Before I share the advancements in various fields that are exponentially changing our world and creating the potential for abundance for all, let’s have a look at how our world has changed over the last 50 to 200 years. Let me first ask you a couple of questions ( taken from the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling). Please keep a mental note of your answers.
Question # 1: How many people in this world have some access to electricity?
a) 20 percent.
b) 50 percent.
c) 80 percent.
Question # 2: How did the number of deaths from natural disasters change over the last hundred years?
a) More than doubled.
b) Remained about the same.
c) Decreased to less than half.
Question # 3: In the last 20 years, the portion of the world population living in extreme poverty has …
a) almost doubled.
b) Remained more or less the same.
c) almost halved.
Before I tell you the right answers, lets first have a look at some of the stats about our world. Browse through the slides below to get an idea of how our world has improved. These slides have been captured from the presentation of Peter Diamandis.
I’d also encourage you to have a look at the following stats, taken from the book Factfulness by Hans Rosling.
Some of the bad things that have been on the decline over the past century or more:
Some of the good things that have been on the rise over the past century or more:
The key message is that we are living in the best times in the entire history of humanity.
We have never been freer from forced bondage.
We have never enjoyed more peace.
We have never been healthier.
We have never lived longer.
We have never had more time to work on our passions and purpose.
We have never been more connected.
We have never been more prosperous.
We have never had more power to change the world than it is today.
This progress in many cases has been exponential in nature due to the progress in science and innovations in technologies. This approach has created a world of abundance. And the fascinating thing is that the next decade is poised to unleash more progress than the last half-century. How does this exponential progress happen, will be the topic of the next blog.
However, the interesting fact is that we humans pay more attention to negative news than to positive, which is explained by the following chart.
The facts that I have shared in this blog are a small fraction of all the good news that has been documented by researchers about the betterment of humanity. In almost any dimension of human progress, the world has improved over the last two centuries. I hope this information would have filled you with positive energy and you would stop paying much attention to the negativity bias of media and people in general.
Let me give you the answer to the three questions I asked you at the beginning of this blog. With the stats presented in this blog, I suspect you’d have adjusted some of your answers.
Answer # 1: 80% of the people in this world have some access to electricity.
Answer # 2: The number of deaths from natural disasters has decreased to less than half over the last hundred years.
Answer # 3: In the last 20 years, the portion of the world population living in extreme poverty has almost halved.
I’d encourage you to educate yourself more about the world at Gap Minder.
Stay tuned for the next blog soon…
3 thoughts on “The exponentially improving world we live in”
Maths and stats had been my favourite subjects too but since you’re such a big fan of quotations, one of that I often refer to is “There are three types of lies — lies, damn lies, and statistics”.
It is far to too easy to pick and choose the stats that supports one’s viewpoint and for me it’s more like a shield to hide behind instead of using anything more substantial like logic or commonsense to support any argument. Even just the gut feel is often more effective and meaningful than sheer stats and numbers.
As far as the focus on negatives rather than positives is concerned, it is very natural as our brains are wired to function as such. If there is a white rug with a small black stain in the middle what would your eye see? Not the 99% of the white area but the small black spot, I guess. It’s not always a bad thing either to focus on anomalies. If a mosquito or a fly falls into the plate of food in front of us, why can’t we just push it on a side and keep focusing/eating the rest of 90% of the good food in that plate?
Most of the charts/graphs showing the growth in number/percentage of people having access to any new product over time is what you expect. When electricity, trains, aeroplanes, cars, refrigerators, TV, phones etc. were invented the number of people using them will continue to increase in the years and decades to follow. So is the case of literacy numbers in the post-industrial revolution world where colonial powers introduced the formalised schooling system to get the labour force and clerical staff to enable them exploit their colonies efficiently.
All these wonderful (selected) stats showing the material progress and abundance that you consider as the outcome of innovations and technological advancements; is itself an outcome or the natural byproduct of the industrial revolution, which is due to the capitalist system whose foundations were laid by Adam Smith in 18th century. The driving force behind all this is the greed and exploitation of the proletariats by the bourgeoisie. Capitalism survival requires continued growth in production at ever-reducing production cost and an expanding market access.
Today’s capitalist world is trying to have unlimited production from the finite resources of this world, which has already brought the planet to the brink on environmental disaster. What we are witnessing is not surprising at all but is in fact quite scary, unless one can’t see the wood for the trees!
One of unavoidable outcomes of this system is the accumulation of wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer corporations or individuals. We can see that the income/wealth inequality today is of the proportion that humanity had never witnessed before, ever. And is growing at an ‘exponential’ rate!
