Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers | Steven Pinker
Is the world getting better or worse A look at the numbers Steven Pinker

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Was 2017 really the "worst year ever," as some would have us believe? In his analysis of recent data on homicide, war, poverty, pollution and more, psychologist Steven Pinker finds that we're doing better now in every one of them when compared with 30 years ago. But progress isn't inevitable, and it doesn't mean everything gets better for everyone all the time, Pinker says. Instead, progress is problem-solving, and we should look at things like climate change and nuclear war as problems to be solved, not apocalypses in waiting. "We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one," he says. "But there's no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing." Check out more TED Talks: The TED Talks channel features the best talks and performances from the TED Conference, where the world's leading thinkers and doers give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes (or less). Look for talks on Technology, Entertainment and Design -- plus science, business, global issues, the arts and more. Follow TED on Twitter: Like TED on Facebook: Subscribe to our channel:


*alittlelost* : The world isn't getting worse, but the spread of bad news has become easier.

Estabanwatersaz : Cheered me up. Thank you sir!

yapdog : You wouldn't believe how harshly I always get attacked online when I said we're better off now than we were by nearly every measure. I've been saying this for the past 10 years, but, no matter their political leanings, people really don't like to hear it, calling me ignorant.

Wael Fadhel : People, he said it clearly , We are not perfect but we are better and we are making a progress. Not perfect.

Goose : i think social media has amplified everything. things may not be as bad as 30 years ago but with social media people just love to complain, hate and voice their negative opinions.

Captain Ron : Wonderful talk! However, despite the convincing numbers that the world is a better place today than it was in the past, many people are incapable of seeing progress and instead dwell on current issues and problems. This is not a bad thing but focusing on the world's miseries (without acknowledging the amazing progress of human society) is a depressing way of living one's life.

Ed Paha : Hans Rosling has many interesting presentations along these lines. As Spock would say " Live long and prosper"

Attila Szigeti : Is it just me or he sounds a little like Michio Kaku? Nice speech btw

Jessie Watson : Much needed analysis. It shouldn't require a cognitive psychologist to highlight such progress.

Martín Paz : You just answered most of my darkest questions about ourselves. Wow. Thank you!

Nehemiah James : That end bit reminded me of a poem I wrote. Information of singles and noughts Imprinting to our minds From whence it came to where it's going Could be truth or could be lies

Meek Lobster : Thank you for this. I needed it.

Georgios Tsirtsidis : One thing Dr. Pinker didn't mention is that 30 years ago 1 person (mostly man) could feed a family with 1 job, and now 2 people have to work 1 or even 2 jobs. It kinda sucks doesn't it? I don't know if I'm being naive here. Of course women are more than welcome to work, my problem is that they HAVE to work.

Dan Leclaire : Eloquently said and explained. Cheers to a better future.

Rajendra Bist : Thank you - for attempting to correct our flawed perspective of life

Joy Marcus : Scala Sans! Excellent choice of typeface, Dr. Pinker.

Vaes Joren : I was wondering if there may be a relation with perceived poverty due to what is shown around 8:00 regarding work hours, domestic appliances, and time spent on "housework". As we spend less time working, and less time doing house work, we free up time to do other things in our spare time. This means we have more time to spend money, an even if we have more money, we feel like we don't because we don't have as much of an increase in income as we have an increase in time. So where maybe you could go out for a nice dinner every time you got all the work done, now we have so much more opportunities to do so we can no longer fill all of them (we still fill more of them, but the ratio declined). Add to this the fact that we now have more stuff to spend money on that we perceive as basic necessities - TV, microwave, computer, laptop, smartphone, internet, ... all of which we didn't spend (as much) money on before, this leads to the perception of lower wealth - when we are done buying the things we feel we ''have'' to buy, we might have less money left, even though our luxury and well-being has gone up (the convenience of the phone for communicative, navigation etc, being able to watch videos on the internet or read wikipedia when we have questions, reheating food easily allowing us more freedom to schedule our meals,...). I think perhaps, at least to some extent, this also impacts people feeling like things were better before - we didn't have the time to notice they weren't.

Abhilash S : "Knowledge is better than superstition" Thank you TED

Scrambled Greg : Steven Pinker? More like Steven Thinker!

Nguyễn Nhân : I just need his statistical sources:).

