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.

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"

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

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.

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

Julian Erasmus : Grwat Ted talk! I think it really highlights something so important. The one measure really missing for me is the environment. The human experience is improving, but how is the rest of life on this planet doing?

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

JTheory : if only i could quote his whole lecture whilst in conversation with someone...

Barry Smith : 'authoritarian populism'-- god... there's a formal-name for the u s cop-system

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

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

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

Changing of the guard : ask LAW ENFORCEMENT that question. bet you get a bs answer. LAW ENFORCEMENT has made this country worse. not civilians

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.

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

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

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

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.

Saraoushka .n : #super ★★★★★ Thank you for speaking my mind

Holmes Da Realist HDR : "We must see them as problems to be solved and not apocalypses in waiting". Best line 13:00

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

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

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

Osiran rebel Johnston : Conservative philosophers are like rubber chickens . They may fool you the first time , but if they fool you a second time , shame on you .

Jacek Masterofalltrades : Now.that`s a Good Tidings!Blessed be Pinker.

Jiang Jiang : Mostly agree. But I think the gap between the upper class and normal people is one reason why a lot of people feel unhappy. In the developed world, the rich became much richer in last 20 years, but the life of middle class and low class became worse. Welcome the discussion.

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

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

LD51 : How do you measure happiness?

Shae Berghuis : Mr. Pinker, thank you for sharing these revelations. It was nice to hear that we are getting better despite the horrible news we see everyday. Good Energy to you to carry on with this.

ForgottenMan : you can show everything with statistics. the parameters are important.

mooxim : :D I could see his eyes welling up as he finished. I'm glad he kept his cool while speaking instead of getting too preachy and passionate but these are thoughts worth getting emotional about.

Matt T : "Intellectuals hate progress" - cut to 30-something blonde in the audience with RBF and arms crossed, lol. Yes Dr. Pinker, progressives to hate progress.

Paradox Nafi : This is blind data. How democracy is going on?

Gustavo Al : How do you measure “happiness”? Indeed, how do you define hapiness.

Dan D : thank you for the video and thank you for the absolute brilliant talk. Steven Pinker, you have a new fan!