Is the world getting worse?

in politics •  9 months ago

In some conversations people have been saying I see too much bad in the world. Maybe I do, but am generally an optimistic person. It looks like @the-bitcoin-dood has had some similar thoughts. I don't actually watch much TV news, but I read a few (mostly online) news sources to see what is going on. I subscribe to New Internationalist that gives fascinating insights into what is going on around the world that we may not hear about in our local media.

Just this week I listened to a Guardian podcast talking with psychologist Steven Pinker who has been writing and talking a lot about how much safer the world is these days. This video includes a lot of that too. We have less wars between countries, we live longer, our lives are generally easier (even if it doesn't always feel like it). There is less discrimination against other races, religions, women and those with non-binary gender or partner choice. Of course these things have not totally disappeared, but in many countries it's far better than just a generation ago.

He uses GDP as a measure of progress, but it's not necessarily the best measure. The money isn't always well distributed and is often made at the cost the environment and exploitation of people.

I've seen massive changes in my lifetime. When I was a kid the cold war was waging and nuclear war seemed very likely. Thankfully sense prevailed. The old Soviet Union broke up fairly peacefully, but there have been conflicts as old feuds broke out again. We have never had so much capability to communicate with others around the world, but some people still want us to withdraw into our little communities of people like them. We should be cooperating more on a global scale to solve the real issues that threaten us all. We need bridges, not walls.

I also heard historian Dan Snow on the radio saying there didn't seem to be so much history happening when he grew up in the 90s, but things are kicking off again now. I think that's partly down to certain politicians trying to divide us. They get elected by promising solutions they cannot really deliver. They like to build a cult of personality that they have all the answers. Be concerned if any politician thinks they cannot be replaced and if they start changing the rules to extend their reign.

So there are grounds for optimism, but we need to be keeping an eye on things and speak out about what we think is wrong. The world is not a zero sum game where if others lose we always gain. If we can help make life better for others then it reduces the chances of conflict. There's still too much misery and suffering in the world. We need the politicians to reduce those instead of trying to score points off each other.

I certainly don't have the answers, but we can each try to spread 'good vibes'. I don't have much influence, but I have this small corner of the internet where a few people are listening. I'd hope they are mostly on the same wavelength as me anyway. I believe most people are good and just want to be able to live a happy life with those they love. Evil is mercifully rare.

Thanks for reading, if you have.

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Thanks for the mention. Much appreciated.

It's so easy to get lost in all the negativity, and spreading "good vibes" and being optimistic is certainly a good defense against it.

I really enjoyed that video too. The guy has some interesting perspectives. Just looked up his books on Amazon, may have to place an order.

I would say it getting worse..., terrorism for one was none existant when I was young (although we had the IRA), with the Manchester Area incident (I'm from near Manchester), the many incidents we have had in Europe and then there's the likes of Syria, Ukraine, the threat from North Korea and the two big babies with their with endless rhetoric.

I just hope I'm gone from here before somebody is brazen enough to let the missiles fly.


I think it may have been worse here in the IRA days. It's the chaos in other areas that is encouraging people to try and strike back at us here. We won't let them force us to live in fear. Reaching out across the different communities can help diffuse the tension.


nonexistent except for the IRA? Damn, your definition of nonexistent is nonsensical. :)

Up voted for mentioning a person I admire, Steven Pinker!
(but check your spelling in the link and tag)
Have you read any of his books? Blank Slate is pretty cool, as well as How The Mind Works, and of course the one where he argues that the world is getting better - The Better Angels of out Nature. I look forward to reading his new book.

In my opinion, Pinker is right, the world in general terms is getting better. But there are more news outlets now and if it bleeds it leads, so people are exposed to much more bad news so it seems like things are bad all over. Not true!

Thanks for this article. Resteemed and tweeted so others see it hopefully.


I should know to check for variations of my own name :) I've not read his books yet, but I probably should He covers some topics I'm interest in. As he says, the media report bad news as that's their job. Some good stuff does get reported too and there needs to be a good balance of the two.

By every objective measure the world is getting safer and better overall. The media focuses on the negative, amplifies it (especially in our post-truth, clicks = money age) and is themselves manipulated by jackasses like Trump to make everything seem horrible. The NRA, the Republicans, the media (even the liberal media) make us all feel unsafe. It makes money. And in the US right now, our gun problem is way out of control, but the tide is turning and will start to really turn rapidly now that the kids are fighting for their lives and coming of voting age.

In general, WORLDWIDE, things are getting far better. Civilized nations continue to get happier and richer (I'm calling an exception here for geocentric screwed up USA - but the trend still stands)

This can be verified almost anywhere at this point. Poverty will decline by 2020 from 30% to 15% as education improves, quality of life improves, cost of goods decreases, crypto includes the most politically and economically disadvantaged in the world economy, and a lot more.

there has always been really bad stuff going on in every historical period but I think we are living in age of consequence. The US has gone around the world imposing its will since the early 1900s. Some of their mistakes have really come back to haunt us. Now, the US economy is about to tank as it does in all republican administrations and this will add stress to the negative outlook in the world

I buy into Steven Pinker's worldview, and would probably go a bit further than him to be honest.

The statistics are very clear that the world is getting less and less violent.

I am excited about the impact of decentralized technology, e.g . blockchain, but also things like 3-d printers, solar energy/batteries, electric cars, drones, etc, on this process. I imagine that as economic want decreases, violence between humans will continue to decrease.

One fly in the ointment is that as communication technology improves, people get the inverse impression. People I know are extremely upset about the ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, and they are right to be upset, yet in perspective there were far greater wars and famines that killed orders of magnitude more people in living memory, e.g. WW2, the famine in the 1950s in China, and the Soviet Union. The difference is that the internet/24 hour rolling media puts a much a greater spotlight on the violence we see today, and so we get Trump-type moral panics. Those events in the 1950s were barely reported on here in the West, certainly when compared to today where every event gets livetweeted, etc.

In the long run I expect that that crease will iron out, but it's an interesting thread to follow.

This guy I knew used to cite similar statistics (similar to what Stephen Pinker cites) and I saw Pinker on PBS a couple weeks back. I wouldn't mind reading the book if I had more free time. Great food for thought--my old friend's stats, Pinker's interview (and book i'm sure) and your musings here. Resteemed.

I think the world is getting better, but only thanks to technology.

Our lives are better than lives of Kings 600 years ago. In that sense we are getting better.

We might be getting worse when it comes to government corruption, but its difficult to say because I don't think the government from 200 years ago were full of angels...

So yes, the world is getting better, we are just more informed about the bad things, and it might cause us to think it is getting worse, but no, it is better.

I've been thinking about this topic when I've read the news lately.

Developed countries are getting slowly safer and better, while some 3rd world countries show no progress at all.

I think the solution to this situation in the future may be highly developed artificial intelligence.

Most of the jobs will be done by robots (cars won't need drivers - you get an idea). AI will help us discover cheap energy, effective water filtering and so on. People will be receiving basic universal income.

But it is only my opinion and the development of such advanced artificial intelligence will probably take tens and tens of years (if not more).

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.