I am working through Steven Pinker’s latest work Enlightenment Now, and I gotta say, it is life changing. The book features Bill Gates’ praise on the cover – “It’s my new favourite book of all time.” If you have read anything about Bill Gates, you’ve probably come across the fact that he reads like crazy, almost 8 hours a day. Twice a year Gates takes book vacations, where he brings a stack of books and just reads for a full week in solitude. For him to say that this is his new favourite book is significant.
The book outlines the totally incomprehensible ways our world has gotten better since we started utilizing reason to solve problems. Contrary to my previous beliefs about the Enlightenment, which turn out to be quite common, the Enlightenment worked. The shift from superstition to reason marks the turning point for progress. What would you call progress you might ask? Well, if you consider that since the 1800s we have more than doubled the global life span, reduced global infant mortality rates from 35-50% to 4%, reduced death during childbirth of mothers to 0.004% globally, eradicated and controlled several awful diseases like smallpox which killed over 300 million people, the Guinea Worm which has killed millions of people, controlled the outspread of AIDs on a global scale, increased the amount of calories available per person globally by 1000 calories, decreased the amount of people who are undernourished by 20%
These statistics are absolutely incredible. The use of reason to solve problems has been an astronomical success! Contrary to the common news headline, we are not in a steady decline, we are accelerating upward at a rate never before seen. Life on Earth is wonderful! Now, that’s not to say that life is perfect, there are still diseases, tragedies, famines etc. But the global reduction of these problems is overall magnificently optimistic.
I encourage anyone who has doubts about the state of our world to pick this book up. Enlightenment Now will radically reorientate your perspective and give you hope.
Hustle it up!