Well, is the world improving or not?

By May 9, 2018Other

This is my second essay on the argument and contents of Hans Rosling’s book Factfulness… You can read the first essay here. There have been some misguided comments on the book, for which I may be partly responsible. So let me clear a couple of matters up. First, when you make judgments of any kind you are engaging in comparison. There are three main forms of comparison: comparing something with the same thing elsewhere at the same time (eg domestic violence rates in Australia and in Argentina), or that something with the same thing in the same place but over time (eg domestic violence rates in Australia 1900 to 1910 and 2001 to 2010), or, finally, that something with an ideal (eg domestic violence rates in Australia in 2017 to the ideal of no domestic violence at all — if that is your ideal). But, inescapably, you are doing one or the other. Someone asserts, ‘domestic violence rates are far too high!’ Compared with when, with where, with what? Hans Rosling is estimating human progress by comparing rates or amounts of this or that with the same rates or amounts earlier — over time. He does do some across-space comparisons, but that is not the main point of his book.

Second, he didn’t address everything that could have been mentioned, and Australia gets only sparse attention in the book. But if you read it closely you will see that we are seen as part of ‘Western’ societies which plainly have little idea of what is happening in the rest of the world. Australians did not perform well in answering his three-choice questions on what has happened. But then we were not obviously worse than others. I spent some time on this in the first essay.

So, I turn to his summary of what has happened in the last few decades, which he arranged in two parts. For space reasons I haven’t included all the comparisons.

Bad things decreasing

  1. Legal slavery (forced labour) was endemic in 1800, is now practised in only 3 countries out of 194.
  2. Children dying before their fifth birthday: 44 per cent in 1800, 4 per cent in 2016.
  3. Countries allowing leaded petrol: 193 in 1986; 3 in 2017.
  4. Countries with death penalty: 193 in 2016, 89 in 2016.
  5. Oil spills from tankers: 636,000 tonnes in 1979, 6,000 in 2016 (and not much since 1996).
  6. HIV infections per million people: 549 in 1996, 241 in 2016.
  7. Deaths in battle per 100,000 people: 201 in 1942, virtually constant at 1 since the mid 1950s.
  8. Plane crash deaths per 10 billion passenger miles: 2100 in 1929-33, 1 in 2012-16.
  9. Deaths from disaster (ten-year averages, at 1000 deaths per year): 971 in the 1930s, 72 in 2010-2016.
  10. Hunger (proportion of people under-nourished): 28 per cent in 1970, 11 per cent in 2015.

Good things increasing

  1. Literacy (proportion of adults 15+ who can read and write): 1800 — 10 per cent, 2016 — 86 per cent.
  2. Democracy (proportion of people living in democratic systems): 1816: 1 per cent, 2015 — 56 per cent.
  3. Harvesting volume (cereal yield at 1000kg per hectare): 1961 — 1.4, 2014 — 4.
  4. Girls in school (proportion of girls in primary school): 1965 — 70 per cent, 2015 — 90 per cent.
  5. Electricity coverage (proportion of people with some access to electricity): 1991 — ­­­­72 per cent, 2014 — 85 per cent.
  6. Immunisation (proportion of one-year-olds who have had at least one vaccination): 1980 — 22 per cent, 2016 — 88 per cent.
  7. Mobile phones (proportion of people with a mobile phone): 1980 — virtually no one, 2017 — 65 per cent.
  8. Water access (proportion of people with access to a protected water source): 1980 — 58 per cent, 2015 — 88 per cent.
  9. Internet access : 1980 — nil, 2017 — 48 per cent.
  10. National parks (proportion of world’s land surface in designated national parks or like reserves): 1900: 0.03 per cent, 2016: 14.7 per cent.

