Steven Pinker – “Enlightenment Now…” | Talks at Google


[MUSIC PLAYING] [APPLAUSE] STEVEN PINKER: Thank you. It’s nice to be back at Google. From time to time, we all
ask some deep and difficult questions. Why is the world
filled with trouble? How can we make it better? How do we give meaning
and purpose to our lives? Well, as imponderable as
these questions may seem, many people have
ready answers to them. For example,
morality is dictated by God and holy scriptures. When everyone obeys those laws
the world will be perfect. Or problems are the
fault of evil people who must be shamed,
punished, and defeated. Or our nation should claim
its rightful greatness under the control of
a strong leader who embodies its authentic virtue. Or in the past, we lived in
a state of order and harmony until alien forces brought on
decadence and degeneration. We must restore the
society to its golden age. Well, what about the rest of us? Many people are pretty clear
about what they don’t believe but have much more trouble
putting their finger on what they do believe. In Enlightenment Now
I suggest that there is an alternative system of
beliefs and values, which we can more or less associate
with the Enlightenment– namely, that we
can use knowledge to enhance human flourishing. Many people already embrace
the ideals of the Enlightenment without being able to
name or describe them. And as a result, they’ve faded
into the background as a bland status quo or establishment. The other ideologies have
passionate advocates. And I suggest that
Enlightenment ideals too need a positive defense
and an explicit commitment. And that is what I tried
to do in Enlightenment Now. Enlightenment ideals
center on four themes– reason, science,
humanism, and progress. Let me say a few
words about each. It all begins in reason
with the understanding that traditional
sources of belief are generators of delusion. Faith, revelation, tradition,
authority, charisma, mysticism, intuition, the hermeneutic
parsing of sacred texts are all ways of going wrong. Reason, in contrast,
is non-negotiable. As soon as you try to provide
reasons why we should trust anything other than reason, as
soon as you explain why you’re right, why other people
should believe you, that you’re not lying or full of
crap, you’ve lost the argument. Because you have
appealed to reason. Now, as a cognitive
psychologist, I would be the
first to acknowledge that human beings
on their own are not particularly reasonable. As a species, we are likely
to generalize from anecdotes. We reason from stereotypes. We seek evidence that
confirms our beliefs and blow off evidence that
just disconfirms them. We’re all overconfident about
our knowledge, our wisdom and our rectitude. But people are capable of reason
if they adopt certain norms– free speech, open criticism
and debate, logical analysis, fact-checking, and
empirical testing, which leads me to the
second Enlightenment ideal– science. Science is based
on the conviction that the world is
intelligible and that we can seek to understand
it by formulating possible explanations and
testing them against reality. Science has shown itself to
be our most reliable means of understanding the
world, including ourselves. An important
Enlightenment theme is that there can be
science of human nature and that beliefs about
society are testable just like any other
beliefs about the world. Science, moreover, gives us
not just technical know-how but fundamental insights
about the human condition. Naturalism– the universe
has no goal or purpose related to human welfare
with the implication that if we want to
improve that welfare, we have to figure out
how to do it ourselves. Entropy in a closed
system, one without input of energy, disorder increases. Things fall apart. Stuff happens– not because
the universe has it in for us, but because they are
vastly more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. Evolution– humans are products
of a competitive process which selects for reproductive
success not well-being. As Immanuel Kant, that great
Enlightenment thinker, put it, “Out of the crooked
timber of humanity no truly straight
thing can be built.” The third theme is humanism– that the ultimate moral purpose
is to reduce the suffering and enhance the flourishing of
human beings and other sentient creatures. Well, enhance human flourishing,
who could be opposed to that, you might think. Well, in fact, there
are alternatives to humanism such as that
the ultimate good is to enhance the glory of the
tribe, the nation, the race, the class, or the faith, to
obey the dictates of a divinity and pressure others do
the same, to achieve feats of heroic greatness, or to
advance some mystical dialectic or struggle or pursuit of
a utopian or messianic age. Humanism is feasible
because people are endowed with a sense
of sympathy, a concern with the welfare of others. Now, by default, our circle
of sympathy is rather small. We tend to feel the pain
only of our close relatives, our friends, our allies,
maybe cute, little, furry, baby animals. And that’s about it. But our circle of
sympathy can be expanded through the processes
of cosmopolitanism, the mixing of people and ideas– education, journalism, art,
mobility and even reason as soon as you engage in
discourse with someone else. I can’t insist that my
interests count and yours don’t because I’m me and
you’re not and hope for you to take me seriously. Reason inherently
presupposes a symmetry among those engaged in it. Finally, we get to progress,
that if we apply knowledge and sympathy to reduce suffering
and enhance flourishing, we can gradually succeed. Now, you might ask
if human nature doesn’t change, how could
progress even be possible? And an answer from
the Enlightenment is that it’s possible through
benign institutions which allow us to deploy
energy and knowledge, to push back against entropy,
to magnify the better angels of our nature– as Abraham Lincoln called them,
such as reason and sympathy– while marginalizing
our inner demons– our biases, illusions,
our tribalism, our thirst for
dominance and vengeance. What do I mean by
Enlightenment institutions? Well, some of the brain
children of the Enlightenment that we continue to enjoy today
include democracy, declarations of rights, markets,
organizations for global cooperation, and
institutions of truth seeking such as academies, scientific
societies, and a free press. So 250 years later, how did
that Enlightenment thing work out you might ask? Well, I found that if you
ask most intellectuals the answer is not very well. I have found that intellectuals
tend to hate progress. And intellectuals who call
themselves progressive really hate progress. If you think we can solve
problems, I have been told, that means that you
have a blind faith at a quasi-religious belief
in the outmoded superstition of the false promise of the
myth of the onward march of inevitable progress. You are a cheerleader for
vulgar American can-doism with the rah-rah spirit of boardroom
ideology, Silicon Valley– that would be you– and the chamber of commerce. You are a practitioner of Whig
history, a naive optimist, a Pollyanna, and of
course, a Pangloss alluding to the Voltaire
character who declared all is for the best in the
best of all possible worlds. Well, as it turns out,
Professor Pangloss was what we would
today call a pessimist. A true optimist
would believe there can be much better
worlds than the one that we find ourselves in today. But this is irrelevant
to the question whether progress has taken
place, which is not a attitude. It’s not a optimistic
temperament. It’s not wearing
rose-colored glasses. It’s not seeing the glass
as half full or half empty. It is an empirical hypothesis. Human well-being
can be measured– life, health, sustenance,
prosperity, peace, freedom, safety, knowledge,
leisure, happiness. If they’ve increased
over time, I submit that would be progress. Well, let’s go to the data
beginning with the most precious thing of all, life. For most of human history
life expectancy at birth hovered around 30 years of age. But then with advances in
public health and medicine, such as vaccination, sanitation,
antibiotics, blood transfusion, and so on, life
expectancy at birth has increased to
more than 71 years. That is the global average
over all of humanity. Virtually no one guesses
that it is that high. In developed countries like
those in Europe and America, it is over 80 on average. And other parts of the world
are catching up, including Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. For most of human history, the
biggest contributor to low life expectancy was child mortality. Indeed, 250 years ago,
no more than one third of Swedish newborns lived
to see their fifth birthday. Sweden brought its
rate of child mortality down by a factor of 100. And other parts of the
world followed suit, such as in the Americas, Canada, in
East Asia, South Korea, Latin America, Chile, and
in sub-Saharan Africa. Ethiopia just brought its
rate of child mortality down from 25% to 6%– still too high. But the progress is continuing. Mothers, too, were vulnerable
every time they gave birth. About 1% of Swedish mothers died
in childbirth 250 years ago. Sweden brought that
down by a factor of 250 as have other countries, such
as the United States, Malaysia, and Ethiopia. Health– the biggest
traditional killer of humans was infectious diseases,
no longer a major killer in rich countries, but
still a major source of morbidity and mortality
in the developing world, especially among children. But the five most lethal
infectious diseases for children have all been in
decline over the last 15 years alone– pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria,
measles, and HIV/AIDS. Sustenance– it takes
