Five reasons why good is winning in the world
There is a lot of bad news out there.
If you turn on the TV, you’re likely to hear that we are living in grim economic times.
Millennials like myself are told that we are entering the slowest recovery since the Great Depression, that our employment opportunities are few and that we won’t have the same upward mobility in the marketplace as our parents once did.
Beyond the economy, ever since 9/11 we are living in an age of terror. The media and our leaders instill in us a frequent fear of future attacks, threats and dangers.
Then there are the larger concerns. Our world is at war, the Earth is warming, we’re running out of natural resources and more than a billion people are trapped in poverty.
This type of news messes with our belief systems; it makes us afraid. And it keeps us from doing work that matters.
That’s because we often allow the overwhelming good news to be overshadowed by a barrage of persuasive but small percentage of bad news.
But what many of us don’t realize is that we live in a world with more opportunity and potential than ever before.
People who are driven by purpose see the world for what it could be. They are filled with hope.
If you are tired of the headlines announcing impending doom, here are five reasons for optimism in today’s world.
1. Our World Is Profoundly At Peace
We are living in the most peaceful times of human history. The richest countries of the world are not in geopolitical competition with one another, fighting wars or even engaging in arms races. This is a historical rarity. You would have to go back hundreds of years to find a similar period of great power peace.
With a 24-hours news cycle you can watch a bomb going off in Syria or hear of a terror plot on Parliament Hill and think we live in dangerous times.
But here is truth, as researched by Harvard professor Steven Pinker:
"The number of people who have died as a result of war, civil war, and, yes, terrorism, is down 50 percent this decade from the 1990s. It is down 75 percent from the preceding five decades, the decades of the Cold War, and it is, of course, down 99 percent from the decade before that, which is World War II."
Our world is at peace.
2. Economies Are Thriving
Yes, times have been tough. But if you look at the big picture, our global economy is flourishing.
In 1980, the number of countries that were growing at 4 percent a year — robust growth — was around 60. By 2007, it had doubled. Even now, after the financial crisis, that number is more than 80.
Even in the current period of slow growth, the global economy as a whole will grow 10 to 20 percent faster this decade than it did a decade ago, 60 percent faster than it did two decades ago, and five times as fast as it did three decades ago.
Seven of the ten fastest growing economies are in Africa alone. I recently returned from Paraguay where there are more opportunities than ever before thanks to a dizzying economic boom (which is also leaving many behind). Historically one of the poorest countries, it now has the fastest growing economy in the Americas.
3. Poverty Is Decreasing Dramatically
The United Nations estimates that poverty has been reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years. And much of that reduction has taken place in the last 20 years.
Life expectancy across the world has risen dramatically. We gain five hours of life expectancy every day — without even exercising!
A third of all the babies born in the developed world this year will live to be 100.
Bill Gates is betting his entire fortune on one prediction: That the lives of people in developing countries will improve faster in the next 15 years than at any other time in history. And he believes their lives will improve more than anyone else’s.
All this is because of rising standards of living, hygiene, and, of course, medicine.
4. Education Is Empowering Women
The number of global college graduates has risen fourfold in the last 40 years for men, and sevenfold for women.
Every year that a woman stays in school increases her earning potential by 15 to 25% -- and studies show most women re-invest their earnings back into their family to build a stronger future for their children.
The empowerment of women, whether in a village in Sub-Saharan Africa or a boardroom in Canada, is good for the world. We can look forward to a world enriched by women’s voices.
5. Technology Is Revolutionizing Everything
Our cellphones have more computing power than the Apollo space capsule. So just imagine the opportunities that lie ahead.
Moore’s Law — that computing power doubles every 18 months while costs halve — may be slowing down in the world of computers, but it is accelerating in other fields. The human genome, for example, is being sequenced at a faster pace than Moore’s Law.
mHealth -- the practice of medicine and public health supported by mobile devices – is giving unprecedented access to healthcare to the rural poor in Africa and Asia by connecting doctors directly with patients via SMS technology.
Digital banking is giving the poor more control over their assets and helping them transform their lives. In the developing world, people are now storing money digitally on their phones and using their phones to make purchases, as if they were debit cards.
By 2030, 2 billion people who don't have a bank account today will be storing money and making payments with their phones. And by then, mobile money providers will be offering the full range of financial services, from interest-bearing savings accounts to credit to insurance.
Breakthroughs in technology – ranging from new vaccines and hardier crops to much cheaper smartphones and tables – are creating unprecedented opportunities for the world’s poor to get an education, eat nutritious food and manage their resources.
So what does this mean?
Just because we live in an age of progress doesn’t mean we should become complacent – far from it.
When we look at the challenges we face – economic malaise, terrorism, resource scarcity, climate change, women’s rights, income inequality, etc. – we need to keep in mind that while these problems are real, human reaction will also be real.
And as evidenced by our progress, human action has managed to tackle – and solve – terrible problems. This isn’t a time to be scared. This is a time to engage the world with the worthwhile. A time to be bold.
I have a quote hanging above my desk that reads:
Despite the bad news you see on TV, good is winning in the world because of the tireless efforts of people willing to be co-workers to solve the greatest challenges of our time.
And I truly believe you and I are called to be one of them.
But what do you think?
Let me know in the comments below.
- 2012 Harvard Commencement Address - Fareed Zakaria
- The Good News On Poverty (Yes, there's good news) - Bono (TED Talk)
- The World Is Not Falling Apart - Steven Pinker
- The Better Angels of Our Nature - Steven Pinker
- Africa Rising: The Hopeful Continent - The Economist
- Four Reasons For Optimism - Justin Zoradi
- 2015 Annual Gates Letter - Bill Gates
- DNA Sequencing Costs - National Human Genome Research Institute