Why should all this be of interest to Australians? Because, to take a trite example first, the news that the world’s human peoples seem to be steadily improving their lot in life ought to reduce our fears of angry mobs invading our shores because we have it and they don’t. More importantly, all this is happening without much of a contribution from us, or from national leaders everywhere. It is happening, Rosling says, because the knowledge is there, the technology is there, the examples are there, and people everywhere are doing their best to use the knowledge and technology, and learn from the examples. He gives most of the credit to nurses, public servants, teachers and leaders from below, the people who stand up in villages and suggest how they might do something better. One such leader saved his life, and the book is dedicated to her.

He suggests that rather than thinking about ‘us’ and ‘them’ (which he sees as an endemic problem in the West), we imagine the human world as consisting of four groups: Level 1: those who have no more than one dollar a day to live on, Level 2: those with four times that amount ($4), Level 3: those with $16 a day, and those on Level 4 who have $64 a day or more. Of our seven billion people, where do you think the majority are? If you think they’re in Level 1 you are quite wrong, though that is a common answer in the West. There are one billion people in Level 1, three billion in Level 2, two billion in Level 3 and one billion in Level 4. While those on Level 1 would like to be at Level 4, their real interest today is decent water, electricity or gas or anything better to cook with than animal dung, antibiotics for their ill child and schooling. They can see that these things are possible.

Those on Level 2 are aspiring to a bicycle, plastic buckets to store water, and perhaps access to whatever electricity is about in their area. They have hopes for their children that are based on education, which is there to some degree. At Level 3 the aspiration is for a motor bike, the children are in high school and there are only two of them. There is running water, refrigeration, the Internet, universities, suburban transport that works, and so on. Level 4 readers in Australia know all about Level 4. They live in it. In all the Levels there are rich people, middle-income people and poor people. The Indian middle-class was counted at 80 million a few years ago. I would imagine that the Chinese middle class is even larger, to gauge from the numbers of Chinese tourists who visit our country.

But it was not always Level 4 in Australia, or Sweden or the UK or the USA. When I was growing up in the 1940s and 1950s there were a lot of people who were living at Level 2, and aspired to Level 3. My father went to school in bare feet in 1910, and had only cast-down clothes from his elder brother until he was fifteen. There are other good examples of what it was like in the Comments that followed the On Line Opinion republication of my first essay, which you can read here. Rosling himself gives personal accounts drawn from his family of what it was like in Sweden in the 1950s, and they are not good reading.

Which is why his account of human progress is so inspiring. My own reading over the last twenty years has brought me to the same position, but Rosling’s data are far richer, and global in their reach. A lot follows, or at least seems to me to follow, from his book, and I’ll be reflecting on its messages for some time. One is that we need to support those who are doing things at the lowest levels of human habitation, not giving governments lots of money in the hope that they will do something useful with it rather than setting up private Swiss bank accounts. Another is that NGOs that do that work (and we need to be sure we know which ones they are) are probably as important as government aid.

There’s so much more. Once again, I thoroughly recommend this book. Human progress is occurring quickly. Yes, not everywhere, and not at the same rate. But as Rosling’s data show, it is happening powerfully. Long may it do so.








Join the discussion 67 Comments

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    “the news that the world’s human peoples seem to be steadily improving their lot in life ought to reduce our fears of angry mobs invading our shores because we have it and they don’t”

    About a million people have arrived in Europe, and hundreds of thousands are waiting. The world’s human peoples seem to be quite impatient.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      And when Labor wins the next federal election, the dissatisfied will arrive in droves. Wanna bet? Level 1 to level 4, in one leaky boat trip. All courtesy of the Australian taxpayer.

    • Don Aitkin says:


      Most of them arrived because of an explicit invitation from the German Chancellor, arguably the worst mistake of the last couple of decades. There is no counterpart here. Indeed, Australia has made it plain that it will accept refugees who are in displaced peoples’ camps, not those who who come by boat.

  • Neville says:

    Good summary Don, although I haven’t read his book, but I’m aware of many of the facts that you mention.
    My Mum and Dad had a very hard life until their forties , but they would be counted as typical for that period of time. Through hard work and careful saving
    they prospered and both had a fairly long and happy retirement. Even poor people today in the first world live a much easier and much longer life than 30, 50 or 100+ years ago.

