Why do we Believe that the World is Getting Worse? – A Response to Steven Pinker

October 8th, 2020

Within the TED Talk presented by Steven Pinker, the concept of global improvement was brought into question, that despite improvements in various different categories, such as technology, political relationships, health, and poverty, the quality of the world is perceived as deteriorating as time progresses. The focus of his talk was to disprove this idea, to show various graphs and charts which details how health and safety has increased, while the rate of poverty, homicide, and wars have decreased. The notion that our world is declining and becoming dangerous is in fact an idea brought forth by the media. Media stations, such as news or online videos, often strive to showcase terrible events as a means to garner attention, as such events are often interesting or instill fear, becoming a focus for people in their everyday life. The abundance of negative information being fed to people leads to this repressive mindset that the world itself is becoming worse as time continues. The focus of Steven Pinker’s talk was to highlight that the world is not in fact becoming worse, but rather significantly improving, that such thoughts come from an over-exposure to negative news. To assist in proving this point, Steven Pinker uses charts which list how things have improved or degraded within the past 30 to 100 years. The usage of such information, with sources listed at the bottom of each chart, creates an extremely persuasive presentation. While little criticism is found against this presentation, what I wish would be done was to possibly present some information that shows how certain things may in fact be getting worse as time progresses, that while the majority of critical issues are being fixed, there are still some present in this world that promotes the growth of negative mindsets, that we’re not on a perfect exponential growth towards a perfect world, a point he made would be impossible/harmful. This TED Talk reassures me that although I am entering into perhaps the most difficult stages of my life, stepping out into the harsh and cruel world as an independent person for the first time, things are not as bad as what others may claim. That, while others may preach or yell at how terrible the world is today, that I may be able to pierce the veil they attempt to drape over me.

-Aaron Wells

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