Author: Steven Pinker
Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new work, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species's existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, gruesome punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows (with the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps) all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened?
Wow! A complete revelation to me.
Pinker's book is a challenging read. Not that it is difficult, just data dense. He carefully develops and proves his points using data. The result is compelling but may take time to absorb. The book is more of a study than it is a quick read. I found that I needed to re-read sections. Often taking breaks to let the facts and conclusions sink into my mind. But the result is worth it. He convincingly builds his case point-after-point that the human world is far better off today than anytime in the past. We really are making progress as a species.
We are confronted with so many mental biases that it is hard to come to this profound conclusion without studying the data. Media presents only that which "happens" not what does not happen. "There was no war started today.", is not a headline. Further, stories are selected for dramatic value—both in the media and when told between friends. "Dramatic" usually means "bad". Our own thinking tricks us. We exaggerate that which is visual. The chance of a shark attack looms because it is both dramatic and we can visualize it from the movie Jaws. But it was actually far more likely that we'd die in a car crash on the way to the beach before the shark ever had a chance at us. Why are we not constantly fearful of a crash? These are just a few of the rational fallacies our brain tricks us with. Fortunately Pinker's work demonstrates—really proves—how wrong our perspective is.
Read it. You'll come away with a positive understanding of people and our world. One that is so needed.