Media, and people in general, have a tendency to make everything seem like a doomsday scenario. This could be for a number of reasons.
Perhaps, as humans, we have a tendency to see the negative while ignoring progress. This is certainly the case with many social justice movements, which seem to refuse to acknowledge the large strides made in the past few decades.
While of course things are not perfect, and there are still things to be improved on, a lot has gotten really good, really fast.
According to Reason Editor-in-Chief Katherine Mangu-Ward, it’s human’s tendency to ignore the good that has gotten us to this point: but it’s time to stop and smell the roses.
“If you are a caveman who hears a little rustling in the weeds, and you say, ‘Oh, it’s probably fine,’ the other guy who says, ‘It’s probably a tiger,’ that’s the guy who lives. That guy was our ancestors.”
But the strides made are not just notable, they are life changing, says Mangu-Ward.
In the book Progress: Ten Reasons To Look Forward to the Future, Swedish writer Johan Norberg explains how the past decade has been the most prosperous in human history. Norberg, who also wrote the book In Defense of Global Capitalism, notes that in the 2010s, 28 percent of the current overall wealth was created in that decade, that extreme poverty was halved, and that child mortality was reduced by a third.
On top of that, countries criminalizing same sex acts decreased from 40 percent to 27 percent, countries with laws protecting women jumped from 53 percent to 78 percent, the death rate from pollution went down 19 percent, and the number of “not-free” countries decreased from 34 percent to 26 percent.
There are, of course, notable challenges ahead. Depression has been on a creeping increase for years now, with the LA Times reporting that there’s been an over 50 percent increase in unhappiness.
“On a scale of 1 to 3, where 1 represents ‘not too happy’ and 3 means “very happy,” Americans on average give themselves a 2.18 — just a hair above “pretty happy.” That’s a significant decline from the nation’s peak happiness, as measured by the survey, of the early 1990s.
The change is driven by the number of people who say they’re not too happy: 13 percent in 2018 compared with 8 percent in 1990. That’s a more than 50 percent increase in unhappy people.
Other recent research confirms this trend. The latest World Happiness Report, released this week, finds that a separate measure of overall life satisfaction fell by six percent in the United States between 2007 and 2018,” the Times reports.
Addiction is another major problem, which continues to skyrocket, with the number of Americans being diagnosed with opioid addiction breaking records year after year, with a notable spike in 2016, climbing by 493 percent with some drugs.
On top of this, the privacy of the average American has all but disappeared. In an article by Forbes titled “Privacy is completely and utterly dead, and we killed it,” author Jacon Morgan highlights how mega-monopoly tech giants like Facebook, Google, and Apple have gathered data on individuals that completely removes any form of autonomy.
All of this doesn’t even acknowledge that artificial intelligence is set to replace 40 percent of jobs within the next couple of decades. So who knows whether things are better or worse. Perhaps it boils down to whether you’re a glass half-full, glass half-empty type of person.