People everywhere seem to be obsessed with the idea that people today are worse off than at any other point in history. Whether they speak of political divides or poverty, people have become obsessed with doom and gloom. But are things really as bad as people think they are? The answer might come as a pleasant surprise.
- New Found Glory – No News Is Good News
- Steven Pinker TED Talk
- Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress
Here’s a transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey, Brittany.
Brittany: Hi Connor.
Connor: So this is a fun topic for today. Is the world really as bad as some people think it is? And you know, anyone who watches the news might notice that there’s some people who are like obsessed with this idea that the world is getting worse. All these horrible things are happening. Professors, economists, even, you know, politicians are all pushing this idea that you know, the world is full of doom and gloom and there’s all these problems. And the media seems to have us focus on, you know, one, problem after another. We’re always just jumping to the, very, next bad thing. And, I think a bigger problem is there’s a lot of people who have bought into this narrative and they tend to think, it seems to me that things aren’t likely to get better. but I wanna talk with you. We’ve, put together some fun little facts here about whether this is the case. Is, the world getting worse? Is there reason for all the doom and gloom? and how does this kind of compare to history? What are your thoughts here as we begin?
Brittany: Yeah, I think, and this is one problem I think is especially to you today, I think if you’re only getting your information from the news, it might be really too easy to think that there’s only bad things happening, right? Because why? You don’t report on good news. Good news doesn’t sell, sensationalism, sells bad things sell, right? And also, the media is rarely giving us the full story. They will tell us the worst part of something because again, it’s all about ratings. They have the incentives. We’ve talked about incentives so many times. They have the incentive to keep us afraid. And the more scared we are, the higher their ratings go. So I think that it seems that way, but I don’t think it really is that way.
Connor: Yeah, I just remembered so I was pulling it up. so I grew up in San Diego. I was in a ska band, and all the kids are like, what’s ska? And all the parents are like,
Brittany: I’ve got a pause. Cause you talked about playing, was it the trumpet?
Brittany: Were you, did you have a ska bed where you played the saxophone?
Brittany: Yeah. I wondered that when we talked about it in another episode. So I’m glad I asked.
Connor: Yeah, I played a little bit of bass guitar and saxophone. And so I grew up in the, you know, my, teen era was during the nineties and in San Diego, you know, we had Blink 182, no doubt, unwritten law, like all these groups come up.
Brittany: Unwritten law was great. Yeah.
Connor: Yeah. And so that was like my favorite genre of music and everyone’s like, what does this have to do with anything? Well, one of the bands that I’ve always liked since they got started and even today, is a group called Newfound Glory.
Brittany: Oh, me too. Loved them. Yeah.
Connor: Okay, so here’s what I wanna do. On the show notes page today, I am, we, let’s embed, their music video for this song. I’m gonna read a few of the lyrics because it directly relates to this issue. And every time I hear this song, I’m like, that is so well written cuz it describes exactly what we’re talking about. The song title is No News is Good News, and I’m just gonna read the lyrics. It sounds way better with obviously the music and with it being sung. So go to Tuttletwins.com/podcast. You’ll be able to play that and, and see them kind of perform it in, context. But here’s just some of the lyrics. All along we follow blindly, force-fed, primetime, printed nightly. Why would anybody leave the safety of their home? I wonder why. I wonder why only disasters flood the headlines. Other people’s misery are up for the next three hours commercial-free. And I can’t take much more of this. We’re all so wrapped up in it, nothing will change, but the channels. So turn it off. And then they go on from there. And, there’s so much meaning I feel like in those lyrics, cuz it’s like, yeah, you, you turn on the news and it’s just, here’s all the problems. And, I remember John Krasinski, who was in the office, he, during the first part of Coronavirus put together, oh,
Brittany: He’s not doing those.
Connor: Yeah, he, well he actually sold it to a company, I think like NBC or something. But he started this little YouTube program called, I’m trying to remember. It was like some good news.
Brittany: Some good news. Yep.
Connor: Yeah. And he would just share the good news on this little YouTube video weekly. And it turned into a fun thing, especially early in the lockdown when people were,
Brittany: they were all losing hope.
Connor: Yeah. And everyone was apart and everything else. And so here’s this fun guy that everyone loves, kinda sharing fun stories. And it’s so crazy cuz it’s like, we all love that stuff. You see the little like kitty videos on, Instagram or Twitter or whatever, and everyone, you know, gets like 20 million views. We all love these positive things, but it seems like the media is built up to only share all the bad stuff. So let’s get into a bit, what, what’s an example that we can start to talk about here, Brittany, to show that the world isn’t as bad as people think?
