Five misconceptions about human progress

1. The world is getting poorer

Source: OurWorldInData

In the early 1800s, the world population hit one billion for the first time. Four in five were in extreme poverty. Now, that number is under 10%. The United Nations has set a goal to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030.

2. There is a first-world and a third-world

Source: Gapminder

There was a first and a third-world. The distribution of people by income was bimodal in 1975. Today, we have a global middle class making about $10 a day.

3. Violence is on the rise

Source: OurWorldInData

Worldwide, the homicide rate has been steadily decreasing for most of history. Evidence of violent death at pre-state burial sites is about 13% (source). The homicide rate is now under 6 per 100,000 individuals.

Source: OurWorldInData

Violent deaths per 100,000 has dropped dramatically since World War II. This is due in large part to a decrease in interstate conflict.

Abolition of Slavery. Source: Steven Pinker

Human rights is improving across many key indicators. Democracy is on the rise: more than half of the world population now lives under a democratic system. Slavery, and capital punishment have been outlawed in most countries.

4. Asia will always have the fastest growth

Source: OurWorldInData

Africa could become the most populous world region by the early 2100s (currently 4 times smaller than Asia). Nigeria could rank third in population (currently 7th). Lagos (+400%), Kinshasa (+700%), and Dar es Salaam (+1680%) could become the worlds largest cities (source).

5. Progress is inevitable

Progress is possible, but never inevitable. Inflation happens because of incremental improvements on existing infrastructure. We’ve lost the ability to go to the moon – the most recent mission was in 1972. We have to continuously work on these problems if they have any hope to be solved.

About the author

Hi, I'm Nathan. I'm an electrical engineer in the Los Angeles area. Keep an eye out for more content being posted soon.

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