By Justin Brown
December 31, 2016
As 2016 comes to a close, many people are welcoming the new year with trepidation after a number of incredibly transformative and surprising events during the year.
We saw the people of the United Kingdom decide to leave Europe in the Brexit vote. The USA went to the polls in November after a bitter presidential campaign to vote into power former reality television star Donald Trump.
2016 also seems to be the year the music died. In addition to Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen, Rick Parfitt and George Michael also passed away.
Towards the end of 2016, President-elect Trump alarmed many by seemingly advocating for a further nuclear arms build up.
The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes
Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 22, 2016
You can be forgiven for thinking that we live in incredibly dangerous and reactionary times. We see little in mainstream media which confronts this perspective. The same goes for social media, with fake news proliferating on Facebook and alarmist and fear-mongering content being shared more widely across the platform.
The fault isn’t entirely with mainstream and social media companies for creating a climate of fear and anxiety. Humans, apparently, are a gloomy species and are particularly susceptible to perspectives confirming their bias that the world is getting worse. As one case in point, when asked whether global poverty had increased, remained the same or decreased in the last 30 years, only 12% of Americans correctly answered that it had fallen.
Our gloominess has political consequences. A whopping 81% of Donald Trump voters believed that life has grown worse in the past 50 years, and 61% of Britons voting to leave the European Union believe their children will be worse off than their parents.
Yet the reality is that life is getting much better for the vast majority of humans, and we may be living at the cusp of a global revolution of human thought where ideas can be shared impactfully by any member of humanity, rather than just the elite.
We have evidence that the world is getting unequivocally better. In the face of so much media telling us the opposite, let’s take a look.
Life expectancy around the world has steadily increased over the last 200 years. This has been driven by improvements in housing, sanitation and education, with mortality rates decreasing due to improvements in medicine. The trend continued with the development of vaccines and then antibiotics.