The psychologist Steven Pinker has long believed we should be more optimistic – and even current crises do not dissuade him
Reading and watching the media over the past year, you might be forgiven for thinking that we are facing the collapse of civilisation. We have a shrinking economy, a fuel crisis that may bring on energy rationing and forced blackouts, extreme weather events, the increased chance of nuclear war, and risk of the growth of a new pandemic riding on the back of the last. The Doomsday Clock – a symbol created by scientists to represent the likelihood of a human-made catastrophe – places us at just 100 seconds before midnight, the closest we’ve been to Armageddon in the project’s 75-year history.
In the face of these threats, it may be hard to maintain a rose-tinted view of the future – unless, that is, you are the Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. In 2018, his book Enlightenment Now argued that our interpretations of news events make us far too gloomy. There has never been a better time to be alive, he said, thanks to the social, economic, political, technological, and medical advances of the past 300 years.
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