Brittany: Well, one thing, and this is something that always just gets me cuz a lot of people who don’t like capitalism are very quick to say capitalism is ruining everything. People are getting poor. That’s not true. I don’t want anyone to believe that. If you ever hear that again, poverty is going down the middle class is growing. Like people are able to afford things they were never able to afford before. And this doesn’t just go for America, this goes for everywhere. So this is a really important thing because people are always trying to judge the prosperity of a country or of a human civilization really on, poverty. And when we look at the actual numbers, it’s going down and there’s a great website, I can’t remember what it’s, but I will link to in the show notes that has so many good articles about how like poverty is decreasing, how things are getting better. And that’s one place I go every morning. So I will link to that in the show notes.
Connor: I had a conversation with my kids just the other day about the one that I wanna share. And this is kind of a broader one, but it, kind of shows what we’re talking about. my children, me, you, everyone. We live better than the wealthiest people in the world. The most powerful kings did just a few decades ago. Yes. Like the fact that yeah, Jeff Bezos can, you know, transport me my, you know, new shoes that I just bought same day or the next day. Like that’s just mind-boggling, right? The fact that you and I are talking across the country, instantaneously for free, is just amazing. Refrigeration. Freezers.
Brittany: Oh Yeah.
Connor: 80 kinds of potato chips, not just one supermarkets. I remember when I, did a three-week trip to Africa, with a group and a couple of family members. this was 13 years ago. And when I got back, my mom, was single at the time and got back. My mom was taking me run some errands and spent some time together when we went to Walmart, I physically got ill, like I was just overwhelmed by the abundance. Yeah. That like, in this one place is everything. And I had just spent all this time where there was total poverty and it took me a while to kind of rebalance and kind of come to terms with like, you know, okay, you know, it’s not a bad thing. It’s actually a great thing. And we just, you know, even in Africa, people, people today in Africa ha like nearly all of them have cell phones, right? Like it’s amazing they can send Bitcoin to one another.
Brittany: I was gonna say, not just, not just cell phones, smartphones,
Connor: smartphones, they can access the internet. The world’s knowledge is at the fingertip of these people in these African villages. They can send and receive money if a, you know, friend goes to Europe or America and wants to send money back to the village, you know, like all these things happen and, and it’s just so amazing.
Brittany: And It’s, like when the internet goes down and you feel like the world is over and then you have to stop and think, wait for a second, I didn’t have the internet when I was, you know, your kid’s age for example, and seemed to be like, oh my goodness, we’re so blessed.
Connor: The chime on my phone right now when I get an email is you’ve got mail that’s from AOL, which was the early dial-up for the parents listening will remember that. But yeah, like I had to stretch this really long cord, you know, this is clearly a first-world problem. I had to stretch this really long cord from the side of the wall over to this old gimmicky laptop and plug it in to connect to the internet, which is super slow. Like, so, life is just amazing. We have so many technological developments and creature comforts and all these things that make our lives so much better. If you could teleport the most powerful person in the world, the wealthiest person in the world from let’s say even, you know, 50 years ago, 80 years ago, a hundred years ago, if you were to transport some of these people to the year 2020, let them experience life. Okay? Give them a week or two. You know, go take an Uber,
Brittany: give it not 2020. Can we 2019?
Connor: Yeah, 2019 right? Like, let’s rewind a little bit. Good, good point. and so if you could transport these people here now to the present or to 2019 and then let them get used to things. Let them, you know, go see Baskin Robins 31 flavors and like just, you know, every corner has whatever you could want. and then say, Hey, you know, are you ready to go back? Like, is, are any of them wanting to, would any of them want to go back and live even the most powerful wealthy people? If you could make an offer and say, look, we’re willing to let you stay, but you would live as a middle-class average family. You wouldn’t have all your wealth and your servants and you’re this, that, and the other. Or you wouldn’t be in the king of, you know, Bavaria or whatever, right? Like you would just be an average middle-class family that would at least be a very, very tempting decision for those people. Cuz yeah, they could go back and have power and wealth, but oh my gosh, life is so much better in, so like even medicine, right? Like the hospital down the road has every drug you can imagine and surgeons and this, and the other
Brittany: Soap. like, we, take things like soap for granted and what is it like sterilization, something that we can make things clean. That wasn’t until like civil war, that’s not that long ago, you know,
Connor: It’s amazing. So yeah, I try and tell my kids like, you guys live like kings, right? You need to understand like
Brittany: better than kings.
Connor: better than kings.
