thinking things aren’t great. But you’d be wrong… completely wrong.
Despite more or less absenting myself from the sewage farm that is Twitter, the one account that I log in to check regularly is HumanProgress.org – a free resource that provides information online about just how good it is to be human in 2019 – and how much wonderful progress is being made globally for old and young, rich and poor, black and white, in every corner of the earth.
We’re wired to seek out bad news: In every era before this one, desperate survival and the avoidance of danger were the only things our ancestors could be sure of. Their lives were short, violent, difficult and insecure. They were primed to pick up on signals of dread and we’re still in the grip of that evolutionary predisposition. Our reality has, however, changed considerably – and here are some facts that the nay-sayers won’t give you:
More people are threatened today by obesity than starvation.
There are fewer wars on earth than at any time before this.
Women in western democracies are more emancipated, empowered and powerful than ever before.
Fewer children are in forced labour or servitude than at any time before.
Global poverty was HALVED between 2000 and 2012, according to the UN.
The average lifespan has improved from 30 to 71 in the past 100 years.
Only 6-8 people per 100 000 worldwide die violently now. On average, 15% of us died violently prior to 1900.
Since the 1960s, the amount of food per person went up by a quarter.
Population growth is slowing: In 1960 the average woman had 4.5 children. That number is now 2.5.
Global inequality is falling: The developing world is advancing faster.
We’re getting smarter: The IQ test has had to be recalibrated – if we did IQ tests from the 1950s now, we’d average 118, not 100.
There were only 11 democracies in 1900. Now there are over 90.
Everything the average man in 1700 knew would fit on the front page of just one newspaper today.
The public internet is only 28 years old, but the four most valuable companies in the world are online or digital businesses.
We enter a new decade in a few days’ time – the 20s. Who knows what marvels and innovations might be around the corner? The nightmares of today might be solved by the imaginations of tomorrow – climate change, poverty, inequality and discrimination might be overcome… and the negative newsfeed of today might seem ridiculous to the populations of the next 20 years. That’s not wishful thinking, there seems to be a trend – an upward trajectory. You’re living at the best time to be alive!
Wishing you a wonderful festive season, and all the best for 2020.