I, too, have loved these books, which form a complementary pair. Pinker argues—our current malaise notwithstanding—that the world is getting better. World hunger is abating, child labor is disappearing. Murder and wars are less common. Literacy is increasing. Given a choice between living a half-century or century ago or today, any sane person would choose today.
Rosling mined world data to document these trends and many more. And now the Rosling family’s Swedish foundation is offering stunning dynamic graphic displays of world data.
For example, see here and click on the animation for a jaw-dropping depiction of the life-expectancy increase (in but an eye-blink of our total human history).
Today’s average human lives much longer, thanks partly to the dramatic decline in child mortality from a time when nearly half of children died by age 5 (and when there was biological wisdom to having more than two children).
Other show-the-class goodies include:
- Increasing gender equality—indexed by the changing girl/boy ratio in schools.
- Rising body mass index for men, and for women . . . with richer countries averaging higher BMI.
- Declining murder rates across countries.
- Increasing age at first marriage (for women).
These facts should whet your informational appetite. For more, explore www.gapminder.com/data. “Gapminder makes global data easy to use and understand.”
And then explore www.OurWorldInData.org, founded by Max Roser. This is an Oxford-based source of world data on all sorts of topics. “Our World in Data is about research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems.” An example, presenting World Bank/United Nations data on the “missing women” phenomenon in certain countries since the advent of prenatal sex determination:
For us data geeks, so many numbers, so little time.
Not everything is “better angels” rosy. In addition to sex-selective abortions, we are menaced by climate change, nationalism, hate speech, and rampant misinformation. Even so, the Pinker/Rosling message—that in many important ways life is getting better—is further typified by these very websites, which provide easy access to incredible amounts of information that our ancestors could never know.
(For David Myers’ other essays on psychological science and everyday life, visit TalkPsych.com.)