about 2,500 calories to feed a young adult male. And for most of human
history, countries were not able to
grow enough calories to feed their population. Then with the British
agricultural revolution in the 18th century with
advances in agronomy, like crop rotation– later the development
of synthetic fertilizer, the cultivation of vigorous
hybrids in the Green Revolution,
transportation networks that could bring food
from farm to table– first England then
other developed countries like the
United States and France grew enough calories to feed
themselves– more recently, China and India have done so. And there you have the graph
of the world as a whole. Now, this would be a
dubious form of progress if all of those calories were
just making fat people fatter. But, in fact, they
have been reducing the rate of
undernourishment, which just 50 years ago afflicted
about one third of people in the developing world. That has fallen to 15%, first
in Latin America then in Asia. And it’s beginning to happen
in sub-Saharan Africa. And as a result of all these
calories, deaths from famine– one of the four horsemen
of the apocalypse– which could strike
any part of the world and bring devastation
in its wake– has become rare. Famines today occur not
because of an inability to grow enough food,
but the inability to get it to people in
remote and war-torn regions. Prosperity– poverty,
as economists say, needs no explanation. What needs an
explanation is wealth. For most of human history,
pretty much everyone was poor. This graph shows the
gross world product from the year one to the year
2015 from recent to date. And as you can see,
for about 1,600 years, economic growth was less than
one pixel high in the graph. But then with the
Industrial Revolution and the spread of education,
advances in technology, financial institutions
like banks and markets and contracts then
expansion of global trade, gross world product has
increased by almost 200-fold since the early 18th century. The great escape as the Nobel
Prize winning economist Angus Deaton calls it from
universal poverty was highly uneven over
the regions of the world, with countries like the UK
and the US that first escaped from background squalor. But other countries
now are catching up such as South Korea and Chile. And China and India are showing
exponential growth as well. Here’s the graph of
the world as a whole. Again, this economic
growth would be a dubious form of progress
if it was all going just to the proverbial 1%. But, in fact, it has taken
a massive toll on extreme poverty, defined nowadays
as $1.90 per person per day, in 2015, US dollars. By that criterion, 200
years ago, 90% of the world lived in extreme poverty. That has fallen to
less than 9% today. In fact, there’s been a 75%
reduction in extreme poverty just in the last three decades. As a result,
international inequality– which necessarily increased
as a few countries underwent the Industrial Revolution
leaving the rest behind– has turned a corner and is
now starting to decline. Because poor countries
are getting richer faster than rich countries
are getting richer. Now of course, within
developed countries, inequality is increasing,
not decreasing. But that doesn’t mean
that rich countries have become increasingly callous
to the plight of their needy– quite the contrary. Whereas 150 years ago or
so the European countries allocated no more than 1.5% of
their GDP to social transfers, to children, to the sick,
to the elderly, to the poor, in the 20th century every
developed country went on a massive expansion of
social spending so that today the median OECD
country redistributes 22% of its economic activity
in social transfers. As a result, poverty when
it is measured after these transfers– after
taxes and transfers– has come down from about one
third of Americans in 1960 to 7% today. And where poverty also takes
into account consumption– the food, clothing, and shelter
that people can afford to buy– it has fallen about 30% in
1960 to less than 3% today. Peace– for most of human
history, the natural state of relations between empires
and countries was war. And peace was merely a brief
interlude between wars. You can see this in a graph
that plots for 25 year periods, the percentage of
time that the great powers of the day– the 800-pound gorillas, the
major states and empires– were at each other’s
throats in major wars. What it shows is that a
few hundred years ago, the great powers
were pretty much always at war with each other. Today, they are never
at war with each other. The last great power war pitted
the United States against China in Korea more than 65 years ago. Now, if we zoom in
on the 20th century, we see that even as wars were
becoming shorter and less frequent, they
were also becoming more destructive in a
dubious form of progress. Countries were getting
better at killing more people in a short amount of time
culminating in the massively destructive world wars. But contrary to predictions
that I grew up with, that it was only
a matter of time before we would see a third
World War pitting the United States against the
Soviet Union and fought with nuclear
weapons, we now know that the Soviet Union went out
of existence mostly peacefully. The Cold War ended. And World War III
never happened. In fact, if we look at the
postwar period since 1946 and look at the number of people
killed in battle from all wars combined– not just
the great power wars, but smaller inter-state wars,
civil wars colonial wars– we see that from a rate in
the late 1940s of about 20 per 100,000 per year, the
rate has fallen dramatically– though highly unevenly– to less
than one per 100,000 per year. You can see peaks in the
graph for the Korean War and the Chinese Civil War in
the late ’40s, early ’50s, the Vietnam War in the
’60s, the Iran-Iraq war and the Afghan Civil
War in the ’80s, and then a small bump for the Syrian
Civil War in this decade. But overall, the trend,
though a bit roller coastery, is unmistakably downward. For this we might point
to a number of factors– the growth of democracy–
because democracies are statistically less likely
to fight each other, the growth of trade– because trading partners are
less likely to go to war. You don’t kill your customers
you don’t kill your debtors. And if it’s cheaper to buy
stuff then to steal it, you have less of an
incentive to plunder. Also to international
institutions, particularly the United Nations, which
has enforced a outlawing war. War is literally
illegal, which was not true for most of human history. Used to be that might
made right, to the victor went the spoils. But since 1945, there have
been very few annexations, conquests, or states that have
gone out of existence through conquests– not zero, but
a fraction of what went on before– and also probably a
general greater valuation that countries
place on human life compared to national
preeminince and glory. Politicians are a
little more squeamish about sending their young
men to become cannon fodder. Freedom and rights– we
have all watched with alarm as democracy has been eroded
in countries like Turkey, in Russia, Hungary
and Venezuela. Nonetheless, if you
scale every country in terms of how autocratic
or democratic it is and add them all up, you
see that the world has never been more democratic than it
has been in the last decade. And even the erosion of
democracy that we read about in the headlines
has taken us back to where we were in about 2010. 200 years ago, the number
of democracies in the world could be counted on the
fingers of one hand. Now a majority of
countries are more democratic than autocratic. And a majority of
people live in countries that are more democratic
and autocratic. And if this seems
just incredible, keep in mind that when I was
a student, an undergraduate, the world had 31
democracies, half of Europe was behind the Iron
Curtain and ruled by totalitarian,
communist dictatorships. Spain and Portugal
were literally fascist dictatorships. Greece was under the control
of a military junta– the colonels. Most of Latin America
was under the control of military or right
wing autocracies. In East Asia, South Korea,
Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia– all of
them dictatorships. All of them democratic today. There have also been
curtailments in the power of states to brutalize
their citizens. It used to be that pretty much
every country practiced capital punishment. But the overall trend is for
poor countries to abolish it– most recently, Malaysia
just a month or so ago. On average, over the
past couple of decades, three countries a year have
abolished capital punishment. And if you
extrapolate the curve, always dangerous, capital
punishment though, would disappear from
the face of the Earth by the end of the
coming decade– joining other institutions
that have more or less been permanently abolished
such as human sacrifice and chattel slavery. Also, country after country has
decriminalized homosexuality– again, it’s by no means all. But just in the
last year, countries as diverse as Lebanon, India,
and Trinidad and Tobago have decriminalized
homosexuality. Child labor– it used
to be standard practice for people to send their kids
to work in farms and factories. As any reader of Dickens knows,
about 30% of English children 150 years ago were sent to work. England and the United States
and other European countries have drastically reduced,
almost eliminated child labor thanks to the increased premium
that we place on education. So children are more
valuable in school than working in the
fields or factories– and a general
increase in valuation of the lives of children. Here, we have our graphs
for the world as a whole. In 2015, the Nobel
Peace Prize was shared by Kailash
