The Pinker video had us thinking about the tendency towards pessimism. We love an unhappy ending.

Pinker’s story is of improvement -less violence, more empathy. We are used to talking about deterioration -more knife crime, hyper-individualism.

The pessimism is functional. Grant makers are looking for a burning platform, a fire to extinguish. Grantees have learned to find the fires. It is another form of gaming.

The optimism list is depressingly long:

  • In this session there is a description of Flynn’s work on how we are becoming more intelligent
  • Longevity of life is increasing across the planet (although it could be stalling in U.S. and U.K.)
  • The five-year survival rates for several cancers are now eighty per cent and above
  • Globally absolute poverty and relative poverty have been falling, as have inequalities of wealth across the planet
  • Economic growth across the globe is continuous, soaking up periodic dips in different geographies.

Here is a short piece by writer Gregg Easterbrook, author of It’s Better Than It Looks, setting out some of the data.