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Thu Mar 1, 2018, 01:11 PM

A Harvard professor explains why the world is actually becoming a much better place [View all]

In his bestseller “The Better Angels of Our Nature,” Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker described the decline of violence in the world. In his new book, “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,” Pinker builds a persuasive case that life is getting better across a host of measures.

Here's an interview in the Washington Post with him:

Looking at the news, we often think things are getting worse and worse. However, in your book, you make the powerful and deeply researched argument that things are actually getting better. Can you please explain this conundrum?

Pinker: Think about it: If you arrived in a new city and saw that it was raining, would you conclude, “The rain has gotten worse”? How could you tell, unless you knew how much it had rained before that day? Yet people read about a war or terrorist attack this morning and conclude that violence is increasing, which is just as illogical. In fact, rates of war have been roller-coastering downward since 1946, rates of American homicide have plunged since 1992, and rates of disease, starvation, extreme poverty, illiteracy and dictatorship, when they are measured by a constant yardstick, have all decreased — not to zero, but by a lot.

But even if civilization is improving from a birds-eye view over the long-term, things can get still worse for many years in the short-term, right?

Pinker: Progress is not the same as magic. There are always blips and setbacks, and sometimes horrific lurches, like the Spanish flu pandemic, World War II and the post-1960s crime boom. Progress takes place when the setbacks are fewer, less severe or stop altogether. Clearly we have to be mindful of the worst possible setback, namely nuclear war, and of the risk of permanent reversals, such as the worst-case climate change scenarios. … Of course life is bad for those people with the worst possible lives, and that will be true until the rates of war, crime, disease and poverty are exactly zero. The point is that there are far fewer people living in nightmares of war and disease.

Whole interview here:


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FSogol Mar 2018 OP
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