Satyarthi for his efforts to reduce child labor. And as these graphs
show, the efforts are bringing real results. Violent crime– in any
part of the world that exists in a state of
anarchy, it is easy for there to be predation
by individuals or gangs often followed by cycles of
revenge and vendetta and blood feud. In medieval Europe, for
example, the homicide rate was on average about 35
per 100,000 per year. But as kingdoms started
to exert their control over the medieval patchwork
of fiefs and baronies, every European country brought
its homicide rate down. Now Western Europe has a rate of
about one per 100,000 per year. And that’s a process that
tends to be replicated in any part of the world
where the rule of law is exerted over
frontier regions, and the code of vendetta is
replaced by police and courts system and rule of law. It happened in
colonial New England. It happened in the
American Wild West where the old cliche in
the cowboy movies was, the nearest sheriff
is 90 miles away, so a man has to be
able to defend himself with a six shooter. And even in the countries that
are notoriously still violent today such as Mexico,
the homicide rate was about five times
higher a century ago. If we zoom in on the
last 50 years or so, we see that the United
States after undergoing a boom in violent crime from
the ’60s through the early ’90s, has brought its homicide
rate down by half. And the world as a whole has
reduced its homicide rate by almost 30% in the
last couple of decades. It’s not just homicide
that has been in decline, but violence against women,
such as domestic violence against wives and
girlfriends, and rates of rape, sexual assault, down
by about 75% since the FBI first kept records
in the early 1970s. And victimization of children–
despite the scary headlines that we read about
bullying and cyberbullying, the rate of victimization
of children at school has come down as have
rates of physical abuse and sexual abuse. Indeed, we’ve been getting
safer in just about every way. Because of technological
advances in the safety of cars and in the design
of safer highways, your chance of getting killed in
a car crash has fallen by 92%. We are 88% less likely to be
mowed down on the sidewalk, 96% less likely to die
in a plane crash, 59% less likely to die in a
fall, 92% less likely to drown, 90% less likely to
die in a fire, 92% less likely to be asphyxiated. There is, however, one
exception to the trend of increasing safety. This is the category that
safety statisticians call death by poison, solid or liquid. It includes drug overdoses. And here you’re seeing the
American opioid epidemic– a severe and tragic
counter example to the overall trend
of increasing safety. At the same time, we’re 95%
less likely to die on the job. We’re even less likely to die
in a so-called act of God– a earthquake, wildfire, volcano
explosion, meteor strike, drought, flood– presumably not because
God is any less angry with us, but because
of improvements in the resilience of
our infrastructure, in the ability to forecast
natural disasters, and in emergency
response systems. And what about the
quintessential act of God– the literal bolt from the blue? Yes, we are 96% less likely to
die from a bolt of lightning. Knowledge– natural
state of humanity is to be illiterate
and ignorant. 500 years ago, literacy
was a perquisite of a fortunate wealthy few. About 15% of Europeans
could read it and write at the dawn of the Renaissance. Most European countries
achieve universal literacy by the early 20th century. And the rest of the world
is now rapidly catching up. In fact, the most recent figures
show that 80% of the world can read and write today– 90% of people under
the age of 25– not just men, but women. Whereas 250 years ago
only six British women could read and write for
every 10 men who could. But Britain achieved
gender parity in literacy by the turn of the 20th century. And the world is very, very
close to gender parity. Even the most backward
countries when it comes to educating girls– Pakistan and Afghanistan–
have shown steep increases. And this, of course,
is a kind of progress that we associate with the other
winner of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize, Malala Yousafzai. And in, perhaps, the most
incredible, astonishing, difficult to credit
example of progress that I have come across, we
have been getting smarter. This is true. In a well-documented phenomenon
known as the Flynn Effect, IQ scores increased by
about three points a decade throughout the 20th century– a result of presumably
advances in public health, the spread of education,
and possibly the trickle down of technical and abstract
concepts from science and tech and academia to everyday life. Does this improve the
quality of our lives. I’ve gone over a
number of things that economists like to measure. But do they actually
improve life as it is lived? And in many ways, they have. For example, 150 years
ago the average work week in the United States
and Europe was 62 hours. That has fallen to less than 40. And on average,
Americans and Europeans get at least three weeks
of paid vacation, which would have been pretty
much inconceivable in the 19th century. And thanks to the universal
penetration of running water and electricity and the
widespread adoption of labor saving devices– washing machines, vacuum
cleaners, refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves,
and microwaves– the amount of our lives
that we waste on housework, which people indicate is their
least favorite way of spending their time, has gone
from more than 60 hours a week to less than
15 hours a week. Because of the
shortening work week and the amount of our lives that
we reclaimed from housework, the amount of leisure
time that Americans report has increased over the last
50 years, both men and women. Now, you can’t help but notice
that the leisure time for women have plateaued, and even sank
a bit, starting in the 1990s. And the reason is that
women today spend more time with their children. A single, working woman
today spends more time with her children than a
married stay-at-home mom did in the 1950s. So forget Leave it to Beaver,
forget Father Knows Best, now is the era in which families
spend time with each other. We also fork over
less of our paychecks to necessities from 60% a
century ago to less than one third today. Ultimate question– does
it make us any happier? What good would
all these advances do if people did
not experience it as greater happiness
in their lives? The answer is on average,
it does make us happier. There is a pretty
strong relationship between life satisfaction
and GDP per capita. This is plotted on
log coordinates. So the relationship in reality
is highly curved linear– that is $1 means a lot
more to a poor person than to a rich person. But it holds across scale
both across countries– each country in this
graph indicated by a dot– so people in richer countries
are more satisfied with their lives– and within countries– as
indicated by the regression line, the arrow
impaling each dot– within countries people
with more resources express more satisfaction
with their lives. This leads to the expectation
that as the world gets richer, its people ought to get happier. Now, we don’t have
data on happiness that go back more than a few
decades from most countries. But what data we have
show that more than 70% of countries for which we
do have longitudinal data, happiness has increased. Interestingly, the United
States is not one of them. Our happiness level
has declined a bit. But the United States started
out as a pretty happy country. And contrary to a
story that I am often confronted with that
suicide rates are spiking, the reality is that suicide
rates are plummeting. Suicide rates globally
are down by almost 40% over the last 30 years or so
in a majority of countries. Again, the United States
is not one of them. We hit a low point in 1999. And the rates have
been creeping up. But the United States
is, by no means, an outlier in suicide rates. And the increase
that you read about is measured from one of
the low points in 1999. Suicide rates in
the United States were far higher during
the Great Depression and during the early
decades of the 20th century. Has this progress come at the
expense of the environment? And the answer is,
obviously, it has. As we have extracted energy
to improve our own well-being, it has come at a cost
in pollution and species extinction. However, there is a
well-documented relationship between economic growth after
a certain point and concern with the environment. As countries get rich
enough, their thoughts turn to the environment. They can afford cleaner
energy, more pollution control. And their values tend to shift
from survival and comfort and economic necessities to
protecting the environment. The United States, for example,
since the passage of the Clean Air and Clean Water Act and the
formation of the Environmental Protection Agency around 1970– even though population
has increased by 40%, GDP has increased by a
factor of two and 1/2, Americans drive twice as many
miles as they did in 1970. But the rate of emissions
of the five major pollutants has declined by 60%. So contrary to widespread
beliefs both from the hard, libertarian right and be
hard, anti-growth green– according to which you
can have economic growth or improvements in
the environment, you can’t have both– in fact, you can have both. And there are other
aspects in which the environment is rebounding. For example, in the
temperate world, deforestation has
been in decline and now is going into reverse
as farms have been abandoned and are being
reclaimed by forest. And new forests aren’t having
to be cut down to for farmland. In tropical regions,
