ISHMAEL N. DARO
If you have ever avoided the news because you found it too depressing, or if you have ever felt the world is falling into decay, war and misery — this column is for you.
It’s true that news outlets often focus on the negative. “If it bleeds, it leads!” as the saying goes.
But there are numerous reasons to believe that this is an exciting time to be alive. By almost any measure, we are the generation with the most opportunities available to us, and there is every reason to believe this trend will continue with our children and their eventual clones.
Life expectancy today is about 69 years, more than double what it was for the entire history of our species up until some 100 years ago. For the previous 30,000 years or so, you could consider yourself fortunate for celebrating your 30th birthday. Of course, it’s even higher in developed countries but that’s not really the important part. As a species, even our poorest have a longer life than some of the wealthiest of previous generations.
Speaking of wealth, we are also the richest group of humans to ever have existed. Consider that since 1969, Canada’s GDP has increased 225 per cent while population has only grown 65 per cent. Income inequality is still a major problem, obviously, but the average person today has hundreds of times the purchasing power of people in centuries past — and that’s in addition to modern conveniences like sanitation, health care and education.
According to World Bank numbers, the adult literacy rate of the world is at 84 per cent. Youth literacy is at 87 per cent. Illiteracy has fallen by half around the world since 1970.
Progress like this is hard-won, snatched from the jaws of ignorance and violence. You might be tempted to think that a few trigger-happy politicians in Washington, Beijing or Moscow could end it all. But even in geopolitical terms, there is good news.
Since the 1970s, the NGO Freedom House has published annual reports on how many countries in the world afford their citizens democratic rights. Since 1973, countries deemed “free” nations rose from 29 to 45 per cent, while “not free” countries dropped from 46 per cent to 24 per cent.
What a difference a few decades of human progress can make. And although there are still many great challenges before us, there is every reason to believe that as the world continues to integrate, globalize and share knowledge, all these historical trends will continue to go in our favour.
We may be one or two generations away from flying cars and robot butlers, but it’s still a fantastic time to be alive. Let’s not forget it.