Are things getting worse or better? The numbers seem to indicate dramatic improvements worldwide in standard of living, life expectancy, economic freedom, environmental and resource management, crime rates, literacy, and much more. Things have been getting measurably better since the late 1700s. Much of this improvement only happened in the last twenty years.
Those at HumanProgress.org paint the picture better than I can. They provide graphs and link to optimistic news articles from all over. Poverty and disease are being eliminated. New discoveries and technologies are made all the time. They make you feel good. It’s a perspective that is often lacking, but necessary. For our mental health, we must temper our pessimism with optimism (and vice versa).
Sometimes things can seem to get worse because of our hardwired sensitivity to danger, because we tend to become acclimated to improvements, because good news tends to be incremental and slow, and most of all because of the media we consume, but numbers don’t lie.
I do wonder, though, about the details. The way things are interlinked, it often doesn’t matter how well everything else is going if one important piece of the puzzle breaks. Sometimes, this is the piece you never thought to measure. Also, good things can cause bad things and the relationships are complex. Also, I know that data crunchers have been caught lying before.
Rationally, I can see many ways that things could go wrong, and many reasons to think going wrong is likely (based on understanding of fundamental processes), but empirically, I see that my scariest predictions are almost always wrong and things tend to work out in the end. Somewhere in the complexity of many things happening at once, good happens.
I also know that bad things can be harnessed to create good, so that even when bad happens, it isn’t really bad. It’s complicated.
My name is Dan. I am an author, artist, explorer, and contemplator of subjects large and small.