this is not true. Deforestation continues. But still it is well past
its peak and with the right efforts could
continue to come down. The amount of the
earth’s surface that is protected against
economic exploitation has doubled from 7% to 15% as
has the amount of the ocean cover or ocean surface that
is protected from 6% to 12%. And the biggest driver of
environmental degradation– namely, human beings. Contrary to fears that
human population would just grow exponentially forever,
human population growth peaked in 1962. And projections that
take into account the fact that when countries
get richer, better educated, and women are empowered,
then women start to have fewer babies, those
projections would predict that global population will peak
at about nine billion in 2070 and start to decline as we have
seen in almost every developed country. Population growth rates are
falling in poor countries as well. Well, I hope I can convince
you that progress is not a matter of looking
on the bright side or seeing the
glass as half full. It is a demonstrable,
empirical fact. How is the fact of human
progress reflected in the news? Well, in an analysis using
a simple form of sentiment mapping, that is
just tallying up the proportion of positive
and negative emotion words, the data scientist
Kalev Leetaru has shown that over the
past seven decades a period in which the world has
become richer and more peaceful and safer and better
educated and happier, the New York Times has
gotten increasingly morose. And a sample of the
world’s broadcast has gotten glummer
and glummer as well. So why do people deny progress? Part of the answer comes
from an interaction between the nature of cognition
and the nature of journalism. According to the hypothesis
of an availability heuristic from Daniel Kahneman
and Amos Tversky, people tend to
estimate risk according to how easily they can
recall examples from memory– that is we use our
brains own search engine as a shortcut to
estimating risk probability and danger. For example, people judge that
tornadoes kill more people every year than asthma
attacks, presumably because tornadoes make for
really gripping television and asthma attacks not so much. In reality, more than
40 times as many people die from asthma attacks. In fact, consider
the nature of news. News is about stuff that happens
not stuff that doesn’t happen. You never see a
journalist saying, I’m reporting from
a country that is at peace or a
city that has not been attacked by terrorists. If those regions expand, we
have no way of knowing about it. Also, news is about sudden
events not gradual changes. As the economist Max
Rosen pointed out, the papers could have run
the headline, 137,000 people escaped from extreme
poverty yesterday every day for the last 30 years. But they never ran that
headline with the result that a billion and
a quarter people escaped from extreme poverty
and no one knows about it. On top of these built-in biases
that are just part of the very nature of journalism, there
is also an attitude among many journalists that their mission
consists of shaking people out of their complacency
with negative news, that positive news is corporate
PR or government propaganda or feel-good stories– puppy befriends orangutan
or cop buys groceries for a single, welfare mother. Satirized in a headline from the
satirical newspaper the Onion, CNN holds morning
meeting to decide what viewers should panic
about for the rest of the day. As a result, you can see why
the world is coming to an end and always has been. Also, there is a negativity bias
that is built into all of us. Psychologists have
shown that bad is stronger than good
psychologically speaking. We think about and feel bad
events more than good ones. We dread losses more
than we look forward to gains, especially when
it comes to recent events where even if we remember bad
events from the distant past, we tend to forget how bad
they were at the time. Captured in a
saying from Franklin Pierce Adams, “Nothing is more
responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.” Also, there is
market competition among would be profits. Pessimism sounds serious. Optimism sounds frivolous. As the musical satirist
Tom Lehrer once put it, “Always predict the worst and
you’ll be hailed as a prophet.” Let me end now with three
questions about progress and enlightenment that I suspect
have occurred to many of you. First, isn’t it good
to be pessimistic, to safeguard against
complacency, to break them up, to speak truth to power? Well, not exactly. It’s good to be accurate. Of course, we must be aware
of danger and risk and threat and suffering and injustice
wherever they occur. But it’s also crucial
to be aware of how they can be reduced. Because there are dangers
of fact-free pessimism. One of them is fatalism. If you think that all
of people’s attempts to make the world a
better place have failed and that things get worse and
worse no matter what we do, the natural response is, well,
why throw good money after bad? Why waste time and money
on hopeless causes? And if you think
that we’re doomed, that if climate
change doesn’t do us and then runaway artificial
intelligence will, then the natural
response is, well, let’s let our grandchildren
worry about it. There’s nothing
we can do about it but eat, drink, and be
merry, for tomorrow we die. There’s another danger
to thoughtless pessimism. And that is radicalism. Because if you think that all
of our institutions are failing and beyond all hope of reform,
you’ll be open to calls to smash the machine,
drain the swamp, burn the empire to the ground
or to empower an aspiring leader who promises only I can fix it. Second question, is
progress inevitable? And, again, the answer
is, of course not. Progress does not
mean that everything becomes better for everyone
everywhere all the time. That would not be progress. That would be a miracle. And progress is not a miracle. Progress consists of using
knowledge to solve problems. Problems are inevitable. And solutions create
new problems, which must be solved in their turn. Also, even against a backdrop
of steady improvement, the world can be blindsided
by nasty shocks and surprises. And I’ve mentioned or
shown a number of them– the world wars, the 1960s
crime boom, AIDS in Africa, and the American
opioid epidemic. And the world has
severe challenges now that it has not yet
solved– foremost among them are climate change
and the threat of nuclear war. I suggest in my analysis
of these challenges that we treat them as unsolved
but potentially solvable problems, that we should
deal with climate change by decarbonizing the world’s
economy as rapidly as possible by a combination
of policy measures, primarily carbon pricing,
and technological measures– that is the development of
low, zero, and eventually negative carbon technologies,
including both present and new generation nuclear– and that we
denuclearize the arena of international relations
by first enhancing strategic stability to minimize
the chance of an accidental or unwanted nuclear war and
by programs of arms limitation and reduction– culminating
eventually in global zero the total abolition
of nuclear weapons. Now, this used to
be a concern of eccentric, bearded professors
and peaceniks and folk singers. But it has been embraced by some
of the most hawkish of the Cold War hawks such as Henry
Kissinger, Sam Nunn, George Shultz, and William Perry. And just a couple of
hints that these are not utopian, romantic,
inconceivable aspirations– the world’s economy
has been undergoing a natural process
of decarbonization, at least carbon intensity– that is how much CO2 has
to be admitted to produce a dollar of economic value. As industrialized countries
first industrialized and burned massive
amounts of coal, their CO2 emissions shot up. But then as they switched to
lower carbon energy sources to petroleum, to methane, to
hydro, nuclear, to renewables, the carbon intensity declined. China underwent a more lurching
version of this process with spikes that actually shoot
up off the top of this graph, because of Mao’s
great leap forward, in which peasants had to
setup backyard smelters which produced massive amounts of
CO2 with zero economic output until China came to its senses. And India has turned
a corner as well as has the world as a whole. Now, this does not
mean that the world is on track to dealing
with greenhouse gas emissions for two reasons. One of them is that this is
a measure of how much CO2 you have to admit to produce a
given amount of economic value, the amount of economic output
is shooting up– a good thing. Plus it’s not enough for
this emissions to be reduced. They have to go to zero
and eventually negative. But what it does show is
that modern economies are not inherently tied
to flaming carbon. Few people realize that the size
of the world’s nuclear arsenal has been reduced by
about 85% since the peak during the Cold War. Indeed, almost 10% of American
nuclear electricity generation comes from reprocessed
fuel from nuclear weapons, the ultimate beating of
swords into plowshares. This development
is, needless to say, highly threatened right now. But what the graph shows
is that it is possible. Final question– does the
Enlightenment just go against human nature– a poignant question to me
as a prominent defender of the very idea
of human nature. And people have asked, is
humanism just too tepid or arid or flat to get people’s
hearts pumping? Is the conquest of disease,
famine, poverty, violence, and ignorance boring? Do people need to
believe in miracles– a father in the
sky, a strong chief to protect the tribe,
myths of heroic ancestors? Well, that’s not so clear. We have found that secular,
liberal democracies are the happiest and
