I am not one to pay too close attention to the news. Some of my academically-inclined friends accuse me of not trying hard enough to stay informed about the world, and while they certainly have a point, I also think that for an average guy like me, paying too much attention to the news gives me a very false view of the world because of the biases that exist in the news industry.
But I have been noticing an interesting trend about the recent Ebola outbreak in Congo which was declared over this week.
In a nutshell, the trend is this:
- Humans have dealt with this recent outbreak so-freaking-amazingly well compared to the previous Ebola outbreak (2014-2016) in West Africa.
- News coverage of the topic was way down compared to the 2014 outbreak.
That’s not surprising given that news tend to have a negative bias, but can we all take a moment to celebrate the human progress?
The death toll of the previous outbreak was over 11,000 people. This time it was less than 30. Stuff like that don’t happen by chance or luck. Our progress is a result of collaboration between societies and organizations. We have dealt with ebola because we have the knowledge and technology to do so, and we have made it a priority to do so, from governments funding and expediting the ebola vaccine research and clinical trials, to reacting quickly to visit even the most remote of villages to administer the virus on first sign of an outbreak.
Of course, fighting the ebola virus isn’t the only area in which we have made a significant improvement.
Extreme poverty in the world (measured by income adjusted for inflation) has diminished to a half of what it was 20 years ago. It’s hard to notice this for those of us who live in the United States, because $2/day and $4/day both seem like extreme poverty to us, but this is a significant improvement in the quality of lives of people all over the world.
Casualties from war and battles have declined dramatically. During the World War II, the death toll was over 200 per every 100,000 people. That number is just 1 today, a whopping 99.5% decline.
Less children are working. Crime is decreasing. More girls are getting educated. Less people are enslaved. Nuclear weapons are getting disarmed. Deaths from natural disaster is declining. Planes are crashing less. We are harvesting more food per area of farmland. Share of people living in an elected democracy is increasing. More kids are getting immunized. Literacy rate is as high as it ever was.
Does that mean that we’ve solved every problem? No. But are we on the right track? Absolutely. I cringe when my pastor would make a commentary on something he saw on the news and say something like “in times like these, we need the love of Jesus more than ever.”
Precisely what does he mean when he says “in times like these?” The data is overwhelming. Now is the best time we have ever lived in, and it will be even better tomorrow. Humans collectively have realized the power to solve problems that were impossible to solve in the past. With that same power also comes the power to destruct just the same, but that is not the direction we have decided to move in. Data does not lie. Together, we’ve chosen to improve the world. That gives me hope.