  • Tim Walshaw says:

    Very true. But the article ended in a complicated and confused fashion. The essential process is very simple. Growth. Huh. So what? An economic growth rate of 3% per annum, which it has occurred since the war, DOUBLES the standard of living for all every 24 years! Why? The rule of 72. Just divide 3 into 72. So in the remembered lifetime of most readers, the world and Australia’s standard of living has quadrupled! You never noticed? Like the boiling frog?
    Your family has two new cars, while your dad desperately scraped to buy an old banger. Trips abroad? All the time. Only the rich did that 50 years ago. (Yes there were planes – YOU didn’t travel on them). Need I go on? Yes, house prices have also quadrupled in real terms – land has a fixed supply.
    So the reason for all those benefits listed above has only one reason – economic growth.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      No. Population growth.

    • bb says:

      Yes the rule of 72 is quite interesting I think of it when I see the quoted Chinese growth rate as being 7%. If this is true China is doubling every 10 years. In the past the claim was made that it was about 11%. Is it really doubling every 10 years?

  • margaret says:

    “My father went to school in bare feet in 1910, and had only cast-down clothes from his elder brother until he was fifteen”

    In the 1930’s my father hid his shoes under a culvert on the way to school and retrieved them on his way home. This was because he was one of the only children in his class who had shoes. The Depression hit hard.

    • spangled drongo says:

      Yes marg, I remember a boy in my class whose family were well off enough to send him to school in shoes being constantly ridiculed by all the other kids.

      I had to bring in the cows before dawn in bare feet, even in winter, and I remember the luxury of being able to stand in the warm manure as I brought them to the bails.

      That’s why I grew so healthy.

      • margaret says:

        It sounds as if you were a ‘Victorian mudlark’. Without the benefit of finding the occasional treasure.
        I accept that progress means we can now live in modern homes with dishwashers and refrigerators in kitchens and toilets with soft closing lids. As long as we got into the housing market racket.

        • spangled drongo says:

          Yes marg, we don’t know we’re alive today, comfort-wise. Although I’m sure I had a more interesting and developmental childhood finding my physical limits than my grandchildren who are so immersed in social media that they don’t know where the virtual world ends and the real one starts.

          They can’t cope with a walk on a mown country pathway even with the best boots and socks.

          They complain about grass seeds. They’re not interested in their surroundings.

          So, is the world improving….?

        • spangled drongo says:

          One of the things my father and grandfather did was gold fossicking and I was taught at an early age that wherever I saw quartz to look for gold. Also in alluvial granite. Not only interesting but rewarding. I still have a nugget or two.

          My grandfather came out from Scotland to go gold mining here. Life improved enormously for my grandparents as a result.

  • margaret says:

    The reason my father had shoes was because his father had gone to the country after living in Sydney. After losing his job he took his family to Kandos where an opportunity to contract the collection of the town nightsoil arose. My father had shoes in Kandos but he was still subject to ridicule as the son of The Shit King.
    All the data and optimism that can be mustered as evidence of the progress of humankind is wonderful but it’s detached a mile away from the reality of individual lives and that basic bodily function.

    • Neville says:

      Very true Marg and reminds me that one of the wealthiest families in my area made their money via the night cart .
      Dad told me that the kids used to say that they made their money from sh-t and others called them the sh-t kings. Kids can be cruel, but as they say the times were very tough.
      First septic tanks then sewerage changed things in a big way. I know my Mum wanted a septic tank installed ASAP and Dad agreed.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        In my town it was known as the honey wagon, and I don’t recall anyone’s kids being attacked because their Dad worked on it.

      • margaret says:

        The honey wagon or the dunny wagon.
        I often get the impression that you have a Pollyanna view of the world Don.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          I’ll consider your impression in my next essay.