Brittany: Yeah. I think it’s also really cool. So for me, well, and you too, cuz you’re a writer, reading and writing are very important parts of my life. And you have to remember that back in the day like people couldn’t read and write, but today more than 90% of the world’s population under 25 years old can read and write. This is huge. That didn’t used to happen. Reading and writing used to be a privilege. I mean, the reason that a lot of people didn’t ever learn to read the Bible because they couldn’t read. Like you couldn’t even go to church and like pull out your Bible and read along with, your, you know, priest or whatever. They had to read it for you. So this is a huge tool in the hands of the people because information as we’ve talked about in previous episodes is, power, right? Knowledge is power. And so that to me is one of my favorite things to learn about is that we’re doing so much better with literacy now than ever before.
Connor: that’s cool. Another one is safety. Think of the kind of early days with automobiles and freeways and so forth. but now it is insanely safer, to be driving on the road. You know, you’re, I think it’s per 96% less likely to be killed in a car crash over the past century from the early era of vehicles, even more so now with like Tesla, I was telling.
Brittany: oh yeah,
Connor: My daughter, how Tesla works, right? It’s this computer that’s always taking pictures of everything that’s in front of you and to the side and, how like I read a story just the other day where a woman was actually saved from being t-boned by another car and hit because the Tesla was able to see the approaching vehicle and accelerate and move out of the way much more quickly than a human could have reacted. She probably, she has a blind spot, whereas the Tesla, for example, has many cameras. And so Tesla, I believe it’s the highest-rated, vehicle for safety right now because of these features. And of course, you know, every once in a while in the news you’re like, oh my gosh, a Tesla caught on fire or a Tesla, you know, crashed into this, that, or the other. And, so they’re not perfect. No one is saying that, but my heavens like imagine if you were aware of all the headlines of humans crashing cars, right? We’re just so used to it. It doesn’t even make the news anymore. and so the one time Tesla does that, it makes the news. I know this bugs Elon Musk, he’s talked about this exact point about you guys don’t like report on the comparison, right? It’s like one Tesla malfunction vehicle versus all the bad driving leading to crashes. And so,
Brittany: It was cleared human too on that one. I believe the person that it struck like they jumped in front of the car, it wasn’t even. Yeah.
Connor: And so it’s amazing that you know, life is getting better because things are getting safe, even planes, right? Like, you know, it’s safer than driving cars. And so safety I think is a big thing as well.
Brittany: Yeah. Also, and this one is, I mean, sure for you impactful because you have two children, children didn’t live to see past their fifth birthday a lot of time or third of the children, sorry, that were born did not live to see past their fifth birthday, which is just so tragic to me. And that was about 250 years ago. But now that’s been brought down about like a hundredfold. So that’s just not happening anymore. And I can’t even imagine being a mother back in those days knowing that the chance of, you know, an infant of a child living was so small. And so our population is growing and that’s good, cause with more people there’s more, you know, specialties, more skills to give the world. So that’s really exciting.
Connor: And you know, as I think about the safety stuff still, there’s so many other interesting data points here. Like we are like 95% less likely to be killed on the job, you know, about the same percent less likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning. Cuz now there’s like lightning rods and much better engineering of buildings and stuff like that for when lightning happens. You’re way less likely to be killed by things like earthquakes and floods and storms because people have learned and technologies have improved and building processes have gotten better to keep people safer. And so you could go back, you know, I think it’s pretty, not common, but you’ll hear people from time to time like a wish for a bygone era, right? Like, oh, if only I lived in the time of the pine.
Brittany: We kind of talked about that. We talked about the good old days, remember
Connor: Exactly. Exactly. Exactly. And so we kind of have this nostalgia for like, oh, life surely would’ve been better or slower or whatever. And yeah, as we talked about in that episode, that’s kind of a fallacy because it’s like the grass is greener on the other side kind of idea, right? You think that life would be better that way, but then people in that life or in that circumstance are looking at you wishing they had your position. And so I think it’s the same thing, as we talk about, this type of thing about how life is much better today. It may be easy to think back and like, oh, I would’ve enjoyed it then, but man, you could not pay me to go live even just a few decades ago because, you know, like, yeah, the life without the internet and all the friends I’ve been able to make all over the world and the job I have all the things.
Brittany: Well, in your career, think about the people who wouldn’t have been able to read the title tones. Cause they wouldn’t know what, they just wouldn’t know that the book was out there. So it’s helping you even expand your career and teach other people. So it’s amazing.
Connor: That’s exactly right. So lots of fun topics here. we will link on the show notes page to a TED Talk and some of the other resources we’ve mentioned. Be sure to head to Tuttletwins.com/podcast. Lots of good content there for you guys. Make sure you subscribe to the show. and remember the world is getting better every day, even in 2020. There are ways that the world is getting better if you can imagine it. but yeah, if we’re bringing people back from the past, maybe we just let ’em come to 2019. Deal with this, right? Anyways, until next time, Brittany, talk to you later.
Brittany: Talk to you later