We’ve passed the one year mark into this global pandemic, and I offer this well-reasoned outlook for a positive future. As I see it, the key is understanding that true progress is often the proverbial 2 steps forward, followed by 1 step back. Sometimes it is much worse; conversely, some years or decades erase losses in a dramatic fashion and major new gains are earned. But the evidence is clear – 2020 completes a recorded 200-year history of human progress indexes that show that the worldwide human experience is steadily improving. It may not feel like it after experiencing 2020, but we are far better off than we have ever been. Civilization is steadily improving. That claim probably sounds ludicrous, but examination of the data supports this milestone. A Quillette article by Tony Morley supplies a detailed window into how this decade compared to previous decades as far back as 1800. It shows how bad years like 2020 are eclipsed by human endeavor, such as the development of effective vaccines in less than a year. That is something completely unheard of just a few years ago. Human progress only occurs when people work together in a rational, evidence-based way.
I think about my Father often. He was born during the Spanish Flu, and grew up in poverty. He became motherless at 9, lived through the great depression, and survived serving in both theaters of WW2. People like him faced hardship every single day, yet fought on for better days ahead. Hope was a huge driving force. I often use his life to understand how much better off the world is now than during his generation, and how extremely lucky the 21st century American actually is compared to the rest of the world. I keep my Italian immigrant ancestry in mind, as it is a blueprint for how to persevere. I recently thought about the fact that my generation is the first in our family history to have all been born in a hospital, and then brought home to a house with full plumbing.
When 200 years of history shows steady improvement for humankind, there is much more cause for hope than pessimism. And we cannot panic – this is important, as the article states:
“The greatest challenge facing our species in 2021 isn’t the pandemic or even economic collapse, it’s a global culture that seems to be ready to abandon ship just as the bulkheads are being sealed and the vessel is beginning to right itself.”
– Tony Morley,
Freelance Writer, Energy project manager, progress and growth exponent.
And that is the point. You don’t abandon a reliable car with a flat tire and walk away – you replace the tire and get back on the road.
The fact that civilization is improving steadily is due to the hard work and perseverance of millions of people. Their evidence-based research, the resulting scientific understanding, and the continued investment of capital into improving life around the world makes the world steadily better. Philanthropy has also made a huge impact on making the world a better place, whether that is through funding new ventures, financial gifts & foundations, or volunteering. A rising tide lifts all boats.
If the idea that our civilization is steadily improving surprises you, it is only because these facts are almost never part of the gruel that mass media spoon-feeds the public in the 24 hour news cycle. Social media in particular enables the spread of disinformation, discontent and conflict – this is why the world might seem like it is out of control. But it isn’t. It’s steadily getting better.
If you really want to see everyday people displaying kindness and decency, simply abandon your electronic devices for a while and go outside and witness the world at work. There are great people everywhere and in all walks of life, and so many actively look to make the world a better place with ingenuity, hard work and random acts of kindness. Use this insight as a springboard to making the world an even better place.