        • spangled drongo says:

          But what “Pollyanna View” are you referring to marg?

          The traditional PV is a positive and realistic view but the post-modern concept is a cynical attitude to being rationally optimistic and tries to make out that it is an overuse of positivity that doesn’t allow for reality to be truly examined.

    • Bazza says:

      More about my father’s father. He was a fourteen yr old runaway from his home in Duns, Scotland who joined the Royal navy and found himself at the battle of Jutland in the turret of the Galatea which was hit with phosgene gas.
      His mother came to get him after that episode but he ran away again and joined the merchant navy, jumping ship in Sydney.

  • spangled drongo says:

    On one farm we had there was no nightsoil service so we had to “bury the soldiers” ourselves. Later we built a new sentry box on skids and sited it over a suitable hole we dug. When that hole filled we dug another and hitched the horse up to the sentry box and towed it to the new site.

    Hard work but sustainable living.

    Yesterday I was at a “farm” where the owner is rarely home, the a/c’d palace of a homestead is as big as 10 normal farmhouses and employees tootle around on quads doing all the necessary chores to keep it in manicured splendour.

    I don’t remember farms like that when I was a kid.

  • spangled drongo says:

    When it comes to “improving” the world ya gotta luv the California approach:


  • Chris Warren says:

    More balance is required. It is not good enough to pick:

    “Bad things decreasing”

    “Good things increasing”

    unless you also cover;

    Good things decreasing, and
    Bad things increasing.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Very clever, and I’m pretty sure that because Rosling’s eyes were on progress he didn’t think of searching for examples of regress.

      But you could help us all, by offering examples. You might leave out growth in CO2, mostly because there’s straightforward debate about whether that is a good or a bad thing. And we need decent global data as well. But I look forward to what you propose.

      Oh, and he has himself made the point that there may be regress in one country while there is progress in several others. It’s the net effect he was looking for.

      • spangled drongo says:

        One place where we are regressing is in teaching.

        Worse in so many ways:


      • Bazza says:

        I can’t see the point in net effect. ‘Progress’ will never make individuals happy. Only their relationships and circumstances will affect their happiness. Progress is two steps forward and one step back and the step back is where many people’s lives falter.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Bazza, it’s hard to know what you mean by this. The data show that there has been very great progress in things like better water, less poverty, less hunger and so on. Are you not in favour of these advances? Or are you saying that they don’t mean anything until everyone is advancing in some united way? And that no one has fallen behind remember, neither Rosling nor I is saying that there isn’t more to be done. What we are saying is that the constant cry that the world is getting worse simply defies the evidence.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            I actually agree with Chris Warren. Rosling went out to find answers that he wanted, and found them. This is usually called confirmation bias. I have not read the book, and don’t intend to, but clearly economic development has had a world-wide impact. This does not necessarily mean that people are living better lives. Indeed the potential Balkanisation of places like the UK and France suggest that the future may be far less comfortable for the Western nations than he (and you) predict.

          • Bazza says:

            “the constant cry that the world is getting worse”

            I don’t hear that in the circle I mix with. I hear it’s getting crazier and that’s pretty obvious.

            The fact that the standard of living for the peoples of the world is improving as evidenced by data is not sufficient to warm the cockles of my heart.

            You and Rosling (now dead) may find it sufficiently inspiring to contemplate but I doubt that the homeless on a cold Canberra night would take comfort from it.

      • Chris Warren says:


        If I was taking data on progress and representing it as “the world” surely the obligation is on the author of this thesis to range sufficiently broadly.

        However, just for starters, we know that inequality in nations is increasing, species are disappearing, indigenous people are being dispossessed, GHG’s are increasing, real wages are falling and precarious labour and different forms of debt are increasing. Banking is becoming concentrated and housing is being priced out of reach for lower strata incomes.

        Nuclear and biological/chemical weapons are also signs of regression in global politics.

        I suppose this may depend on how high you rate the right to peace and to decent work and housing actually is.

