Lifestyle Harvard Professor Steven Pinker on 7 trends that show world progress

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Harvard professor and author of Enlightenment Now Steven Pinker explains why he thinks the world is actually getting better.

This year, Harvard professor Steven Pinker topped Bill Gates's top book list with Enlightenment Now, a book that challenges people's questions about world progress.

According to Pinker, the world is actually getting better. In his book, Pinker uses history and statistics to outline world trends which position progress within a broader context. With all of the data Pinker has collected, he suggests the world is actually getting better. Following is a transcript of the video.

Steven Pinker: The world has made against extreme poverty, the minimum amount of income necessary to feed your family. Now, about less than 10% of the world falls in extreme poverty. Just three decades ago, it was 30%.

The progress that we've enjoyed did not happen all by itself. The ingredients for continued progress are present.

Thinking about the well-being of men, women, and children. That's the overall philosophy I call humanism. Progress comes from people solving problems, from people setting a goal of improving the lot of humanity. And, it comes from just the overall application of reason.

It's only by looking at trends that you realize how much progress that we've made. To be a happier person, you can't let your view of the world be determined by news headlines because as long as bad events haven't vanished from the face of the earth, they'll always be enough of them to fill the news.

Wars still go on, including the worst war in a generation in Syria, but by and large the trend in war has been downward. A fraction of the number of people are killed in wars today, compared to the '60s, '70s, and the '80s. The signing of the Colombian Peace Agreement, the last war in the Western Hemisphere came to an end, so an entire hemisphere is free of war.

In fact, 5/6 of the earth's surface is free of war. That's an example of a kind of trend that you can't really pick up from the news because when a country doesn't have a war, it's not news.

Child mortality is down. Maternal mortality is down. Illiteracy is down. 90% of the world's population under the age of 25 can read and write.

We're even getting smarter.

The Flynn Effect refers to the observed rise in IQ scores over time.

Steven Pinker: A phenomenon called the Flynn Effect, IQ scores have been rising by three points a decade for almost a century.

We spend, waste less of our waking hours on housework. We work fewer hours. We have access to culture. All these developments that just never make the news but they give you a bit more confidence in the way the world is heading.

Move backward, if we look nostalgically to a golden age which never existed. If we prioritize competition between nations over overall cooperation, if we we fall prey to dogma or charisma, superstition as opposed to hard-headed reason, then progress could slow down and in some cases, even reverse.

Despite some of the unfortunate political events of the last couple of years, there's an enormous will to improve the state of humanity, to lift up formally oppressed minorities, to advance the rights of women, to advance the well-being of people in the developing world, and if we can continue to mobilize that energy, then future progress is absolutely possible.

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