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Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker

Have you ever turned on the news and found yourself wishing that life was like it was in the good old days?

In Enlightenment Now Steven Pinker argues that the 17th-century enlightenment started a series of fortunate events that are still playing out today. I have been a fan of his work and really enjoyed previous titles such as How the Mind Works and Better Angels of our Nature.

In this book, Steven provides irrefutable evidence that nearly everything we care about has been getting better and the rate at which it is getting better is increasing. I was first exposed to this idea from the book The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley which I read in 2010. Steven takes it further and provides updates from the last eight years showing that the trend is still progressing in the right direction.

What are some good things we have more of?

  • Average life expectancy
  • Protected Lands
  • Food access
  • GDP per world capita
  • Human rights
  • Democratic governments
  • Literacy
  • Average years of education
  • Higher average IQ
  • Leisure time
  • International tourism

What are some things we are glad to have less of?

  • Poverty
  • Deforestation
  • Oil spills
  • Maternal mortality
  • Childhood deaths from infectious diseases
  • Wars
  • Homicides
  • Accidental death
  • Plane crashes

. . . And some things we are glad to have more of?

  • Safety
  • Peace
  • Knowledge
  • Happiness
  • Access to information
  • Freedom
  • Protected wildlands

Is that shocking? He goes through every one of these items and more in careful detail and cites clear evidence of positive progress.

I realized that the extent to which I was shocked or surprised related to how much I had learned from news media as opposed to any other sources. Please understand that the news is now in the entertainment industry. Their job is to keep you shocked and outraged so that you stay on their site and share it with your friends. They are not incentivized to make you truly informed.

For your health and sanity, start getting more information from books. Some stories are worth the time.

To Your Health,
Dr. C

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