        • spangled drongo says:

          “If I was taking data on progress and representing it as “the world” surely the obligation is on the author of this thesis to range sufficiently broadly.”

          That likewise applies to a critic, blith.

          I doubt if anything you said was right.

          The third world have never been better off, food wise, for their burgeoning populations, China and India are going gangbusters, Indigenies are being treated better than they ever have historically by their occupiers, weather and climate are greening the deserts and producing record crops, real wages world wide are increasing enormously, banks are more govt supported and are not going broke as they have done in the past, leaving populations penniless and considering the 1,000% population increase since the Ind Rev, housing is coping better than ever.

          Nuclear weapons have prevented WW3 and bio/chem weapons were used more a century ago than today [a lot closer to home].

          Nobody has the “right” to any of the above improvements, it just happened mainly through the pressure of free markets and the capitalist system.

          You failed to mention the absolute genocide that really happened when the now-recurringly-fashionable-and-green-inspired-neo-Marxism was seriously applied.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Bazza, again, this set or remarks is better handled in a longer essay. The world is getting crazier? In fact, it seems to be improving steadily. You are probably watching too much TV and reading gloom-and-doom papers — and listening the ABC, which does see the world through dark glasses.

          • Bazza says:

            My son shared an online subscription to the Australian this year. Most often I’m so taken aback by the way the headlines are written that I don’t click to read the articles.

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Chris, why the dislike for data? You say: ‘we know that inequality in nations is increasing, species are disappearing, indigenous people are being dispossessed, GHG’s are increasing, real wages are falling and precarious labour and different forms of debt are increasing. Banking is becoming concentrated and housing is being priced out of reach for lower strata incomes.’

          Actually, we don’t know any of this, in part because it doesn’t come with any data, and in part because the terms are so broad they might mean anything. Which indigenous peoples are being dispossessed? Where? Over what period of time (one must assume you think this process is getting worse)? Banking is getting more concentrated? Is this global? Or are you only thinking of Australia, which has dozens of banks, even though the Government has a
          ‘four pillars’ policy which in effect guarantees the big four (and those who have shares in them, meaning superannuation funds).

          Nuclear weapons? Rosling shows that the number of nuclear warheads has come down from 64,000 in 1986 to 17,000 in 2017. Still a lot, but it really is plain silly to say that things are worse.

          And so on. Don’t you take notice of data? Plainly you don’t want to hear about the findings of the book, let alone read it yourself.

          • Chris Warren says:


            You can look up data on the Rohingya and spread of Jewish settlements easily enough.

            You can look up data in Thomas Picketty too.

            Nuclear threat comes from rogue nuclear states such as Israel, Iran and North Korea plus new strategic doctrine from Trump. It is not based on numbers of missiles. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock was moved to 2 a half minutes to midnight in 2017 largely due to Trump and then, in 2018, to 2 minutes to midnight thanks to North Korea.

            You can easily find data on species decline.

            ILO and ACTU have produced data on falling wages and you can access ABS data.

            Increasing concentration is a general global tendency and is not restricted to banking.


            You can easily get data on global debt levels.

            GHG’s are increasing and the data is easily accessible.

          • spangled drongo says:

            Don’t you luv the blitherer logic of including Israel, a lone democracy in a desert of dictatorship, with the bully-boys of totalitarianism.

            Says it all about the rest of his argument.

            And what we all need to be very aware of is the propensity for modern communication philosophy, media and general information to supply ever-increasing data on the negative aspect of Rosling’s theory.

            IOW, all the bad news and none of the good.

            As instanced by Don A’s comment below.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Bryan, people are living longer, babies are growing into adults, there is less hunger and less poverty. We should be worried about these changes?