I hate to put stats and numbers to support an argument but one can’t help to turn away from the fact that never in the history of this planet was a time when so many people present who didn’t have access to clean drinking water. Also the rate at which deforestation is happening today in unheard of. The world currently has weapons of mass destruction that can blow the entire planet several times…
If we keep the tech gadgets on the side for a moment and look at the humans of today at individual and societal level in comparison with recent past – what can we say about the happiness or contentment levels? Aren’t the number of people with Alzheimers, depression or suffering from different types stresses higher than ever before?
While the access to information is at unprecedented levels but so does the access to mis/dis-information and ‘fake news’ and pornography. Today’s world is unashamedly referred to as the ‘post-truth world’ where the facts have become irrelevant and the distinction between truth and falsehood has blurred.
Just a generation or two before it was common to have a small group of friends with a few very close ones. Was that a better situation or today when we hardly have any ‘real friends’ but 1000s on Facebook or tens of thousands followers on Twitter or Instagram?
I hate to make a judgment or any claim as to whether we are currently living in the best times in the entire history of humanity or the worst. I leave to each individual to decide for themselves by looking at the materialistic advancements that they have made within their lifetimes and be truthful to their own conscious to answer if they are happier and more content today than the earlier times?
Don’t get misled, or frozen, trying to figure out which indicators support your point of view. Do what you can, as soon as possible, and as effectively as possible, to make as many fellow human beings as possible, less miserable, or happier. The more the better.
And it is far easier to achieve this, with people you are closer to, emotionally or physically. On the other hand, people creating the new technology to improve human lives, have a far greater opportunity to affect large numbers of people. For example, imagine the number of parents made happier by the existence of Pampers, or the persons able to communicate free with WhatsApp.
The feeling of satisfaction you get from doing this, is what I understand from the concept of ‘Jannat’ (Heaven). And the feeling of guilt you get if you are making other fellow human beings miserable, or losing opportunities to improve their life, is what I understand from the concept of ‘Dozakh’ (Hell). These feelings are ‘built-in’ to what we call ‘humans’. You and me know this from our own personal experience.
And these feelings start right now, as soon as the moment when you can act, which we call the Present, ends. ‘Akhirat’ is the infinite period of time (eternity) starting right now, not something much later.
We can have a philosophical debate about the definition of success or progress all we want, the world is already taking advantage of the technological progress every minute. The fact that we could have live conversations sitting thousands of miles apart is a testament to the progress of human ingenuity. Just the thought of being able to cross the ocean within 10 hours would have been considered ludicrous just a century back. The luxury that most who read this blog enjoy today couldn’t have been dreamt by the kings a couple of centuries back (air conditioning, fruits being available to us off season and from around the world, hot running water to name a few). We don’t even think about it, but just three / four generations back, one out of every child was expected to die before reaching the age of 5. The advancements in medicine has doubled life expectancy over the last two centuries. Access to education, reduction in percentage of global population living under slavery, prevalence of democracy… if this can’t be considered progress, then I’m not sure what would.
Two centuries ago, more than 85% of population spent their time focused on avoiding starvation and growing crops. Today less than 10% does it. Which means there is more time to spend on research, discovery and exploration – achieving higher purposes in life than just staying alive! The percent of global population living under a heat poverty has decreased from 36% to less than 10% today. We are talking about more than a billion people’s lives improving … real lives beings transformed!
We are so attuned to negative news, due to evolutionary reasons, that we can’t digest positive 🙂
Secondly, the rate at which this progress happened since the onset of industrial revolution, has been unprecedented from historical perspective. Capitalism which relies on freedom of markets and individual enterprise does allow individuals to take risks and earn the rewards if their idea is proven by the market. You can’t have this in communism or autocratic regimes where creative destruction isn’t possible, a key feature of modern free market economy. In fact, two centuries back, 95+% global population lived under autocratic regimes. In other models, unless you are born in the elite class, you have virtually no chance to move up the ladder. Capitalism has been the most efficient mechanism invented by mankind so far. It does create boom and bust cycles due to our irrational exuberance and has its short comings too, but the world has yet to find a better alternative. The current modem is being evolved as we speak. Top 20 CEOs recently came out to proclaim that the narrow focus on shareholder value must evolve to have holistic approach of value to employees, communities and environment as the status quo may not be sustainable.
Finally, whether we accept it or not, the next 10 years of progress is likely to see more drastic change than the last 50 years. We could choose to embrace / help create it or deride it at our own peril.