Steven Pinker on why life is no longer nasty, brutish and short

I loved Steven Pinker’s latest book “The Better Angels of Our Nature” (I love all his books). It’s refreshing to hear somebody challenging conventional wisdom in this way. I’m so glad that I wasn’t alive during the medieval period, at risk from burning at the stake, being impaled, or hung drawn and quartered, for thought crimes. The only reason we think we live in dangerous times is because we consume too much “news”.

File Under Optimism

The Peace Dividend

A great Ted Talk here by Steven Pinker on the ongoing decline in violence. Not only does he present the hard data to show that the decline of violence is a fact, but he also gives several plausible explanations as to why the decline is happening.

Two points in particular that stand out for me. First, as technology and economic efficiency make life longer and more pleasant, we are clearly putting a higher value on life in general. Second, Peter Singer’s thesis that our “circle of empathy” has evolved well beyond encompassing only family and friends (in part because technology is making it ever easier to “trade places” with other people’s feelings and emotions). Powerful stuff and well worth your time. Hat tip to Oliver Sycamore for this one.

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