By Steve Denning – Read the news and you can see that the world is going to hell in hand-basket—and fast! Terrorism, nuclear weapons, economic stagnation, social unrest, autocratic leaders, structural unemployment, deskilling, growing hopelessness, the opioid epidemic, increasing inequality, xenophobia, economic migrations, recessions, financial bubbles and crashes, recessions, depressions—the list goes on.
And yet the facts show otherwise. In a powerful study entitled “The short history of global living conditions and why it matters that we know it” by Max Roser, an economist at the University of Oxford and the founder of Our World in Data, we learn that on virtually all of the key dimensions of human material well-being—poverty, literacy, health, freedom, and education—the world is an extraordinarily better place than it was just a couple of centuries ago.
- Poverty – 1950 75% of the world were still living in extreme poverty. But today, those living in extreme poverty are now less than 10%.
- Literacy – world population that is literate over the last 2 centuries has gone from a tiny elite to a world where 8 out of 10 people can read and write.
- Health – In 1800, more than 40% of the world’s newborns died before the age of five. Now only a tiny fraction die before the age of five.
- Freedom – In the 19th Century almost everyone lived in autocratically ruled countries. Today more than half the global population lives in a democracy.
- Population – Global life expectancy doubled just over the last hundred years.
- Education – All these gains were enabled by improvements in knowledge and education. There will never be more children on the planet than today.