healthiest places on Earth. And they are the top
destination of the people who vote with their feet. And I would argue that
applying knowledge and sympathy to enhance human flourishing
is heroic, glorious, maybe even spiritual. Unlike hero myths,
this one is not a myth. Myths are fiction. This one is true, true to
the best of our knowledge which is the only
truth we can have. And it is a hero story that
belongs not just to one tribe, but to all of
humanity, to anyone with the power of reason and the
drive to persist in its being. For it requires nothing
more than the convictions that life is better than death. health is better than sickness. Abundance is better than want. Peace is better than war. Freedom is better than coercion. Happiness is better
than suffering, and knowledge is better than
superstition and ignorance. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] AUDIENCE: One of
the questions is it seems like there is
a strong desire on both the left and the
right to regress back to pre-enlightenment and
more authoritarian values. Can you articulate what are
the Enlightenment values and why they’re worth defending? STEVEN PINKER: What are the
Enlightenment values and– oh. Oh, that’s easy. Enlightenment as I
would just tell them would be reason,
science, and humanism. And they’re worth
defending because they have led to progress that
is measurable empirically demonstrable progress. Thanks. AUDIENCE: The
progress that we’ve made across the
past few centuries is undeniable from the
empirical evidence. And the value of the
Enlightenment principles is also, I believe,
beyond question. But not all progress has been
made through those principles. For instance, chattel
slavery in the United States was not ended by free speech. It was ended by war. The Civil Rights Act
passed in the wake of civil disobedience
of varying levels of non-violent and
violent protest. And, of course,
we’re in pride month so it’s important to remember
the first pride was a riot. What do you– STEVEN PINKER: What was a riot? AUDIENCE: First
pride celebration was the Stonewall riots. STEVEN PINKER: Oh, the
Stonewall, yes, for gay pride. AUDIENCE: Yes. So what role do you believe the
intentional focused application of entropy plays
in a world which values the
Enlightenment principles and is dedicated
towards progress? STEVEN PINKER: Yes, well
some kinds of progress did require struggle,
conflict, violence. Although, in many cases,
the mobilization of people to struggle for some
cause depended on ideas, on new ideas that often were
articulated by philosophers, by thinkers that were circulated
in coffeehouses and salons and libraries and
schools and universities. Martin Luther King, for
example, was in his pilgrimage to nonviolence that noted
that among his influences were the Enlightenment
philosophers the more liberal branches of
Christianity, which in turn, had been influenced
by Enlightenment thinkers, and of course, by Gandhi and
the ideas of nonviolence. So ideas motivated
that kind of struggle. Also, although in the United
States, there was a Civil War, lots of other countries got
rid of slavery without it. And the Civil War– one of the– in fact, the worst,
most violent war in American history, 650,000 deaths– it was perhaps not
the only or hard to say whether it was the
only way slavery could have been eliminated. But I come from Canada. Canada and the British
empire eliminated slavery without a civil war. So we don’t know– it may be cases where struggle
and violence are the only way to achieve some social goal
but in many cases, not. The Stonewall riot did happen. It probably was not
the main instigator of the advances in gay rights,
I suspect, which came later. And, of course, other countries
did not necessarily need riots. And as far as violence goes,
this is pretty small stuff. I don’t think anyone was
killed in the Stonewall riots. There were some injuries. And other many improvements
in human well-being such as the Green Revolution,
the development of antibiotics and vaccinations had
no violence at all. And as Gandhi and King
showed and as my colleague Erica Chenoweth has recently
documented quantitatively, even in cases where there
is entrenched opposition so that some kind of
conflict is inevitable, the nonviolent resistance
movements, on average, are more successful
than the violent ones. That is surely in
achieving their goals, they’re twice to three
times as successful. And often, movements
that achieve their goals through violence carry a
legacy of violence thereafter that at least allows one
to question the price. The United States is
probably the most violent Western democracy. And it came into existence
through violence. Countries that
become independent in violent revolutions are less
likely to become democratic. So it’s a complicated
relationship. And in general,
I tend to believe that less violence and the less
struggle, the more successful the revolution. AUDIENCE: In most
parts of the world, life expectancy has increased. But the US life
expectancy is starting to decline in certain areas. Any thoughts on that? STEVEN PINKER: Yeah. So, again, progress doesn’t
mean that everything gets better everywhere for all the time. And there is a slight decline in
American life expectancy almost entirely explicable by the– what Angus Deaton and
his collaborator Case call deaths of despair. These tend to be baby boomer,
mostly male, mostly white, mostly rural, mostly
less educated. So these are the victims
of the industrialization and disinvestment in
American rural areas. And indeed, it is a
tragedy that is big enough in magnitude to drag
down the overall average by a little bit. And it’s clearly something
that we have to address. Again, if you break down
any data on progress to a granular
enough level, there will always be parts
of the world that are going in the wrong direction. Part of the
appreciation of progress is not to be shocked
if it doesn’t occur everywhere uniformly. It never does. But progress can
continue, resume, be accelerated if we
concentrate exactly on the parts that are not
progressing or, in this case, progressing. AUDIENCE: Thanks for
the presentation. It was very compelling. One thing I’m
curious about, so you mentioned some of the
alternate interpretations or alternate worldviews
that humanity is best with a strong
leader or living according to transcendent ideals
or also another world view around that
people do best when motivated by self-interest. I’m curious– so for folks
that you’re talking with or debating– they may be advocating or
articulating these ideas. I’m curious if you’ve
looked into like some of the patterns
underlying why people will arrive at these
different kinds of worldviews? And, in particular,
I know there’s been work in adult psychological
development– so tracking how people go through
stages in terms of the complexity of their
thinking, the scope of groups that they’re able
to empathize with. Have you evaluated
any of this work for making sense
of these patterns? STEVEN PINKER: Yeah. It is interesting to ask since– if I’m right and cosmopolitan,
liberal, secular, humanism, Enlightenment is
such a great idea, why doesn’t everyone
believe in it? And I hope more and
more people will. There are trends, global
trends in the direction of cosmopolitan liberalism– so
again, uneven with exceptions. So the world values survey has
asked people a large number of questions about their
political, moral, and lifestyle values going back to 1980. But because of a
discovery that they made that these values tend
to be largely a cohort effect, namely people born
at a given time tend to keep them as they age,
you can extrapolate backwards, if you take into account
the cohort effect and some of the
nation level effect. So you can almost
extrapolate backward to 1960. If you do, you find that– Christian Welzel has found
that a composite of liberal– what we might call
liberal values– that is respect for rights
of women, for democracy, for gay rights, rights
for people to divorce, to child rearing philosophies
that emphasize creativity and autonomy rather
than obedience– you can put those together
in one liberal value. You find that every
part of the world, a sense of liberal values has
increased over the last 60 years or so. Now, the different regions of
the world show massive gaps. Not surprisingly Sweden is more
liberal than the Middle East and North Africa. However, by many measures, a
young person in Egypt today, for example, is more
liberal than his counterpart in Sweden in 1960. Now, less this seem
absolutely incredible, imagine getting into a time
machine, going back to 1960 and interviewing a
random Swedish person and say, what do you
think about two men being able to marry each
other or a woman being the CEO of a corporation? They would have
thought, you’re nuts. That’s impossible. That’s outrageous. That’s against
the natural order. And so when you think
about how, especially in the most illiberal
regions, the fact that younger people are more liberal
and cosmopolitan, it becomes less shocking. And the correlates of
this gradual shift– and this, by the way, is
only as of 2005, 2008 or so. So I don’t know if there has
gone into reverse since then. But that was over
a span of 50 years. Correlates tend to be
affluence of the whole country, education, information flow– countries that
translate more books, have more telephones,
more internet connections, they have more patents,
more high degrees– a general knowledge
intensiveness together with affluence and
some other variables tend to tilt people in
the liberal, cosmopolitan, Enlightenment,
humanist direction. Again, maybe it’s
all gone into reverse in the last five or 10 years
with the ascent of populism. Too soon to say. [APPLAUSE]

