Monday, November 17, 2014

A Case for Radical Optimism

Image source: businessinsider.com

Business Insider strikes again on behalf of radical optimism. In a piece this week by Natasha Bertrand, the case is made that the world is getting better on a whole lot of fronts, despite the pressing urgency of daily headlines. Dr. Max Roser from the Oxford Martin School and a fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking, has created OurWorldinData, a website that tells the visual story of how the world is changing.

"We are far away from an ideal world — we should work to end poverty, to end hunger, to end war — but in all of these aspects we are making progress," Roser wrote in an email to Business Insider. His work is an example of how Big Data can assist in framing our perspectives and direct our focus on what needs to be addressed with urgency. His charts show, for example, that:
  • The percent of the world's population living in extreme poverty is declining drastically. 
  • As global GDP increases, inequality between world citizens is shrinking. Incomes are increasing much faster than food prices. 
  • Rates of undernourishment have plunged across the developing world. Famines have become very rare. 
  • The world has become vastly more equal in terms of life expectancy. 
  • More babies are surviving infancy around the world. Africa has had a particularly steep drop in child mortality between 1990 and today. 
  • Diseases like Malaria are costing fewer lives than they once did. 
  • The number of people dying from AIDS has been declining over the last decade, as well. 
  • Fewer girls in the US are getting pregnant while they're still teenagers. 
  • Cigarette sales in early industrialized countries have dropped to their lowest point in 40 years. 
  • Because of better infrastructure, natural disasters are killing fewer people. 
  • The world is becoming more dramatic. 
  • The proportion of countries experiencing civil wars has declined significantly since 1990. 
  • The percentage of the world's population dying in violent conflicts has decreased in the recent past. Fewer people are dying in genocides. 
  • Government spending on social welfare is increasing around the world. Throughout the world, people are becoming more educated.       

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