July 15, 2021

Ten global trends every smart person should know

Watch this short video on human progress to see how life is improving all over the globe – despite what you might think.

To be objective about the progress we have made over the past century is to be optimistic about our future. That is true of the world, just as it is true of Ireland. 

Take a few minutes to watch this short video produced by the team at Human Progress. Inspired by their book of the same name, Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know gives an engaging and concise summary of some of the major leaps we have made as a species in the recent past. 

For those who prefer to read, the full transcript of the video is reproduced here (but don’t skip the nice animation): 

Have you seen the news? Everything's awful and the world's going to hell! But is that really true? 
In the past, we had to focus on danger or we didn't survive. Good things like building a house, accumulating wealth and raising a family happen slowly. Bad things happen fast so we tend to underappreciate the good and focus on the bad. To help balance our negativity bias, here are 10 global trends we think every smart person should know.
  1. For thousands of years our lives were nasty brutish and short. More recently, rulers started to become more accountable and equality before the law improved. The world grew freer, leading to more innovation, technological improvement and the great enrichment. The world's economy grew 100 fold in the last 200 years and standards of living skyrocketed as freedom, innovation and prosperity spread. 
  2. Poverty declined at an accelerating pace over the last 25 years. 137,000 people have been lifted out of extreme poverty every day. Think about that. Yet most people still wrongly believe that poverty is increasing. 
  3. The population increased in tandem with our growing prosperity – rising from 1 billion in 1800 to 7.8 billion today. But thanks to falling birth rates, the world's population will peak in 2060 and then start to fall. In 2100 there may be as many people in the world as there are today. 
  4. You might think all those extra people would make resources more expensive, but in fact resources tend to become more abundant as technology improves. Today we no longer light our homes with candles made from whale fat – instead we use electricity. 
  5. Getting enough food was a daily struggle for our ancestors but today, thanks primarily to more scientific farming methods, most of the world has a food surplus. Now we have the opposite problem – we eat too much – but that's a better problem to have, right?
  6. Higher agricultural productivity means we can return more land to nature. Between 1982 and 2016 the global tree canopy increased by the size of Alaska and Montana combined. The biggest gains were in Europe and the United States. Put simply, as people get richer they care more about the environment. 
  7. The rapid rise in urbanisation is good for us and the planet. Cities are the engines of progress ideas, innovations, culture and better paid work. And the average city dweller uses less energy, emits less carbon dioxide, and has a smaller land footprint than the folks in the countryside.
  8. Despite some backsliding, the world has generally become less authoritarian and more democratic since the collapse of the Soviet empire some 30 years ago. More power to the people. 
  9. Partly due to democratisation, enrichment and economic interdependence, the number of wars between nations declined since the end of World War II even though the total number of countries increased. Wars have also become less deadly.
  10. And, finally, the chance of dying in a natural disaster like an earthquake, flood, drought, storm or wildfire fell by 99% in 90 years with greater wealth and advanced technology. We can plan better and build safer.
You've probably thought “no way!” at some point in this video, but our data come from top experts and global institutions like the UN, WHO and World Bank. And we're certainly not saying that everything's rosy - there's still lots to do to make the world even better.
If you'd like to read more check out our website and buy our book. It's good to celebrate how far we've come, to understand our negativity bias, and to develop a rationally optimistic view of humanity.
In Fact: An Optimist’s Guide to Ireland at 100 - Book Side

Available to buy at all good book stores