93 comments

  1. I recently go the audiobook from audible! Highly recommend

    https://www.audible.com/pd/Enlightenment-Now-Audiobook/B075FBZBLT?qid=1562690339&sr=1-1&pf_rd_p=e81b7c27-6880-467a-b5a7-13cef5d729fe&pf_rd_r=18B9H87V6WPPJWG5RMBB&ref=a_search_c3_lProduct_1_1

  2. Heyy Steven’s good buddy Jeff Epstein just got busted for child sex trafficking!! Hope hes doing okay losing his pedo bud

  3. Human sacrifice is rampant. Infant genital mutilation (male) is performed on 90% of Americans so it’s seen as normal because of false “health benefits”

  4. I totally agree with this talk and thank you for posting it. I do want to put out though there were some comments here that didn't agree and said some controversial things that have gotten deleted. I would say that deleting these things have a more negative impact then a positive one since these people's opinions will strengthen because someone thinks that they are too dangerous or unsavory. More importantly the opportunity to reply back and change these people's point of view is gone and they will continue the way that they are. I think these people's opinions where wrong and in bad taste but not disruptive and that you're not fixing any problems by getting rid of them.

  5. The top 10%, including Google CEO's and Steven Pinker, are doing great, so you poor bastards who are dying because of lack of health insurance, or homeless because bank CEO's defrauded American and got bailed out with our tax dollars, or dying by the thousands in civilian bombings during oil wars fought on behalf of big oil companies… just need to CHILL OUT. You are making the rich uncomfortable! Just go work your three jobs for sub-poverty wages at Wal-Mart, Amazon, and McDonalds, and shut up!

  6. wealth has gone up 200 times , now tell me how many people used to own houses instead of "renting" and tell me how much of that wealth went to the 1 percent compared to the rest, oh we should be thankful we can owe cars but cant afford anything bigger than an old shoebox , so much progress…

  7. This is an important talk. Instead of negative beliefs we need to take this on and develop it lest religion and political ideology take over again.

  8. i fail to see how a list of factual statistics can so incite rage and disgust. the information is either true or not.
    .merely this fact " According to the World Bank, more than 850 million people have lifted themselves out of extreme poverty as China's poverty rate fell from 88 percent in 1981 to 0.7 percent in 2015"
    Maybe you just dont think globally enough!
    yes there's been wage stagnation for Americas white middle classes
    yes america is an openly corrupt kakistocracy
    where people like the Koch brothers fund evangelical movements to stupefy your population so as to slash corporation tax, deregulate, subsidise and protect the petrochemical, pharmacological and food industries/healthcare insurers etc etc whilst shredding laws aimed at saving your environment.
    BUT!!!: due to science and reason you live longer than ever before and have the freedom to access to all the information required to change your political system instead of moaning at facts that will not yield. maybe you need to lie to the 50 percent of your population below average intelligence as efficiently as the psychopaths that currently do… BUT for GOOD!

