New and Improved

18,000 adults in nine countries were asked a very simple question: “All things considered, do you think the world is getting worse or better, or neither getting better nor worse?”

As you can see in the picture, the most optimistic country regarding the long run is Sweden, but with the sad news being that only 10% of Swedes think the planet is growing positively. It only goes down from there, other Norwegian nations are at 8% optimistic, while 6% of Americans and just 4% of German and British residents believe the world is getting to be a better place.

As it happens, this small minority is right. A post in Our World In Data says that if we look back 30 or perhaps 50 years, we could see progress that may not be visible if our narrowed time period is “since last week” The post, in actuality, suggests that the planet is growing tremendously better in a variety of ways that are happening too slowly for us to appreciate in day to day life.

For example? The amount of people living in extreme poverty—which is defined as living on less than $1.90 a day, adjusted for different currencies in different countries and for inflation (and for subsistence farming, where each crop is given equal value) –has dropped from nearly everybody in 1820 to 44 percent in 1981 and down to less than 10 percent of international taxpayers in 2015 (the last year  which we have the data). Is that not an incredible improvement?

Another step is literacy. Back in 1915 only about 1 in 10 people 15 years of age could write and read. Then in 1930, the amount was around 33%. Now, internationally, almost 85% of our planet’s people can read and write in their native language, and of course many people nowadays are bilingual.

When reviewing health, the researchers state that we can’t appreciate how much safer the world has become before we peek back at how dreadful the past had been. In 1800, about 43 percent of the planet’s newborn children died prior to their 5th birthday. Ever since then, we have enjoyed improved housing, sanitation, nutrition, and much more accessible food (which also made us smarter and taller), as well as the germ theory of medicine, antibiotics and vaccines. Today, only about 4.3% of childeren die before age 5.

The article also considers political freedom, which has shifted from only those living in colonial regimes to virtually everybody living under a republican government today. Educational opportunities as well are far more prevalent now than they were even 50 years ago, around the globe generally the world has had better health, more money, and a higher intellect than we have in the past.

Not understanding that we’ve come so far shows that we may not know our own history quite well as we thought–also, the article indicates, that this deprives us of a positive outlook on ourselves and also on the future. We should have more confidence in ourselves; despite the obvious hiccups and speed bumps of everyday life, the human race appears to be doing a fantastic job of enhancing its living conditions and improving the world.