The world seems like a gloomy place right now. Moreover, it seems to be getting gloomier with each new day. A friend asked me to make a diagram plotting the attractiveness in time of our world for the “average” human being. He had already made such a diagram in his mind; it plateaued during 2000 to 2005.
In my view, such a diagram would only project somebody’s micro observations into a macro picture. He disagreed. Moreover, any diagram would select the current day and age because nobody knows what life was, centuries ago. History books usually focus on specific events rather than ordinary life.
The key question is simple though: is the world getting better or worse?
This question forces you to zoom out of the here and now (micro), and look at the bigger – macro – perspective regarding all times and all places. Suddenly, it’s not all gloom anymore. Ever since the dawn of times, people are getting more healthy & wealthy and having more time for developing themselves.
In 2018, cognitive scientist Steven Pinker published his book Enlightenment Now. “It argues that the Enlightenment values of reason, science, and humanism have brought progress; shows our progress with data that health, prosperity, safety, peace, and happiness have tended to rise worldwide ”. Wiki
A Dutch proverb argues that we suffer most from our fears over (future) suffering (in Dutch: “Een mens lijdt het meest door het lijden dat hij vreest“). This would also imply that Fear (now & then) is stronger than (future) Hope. This seems logical but not rational.
Steven Pinker came to a similar conclusion in his 2021 book Rationality: “Can reading a book make you more rational? Can it help you understand why there is so much irrationality in the world? These are the goals of Rationality, Steven Pinker’s follow-up to Enlightenment Now.” (Steven Pinker)
The beauty of emotions (or irrationality) is that these disappear without a trace. Our emotional memory seems limited to peaks and troughs. In simple words: we forget easily. TIME: “Without forgetting, the evolutionary benefits of a strong memory would become redundant”. After all, we are just ordinary people.
We’re just ordinary people
We don’t know which way to go
‘Cause we’re ordinary people
Maybe we should take it slow
Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlining) by LO unless in quotes or stated otherwise.