  9. Ok, shill. No one with a brain believes your nonsense anyway, so find a real job now, you little clown…

  10. The problem with this whole lecture is the speaker is rather oblivious to and satisfied with his own assumptions, definitions, world view as "reality" etc.
    @ 0:25 he is already talking about a world that is filled with trouble. What world? Trouble for whom? Where is the reason in just flying off out of the gates with these unquestioned assumptions. There are numerous people who would not agree that the world is full of trouble at all, such as Buddhists who would say that no, we are full of trouble, that there is nothing wrong with anything apart from our ignorant confused reception of what is basically good. What is considered a problem is relative and dependent on time, place, person experiencing the problem etc and is a concept and therefor not inherently of any particular substance. So, you have a religion, not science, 2,500 years ago providing more sound logic than modern people purporting to be all about science and logic and proudly proclaiming that we have made life so much better than in the past. So it would seem that if you feel the world is troubled then by all means deal with it but recognize that it is your own subjective judgement and sense of things. Do not start preaching to people about how we all have problems and that the error lies with religion and only science will save us. Science is corrupted by self interests and so on and is not a reliable way forward until people deal with their own problems as people as deluded and selfish beings creating even more problems in their efforts to fix all the problems. If we are fundamentally troubled then we have to do something about that as opposed to projecting a troubled world and going about fixing it. If there is a beginning of trouble it is with that kind of deluded perspective and it is the height of ignorance not enlightenment.

  11. These extensive and relevant facts are exalting, and test each one's respect for evidence and own sense of life. Bravo again, great Prof. Pinker!

  12. As a proud American I can say, "hey, if you ain't happy here mr., move the F#&% out and take AOC and Bernie with you, stop disrespecting my country. Shit ain't great as you make it look like, get out into the real world and look". This country has been good to me and I will support my President who is working hard to keep it good.

  13. The "Enlightenment Now" speech at TedTalks was much better. No added value in this one – I'm kind of disappointed. On the other hand, I see these types of videos in terms of "marketing positivity", which can enhance people's lives, so I am still happy you uploaded it.

  14. 60% decline in global wild animal numbers since 1970.Not to mention the total methane , nitrous oxide , sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide levels combined equal 560 ppm CO2.

  15. My God, these comments are horrific. Pinker is a brilliant mind, and if you don't think everything is better now it's called Confirmation Bias and are in desperate need of a more honest internal dialogue.

  16. 1. Instead of whining, pick any time in our history you believe it to be better than exactly NOW (not knowing your race, gender, sexual preference, political allianses, how long you get to live,…).
    2. Ask yourself if you are willing to go back (assuming you can) instead of preaching about "how horrible it is now"?
    3. "Google" (research) that time period.
    4. Repeat 2.
    5. Don't share your answer with us!

  17. A certain movement was cultivated by tycoon industrialists to lower wages, decrease the intelligence of the population by reducing the number of offspring of smart people while greatly increasing the number of offspring of stupid people, increased crime, increased taxes and taxes collected, increased voting for safety and security over that of freedom. Taxes have been raised to combat the rise in crime by the huge reduction in the leadership of communities to be able to quickly detect criminals in places where they don't belong and are planning to do crime such as drug traffic, burglary, kidnapping, rape, murder, etc that would OTHERWISE be detected and reported via an old scheme called neighborhood watch that is much less effective when no one learns their neighbors' names, no one is home to watch the neighborhood, and so on, requiring that larger patrols of police be recruited, AI on image recognition for criminal detection and identification, etc. These police technologies and personnel cost more tax payer money.
    The response of the owners of the world's debt based monetary system was to counter this movement with 1. mass Islamic immigration that has doctrines completely counter this initial movement and so shall put a complete reversal of some of its outcomes, 2. promotion of multiculturalism, 3. promotion of leftist ideologies, 4. accusations of racism toward those specifically who were tricked by this social engineering by the tycoon industrialists, 5. a 1995 secret treaty with Islamic nations to appease Islam and torment those who oppose Islam.
    https://youtu.be/QAYTr13-WnQ Islamic Sexuality A Survey Of Evil
    by Ann Barnhardt. Extremely against Islam from a Christian very intelligent cute little sexy woman who explains her reasoning / logic, etc. Some of her information is verifiable and some not so much. What assessment have you in your cutting through the Matrix?
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-iykiq8eLI&list=PLGeiBEiDRZWQ_gy51l3HGLlCdIvSiGyRb&index=2&t=0s Explains how some people were targeted by a PR campaign done by tycoon industrialists who wanted to lower wages and tax both men and women, etc.
    https://youtu.be/N5J6LQgqTwM?t=1247 Counterjihad Panels at CPAC where Paul Westin gives a dramatic speech about the reasons for the dramatic up rise in Islam in Western capitalistic democratic nations.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=December+17+2008+Nicolas+Sarkozy+century+challenge+miscegenation&newwindow=1&tbm=vid&sa=X
    https://twitter.com/hashtag/endwhitepeople?lang=en
    https://www.google.com/search?q=1995+Barcelona+Process+secret+Mediterranean+treaty+European+suicide&newwindow=1&tbm=vid&sa=X

  18. Pinker exults the scientific method as one of the main driving forces of progress, and at the end talks about climate change as one of the main obstacles to overcome. My question is has there ever been a scientific experiment to test the hypothesis of the climate's sensitivity to CO2 (In particular that the sensitvity is of order 3deg Cel upon doubling CO2) whose results and methodology have been published in a peer reviewed journal? I see a lot of mathematical models and computer simulations but no actual tests in the physical world. As Feynman would say: " If the results of experiment fail to agree with the theory then it ain't true". If there hasn't been any falsifiable tests, and I've looked a bit, then like string theory and the multiverse its just theory, mathematical models, not science. All I'm looking for is a citation, not argumentation (rhymes, I know).

  19. Shall we take flights on the Lolita Express to seek out this enlightenment? Debauched critter from the boys' clubs of Harvard. Perhaps you and your buddies should reach out to your young victims to help them with their enlightenment. Harvard privileged little Creeper.. Enjoy your freedom and fragile moments while you can. Diddling younguns has a severe cost, you should have learned this a long time ago, Harvard weirdo. And pretty narcissistic. The bright light is on you elites. Go away. Go tell your victims how to live better lives. Your credibility is suspect. Privileged secret society sex-transactionists need to be off the lecture circuit.

  20. this clown looks like he should be in the circus where people can laugh at his ridiculous hair. he looks like he has about 20 pounds of cotton glued to his head.

  21. Could we plz start talking about (4:45) !?
    Uncontrolled "evolution" is ruining the planet and creating massive conflict.

