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Wyatt Emmerich: We don't realize how much better the world is getting

 

Wyatt Emmerich

 

 

We are living in the midst of extraordinary human progress - the greatest progress in the history of humanity. And we're just getting started. 

 

Fifty years ago, more than half the people over 65 had lost all their teeth. Today, only 15 percent. That's a huge improvement. No doubt with this new laser procedure tooth loss is going to drop dramatically in the coming decade. 

 

Last month I wrote that global poverty (living on less than $2 a day) had dropped from 40 percent of the world population to 10 percent in just 40 years. We should think about this every day we wake up and go to work. These are very good times. But people don't comprehend this. 

 

Tripp Segars read the column and texted me. "Read your most recent column. If you haven't read Factfulness, you will find it interesting." 

 

So I bought the book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We're Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better Than You Think. 

 

Turns out there is a huge disconnect between world progress and our perception of world progress. Most people think the world is in far worse shape than it is. Many think world progress is going backward, which could not be more wrong. 

 

Bill Gates said Factfulness was "One of the most important books I've ever read an indispensable guide to thinking clearly about the world." 

 

The book starts with a quiz of 13 questions about the state of the world: What percentage of people have access to electricity? What percent of women in the world have 10 years of education compared to men? What is the average life expectancy in the world? Are endangered species increasing or decreasing? And so on. There are three answers to choose from. 

 

Turns out the average score was 33 percent, which means a chimpanzee scores as well on the quiz as the average person. When it comes to understanding the state of the world, our knowledge is no better than a chimpanzee. 

 

Did you know 80 percent of children have been vaccinated against disease? Did you know the average life expectancy in the world is 70? Did you know that worldwide women only have one fewer year (nine) of education than men? Did you know the panda, rhino and tiger are less endangered today than 30 years ago? Did you know 80 percent of the world's population has access to electricity? Did you know deaths from natural disasters have been cut in half from 100 years ago? Did you know the majority of the world population now lives in middle income countries? Did you know that in 100 years, there will be the same number of young people in the world as there are today? Did you know that 85 percent of the world's population lives in developed countries with small families and low childhood death rates? Did you know only nine percent of the world's population live in low income countries? And even in the low income countries, the life expectancy is 62 years, most people have access to improved water, and most children are vaccinated. 

 

Every year in Davos, Switzerland, the richest, most powerful, smartest people in the world gather for a huge symposium on the state of the world. The average score on the test was 50 percent among Davos attendees. 

 

This disconnect is caused by the nature of news. Plane wrecks are news. Safe landings are not. In today's world of instant communication, we are subjected to an unending stream of huge disasters, terrorist attacks and other horror stories. 

 

Then there is the negativity instinct. Perhaps after thousands of years of harsh life, human beings simply have a negativity instinct ingrained in our collective conscience, We expect the worst. 

 

Well I've got news for you. The world is improving more rapidly than ever. In fact, the progress of the last 50 years is almost fantastical. And we are just getting started. That is factfulness. 

 

Wyatt Emmerich is the editor and publisher of The Northside Sun, a weekly newspaper in Jackson. He can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]

 

 

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