Aidid Rashed Efat : Progress is not a miracle but problem-solving.👏🏼

LD51 : How do you measure happiness?

thomas makucevich : In the 1980's I was in my 30's now I'm in my 60's. No improvement there. (Physically speaking)

Christos Panagiotidis : 8:40 How does one measure happiness? Don't see any chart there.

Poisoncrab Productions : "We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one." Damn, that's deep my dude.

mas pok : I like his hair very much. He is our Voltaire.

Earthbjorn Nahkaimurrao : 9:15 - someone with ability should start a news organization that focuses on tracking the improvements we are making. This would greatly inspire people to contribute to society by becoming engineers, teachers, doctors, etc.

Jorge Ramirez : Jehova Witness are in trouble.

JakulaithWolff : I think shorter hair would make him look more handsome, but this is also cute. He reminds me of Beethoven.

Paul Gracey : Steven has been selling this Panglosian trop for some time now. It would be wonderful if he is totally right about this thesis. There remains a truth that cannot be overlooked. Cataclysm is always a possibility through natural causes, not just human folly. We have but one Earth we know we can exist upon. Keeping it habitable will require a major change in human behavior. The best social systems are already under attack in favor of some of the worst from the past. Ideal Socialism was proved deficient by crass Capitalistic human nature. China has shown that Pluttocracy and Capitalism can coexist in a sham form of Communism so long as the state can control enough of the information flow sufficient to its benefit. While the carrying capacity of the Earth has been strengthened through our expenditures of stored solar energy (fossil fuels) and our greater efficiencies of transport using those fuels, it remains that additional progress that improves the lives of the poor only encourages more births and produces longer lives with fewer deaths. More births and longer lives include more people surviving who cannot have a typical work life and are in need of extra care themselves. fThis will give livelihood to the caregivers, but such care may devolve to our robotic workers, and the need for compensated human labor will diminish. What then of our usefulness to our robotic masters? We cannot all make a living giving TED talks about our brilliant futures. Even professor Pinker's specialty will become all too common and handed over to a robot. Here at YouTube the Bots are beginning to take over that function too. Alas.

Steven M. : The paradox of progress is that we are surviving better, but today we are less connected to each other and our communities, thus being more pessimistic, open to the media indoctrinating us with imagery and unethical values. Yet we still need this kind of balancing for accuracy and feeling better about our problems. Thank you, Steven.

Arek P : Appologies for Eastern Autocracy - Poland. But we will fix it, no worries! - a Pole

Rafael Assaf : Genius! I love this man! I'd instantly go gay for him.

TomKaren94 : Ted talks - informative and data based. TedX talks - bunch of hooey.

Jonathan Lebon : So eloquently put. Every journalist should watch this...

iambiggus : "In understanding humanities tribulations and woes, human nature is the problem. But human nature, channeled by enlightenment, norms, and institutions, is also the solution." Steven Pinker

Bob Hill : i could make a tonne of stats proving the opposite...

skysten : So climate change??

D.B. : Great talk Mr. Pinker

Ken Wells : This guy is AWESOME! No more Malcom Gladwell until I've exhausted Pinkerton.

Rob Dircks : Definitely in the top five TED talks I've ever watched. What a breath of fresh air, and permission to have more hope for us all.

evolor : Has the population growth ever taken into account here? There are more people on earth now than 30 years ago, even if the percentages of people in poverty have been reduced, there are still far more people in poverty or extreme poverty than 30 years ago. Now are we happier now that a smaller percentage of people are no longer in poverty or should we be happier with more people now in poverty?

SAM chandler : Steven Pinker, Jordan Peterson, Jonathan Haidt, Christopher Hitchins, Camille Paglia, Theres others, but I think these folks set the tone - work with truth, move outwards.

MostlyLoveOfMusic : Even so, let's do better. Thanks Steven

Goku : Great talk. It's so frustrating to see how many people ignore the good of the world in favor of fatalism.

sp1nrx : A great talk but I never thought of Willem Dafoe as an intellectual and philosopher.

Pierre Taichou : Good TED talk, but I wanted to see graphs on suicide rates.

New2019 Reform : This man so genuine, articulate, and straight to the point. the best intellectual of modern times. hands down.

Doaa Altarawy : Thanks. But How do we measure happiness? there is no measure we can all agree upon. If the use of antidepressants is a measure then we are getting more miserable!