  22. "People are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives"- this dude is way way out of touch from reality , lives in his social bubble…

  23. Pinkers name is inside of jeff epsteins flight logs. He’s also a complete charlatan that uses flawed poverty statistics to justify a world view that things are getting better rather than worse. Even in America many peoples living standards are getting worse, with increasing infant mortality rates and stagnant wages. Pinker is a hack fraud and likely a pedophile to boot

  24. So People are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives. Since when, and how long is it gonna last? If you live in europe and you're under 30 years old, I wonder if you ever thought about this question: Do you really think you're gonna have a happy, fulfilling and most importantly peaceful life and death? 50 years to go at least for most of us under non-catastrophic circumstances (which is a less than likely proposition if you take a glimpse through the glasses of realism rather than idealism), they're gonna be looong 50 years….

  25. The "n"th Commandment:- Don't do Evil.., the double negative of inactivity.
    Equivalent to:- Do nothing and all will be done.., the positive inactivity of Masterful Inaction.

    All the Enlightening consequence of Universal Law of Least Action.

  26. ☼ Alright, i'll take some enlightenment now…how much, Harvard man?

  27. Lawrence Krauss, Steven Pinker and Jeffrey Epstein have an odd relationship https://twitter.com/nathanoseroff/status/1115991880972607488

  28. There is a 0% chance history looks back kindly on Pinker's reactionary "Enlightened Centrism". In his recent book Enlightenment Now and many public talks he says that people who call themselves progressives "actually hate progress" and suggests their push for aggressive reform in the face of global catastrophe actually demonstrates some kind of ungratefulness for the bells and whistles of western hegemony. What is there to complain about when GDP is so high? We have an economy run on sweat shops but you have access to surgery with anesthesia! His dropping deplorable watchwords like "Social Justice Warrior" and "regressive left" are probably enough to make one lose interest in sticking around to hear another word this curmudgeon has to say, though the curious might stay tuned and witness his greatest hits such as: pessimism cloaked as "Optimism", cherry-picked data, empty (though eloquent) rhetoric, and an insulated, misguided cheer-leading for the status quo. Lucky for us, the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward sweeping reforms that Pinker's apoligetics can only get in the way of. Steal Enlightenment Now and take a drink every time you roll your eyes!

  29. Interesting talk, but still it's Harvard science textbook view of the world. True if your part of the elite clubhouse. Only so much hogwatch you can stomach. Stats matter if your the stat .

  30. Humanism is a comittment not a fact.
    One might argue whether that comittment is good or not on the basis of
    – feasability (is it even feasible to improve the human condition?)
    – alternatives (are there other comittments that are in some sense better and which are in conflict with humanism?)

  31. I have never seen so much triumphalist bull shit in my entire life. According to Pinker "everything is all well and we will get over our troubles". Let's see him talking with such optimism in 10 or 20 years!

  32. A summary of Yuval Noah Harari's writing, which are the same from others.. At least should deliver a new interpretation. Selling books!

  33. How could he possibly claim that less of someone's paycheck goes to a necessity than it did in the 1950's in America ? Rent alone has gone from 11% of an American workers net pay to 24%. The avg isn't a great way to measure how things are working for everyone. Income inequality skews the numbers dramatically

  34. Great lecture. At least, we have a way forward. Thirty years ago if you said billions of people would leave poverty and ascend to the middle class people would assume that would mean a greater reliance on fossil fuels, a diminishing resource. Now, we see a path to increasing wealth and doing it with more renewable energy.

  35. Reason based on free speech……That's rich coming from Google. What was the name of the guy they fired recently for wrong speech?

  36. Steven Pinker needs to go back and try doing real scientific work and less of this pseudo-intellectual oratory garbage. Same goes for Neil Degrasse Tyson.

  37. From the outside, from the outside, 77Sam. But that is not what sience can't include. It is an effect on a look of glass of wine in which you can see your own emptiness. Science functions exactly like that: after mercifull sundownd of mind tells us that … They haven't get a clue… Every new age or satanistic practice is on the same level of what can science participate to the healing of human misery. You didn't move an inch from ancient Freud. What a shame, and you are so narcisstic in your statementa how obsolet all that was. Unfortenately Žižek was so bloody true. You are most politely but at where it acounts most stupid scientist in the world. You aren't
    cappable of thinking of the effect of signifier on the human being.

  38. Things are better than ever before in human history. Don't forget to mention this fact to SJW's calling for a civil war because things are so 'bad'.

  39. It's funny – I had no idea that India, a massively diverse country with 1/6 of the world's population, decriminalized homosexuality last year. You'd think that would be a headline. Instead, the orange monkey's tweets and Putin's glare grabbed all the headlines.

  40. Very convincing, but I am left wondering if the data is cherry picked? This argument could be strengthened by pointing out where his thesis or 'empirical hypothesis' falls short.

  41. Look at David Icke, we will be here in 50 years, this global warming is a swindle. Google are EVIL, they even said it when they started up "do no evil" LOL, they got rid of that real fast. Don't use or update face book, get rid of Alexia and such devices, use alternative search engines like DuckDuckGo, use Brave browser, use encrypted email, turn location services off on devices, use Linux (elementary, pop, mint etc…) as a desktop, tape up over cameras and microphones. Basically take control of what YOU can do and tell others and help others do the same.

  42. Because societies are more resilient against smaller disasters, peoples' proactive minds probe mega disasters now, which also reflects in the news

  43. Reason is only good until disproven by science; science is only good until disproven by another reason. Neither are absolute truth. Together the two are one.

  44. Thats the power of data. It overshadows the emotions. Sometimes its good, but not eveyrtime. Can this bring relief to a mother who has lost her child ? What wud she do knowing how better the world have become in 100 or 200 years? Humans care about their own world, their own lifetime , own people which is sufficiently good unless it harm/overpower other humans.

  45. THIS MAN'S MESSAGE IS DISNEY-ESQUE.
    EVERYONE GO BACK TO SLEEP! YOU ARE ALL MUCH HAPPIER THAN YOU REALIZE!
    especially if you have all those special privileges being in that BIG CLUB GEORGE CARLIN TOLD US ABOUT

    Pinker, you stinker. Take that Harvard privilege and sail off to Little Saint James Island to live that la Vida Loca you insist us livestock are living.

    asshat.

  46. I read EN and agreed w/its celebration of Enlightenment reason. I dont recall if Pinker said that it was one of only two basically rational cultures. However, Pinker evaded or ignored the profoundly important fact that the Enlightenment is the only basically individualist culture in history. Thus the creation of America after 400 years of radical cultural change from Christian supernaturalism to the individual things, inc/men, of the concrete, material universe. Thus our founding politics of individual rights. And the hatred or evasion of the Enlightenment by mainstream intellectuals.

    “Nation Of The Enlightenment”, in _Ominous Parallels_, by Leonard Peikoff

  47. If this man understands enlightenment? The Earth would have stopped revolving! Can he tell us what is the state of enlightenment instead of saying so much rubbish! What a laugh!

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