Thursday, January 16, 2014

Life, strife?


Is the average experience of humankind less violent today than at any time in the past, as Steven Pinker argues in The Better Angels of Our Nature? Your opinion may depend on whether you're the sort of person who sees the glass half empty or half full. As for me, I think Pinker's glass is full, as I have suggested in the last two posts.

As for those who take issue with Pinker, I think the best response is to ask them if they would prefer to have lived 100, or 200, or 500 years ago, or anytime in the past. They may say "yes," but I bet they'd hesitate when you invite them to step into the time machine.

There's no doubt that we have a talent for killing each other. While we are debating the issue, here is an animated graph that my son Dan put me onto. I can't vouch for the data, but I have no reason to doubt it either. I do like the self-confirming illusion that things are getting better. Hit play and enjoy.