Content Mixture – It’s getting better and it’s still not good enough

It’s easy to be cynical and maintain that nothing is ever getting better. “You have to be able to hold two ideas in your head at once: the world is getting better and it’s not good enough!”

This mixture includes two items.

Excerpts from #1:

The world is not a perfect place. Many things went wrong for humanity this year. You’ve heard a lot about them. We still have major problems, in particular around environmental degradation, international migration, political extremism and economic inequality. These are the big challenges of our time. And it’s also true that the surge of progress has not reached everyone. Far too many people still live in extreme poverty, 6 million children still die every year of preventable diseases and hundreds of millions of people cannot exercise basic freedoms. But as one of my favourite statisticians Hans Rosling says, “You have to be able to hold two ideas in your head at once: the world is getting better and it’s not good enough!”

It’s easy to be cynical and maintain that nothing is ever getting better. The empirical evidence flatly contradicts this view; looking at what what we’ve already achieved as a species should give us confidence going forward into the future.

Excerpts from #2:

This book is about what may be the most important thing that has ever happened in human history. Believe it or not – and I know that most people do not – violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species’ existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children.

The historical trajectory of violence affects not only how life is lived but how it is understood. What could be more fundamental to our sense of meaning and purpose than a conception of whether the strivings of the human race over long stretches of time have left us better or worse off?

The human mind tends to estimate the probability of an event from the ease with which it can recall examples, and scenes of carnage are more likely to be beamed into our homes and burned into our memories than footage of people dying of old age. No matter how small the percentage of violent deaths may be, in absolute numbers there will always be enough of them to fill the evening news, so people’s impressions of violence will be disconnected from the actual proportions.

More reading:

The Games

“[…]And yet, as a culture that worships at the altar of immediacy and instant gratification, we continue to romanticize the largely mythic notion of the overnight success, overlooking the years of struggle and failure that paved the way for some of humanity’s most admired and accomplished luminaries.”


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photo credit: phoebe photo (FeeBeeDee)
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A thing or two about History

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