    I repeat what I wrote above to Bazza. Rosling’s point is that, notwithstanding the frequent cries that everything is going to hell in a hand-basket, there has been steady improvement in the lives of people over the last hundred, fifty and thirty years. He does not say, and nor do I, that there may not be challenges in the future. If you agree with Chris, you might like to join him in finding good data to show the opposite of Rosling’s general thesis. I won’t accuse you of confirmation bias (which I think pretty silly, as it happens).

    • bryan roberts says:

      I agreed that economic development had had an effect world-wide. I do not agree that everyone is better off, and happier. For a start, you might look at circumstances for the average family in Australia, which is what most people actually care about. The social compact is unravelling, as it is elsewhere in the West, we don’t have an economy worth a damn, and our political and academic elite are a bunch of prats. I would be delighted to be shown I am wrong, but you would have to work at it.

    • Bryan Roberts says:

      As it happens, there have been several articles in Quadrant and the Spectator (AU) addressing these points. At a hundred years, I accept that Rosling is right, at fifty, he is questionable, and thirty, doubtful. Don, that’s the 1990s. We can both remember that far back.

      • Don Aitkin says:

        Rosling uses official, mostly UN, global data. With respect, articles in Quadrant and Spectator do not cut the mustard.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          UN data? lol. Aren’t they the crowd that run the global warming alarmism? Next you’ll be saying you trust ‘The Conversation’.

        • Bryan Roberts says:

          I notice that you were once an avid reader of, and occasional contributor to, Quadrant.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            UN data are usually OK, as are those from the World Bank, the IMF and other international agencies. Yes, I have been a subscriber to Quadrant for thirty years or more, as I was to Meanjin and Overland. I have been published in all sorts of places, including Arena (Left), and all the main Australian newspapers. I try to keep in touch with all strains of thought in Australian politics and society. I don’t go toThe Conversation any more because I disagree with its editorial position and because there are too many trolls. And articles there are often republished elsewhere.

  • Don A says:

    Don I wonder if you have seen this tutorial from three eminent scientist who were asked by a judge in the USA to explain global warming to him.

    The Court has invited a tutorial on global warming and climate change, which is set to occur
    March 21, 2018. The Court also identified specific questions to be addressed at the tutorial. Pursuant
    to Civil L.R. 7-11, Professors William Happer, Steven E. Koonin, and Richard S. Lindzen respectfully
    ask the Court to accept their presentation (attached to this motion as Exhibit A) in response to the
    Court’s questions. The professors would be honored to participate directly in the tutorial if the Court


    This sort of thing does not get airplay or recognition, what hope is there?

    • spangled drongo says:

      When you are so worried about Ehrlichian doom, particularly if your income depends on it a la MSM, Cli-Sci etc. you can’t be claiming a non-problem and you must promote it everywhere:


    • spangled drongo says:

      Great summary:

      Overview summary
      To summarize this overview, the historical and geological record suggests recent changes in the climate
      over the past century are within the bounds of natural variability. Human influences on the climate
      (largely the accumulation of CO2 from fossil fuel combustion) are a physically small (1%) effect on a
      complex, chaotic, multicomponent and multiscale system. Unfortunately, the data and our understanding
      are insufficient to usefully quantify the climate’s response to human influences. However, even as human
      influences have quadrupled since 1950, severe weather phenomena and sea level rise show no significant
      trends attributable to them. Projections of future climate and weather events rely on models
      demonstrably unfit for the purpose. As a result, rising levels of CO2 do not obviously pose an immediate,
      let alone imminent, threat to the earth’s climate.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Yes, I saw it when it came out. The great difficulty for the orthodox who would like to shut up sceptics through legal processes is that the case of AGW, when examined critically, is quite weak, as I have been arguing for the last decade. That doesn’t mean that it must be wrong, but that courts (judges) are unlikely to give it the benefit of the doubt, if only because the doubt, at every level, is so strong.

  • Chris Warren says:

    A bit of data that may interest some … and a good dose of reality as well.


    • spangled drongo says:

      And where’s the other half of your “logic”, blith?

      You know, the other half that’s required to make your point.

      Doesn’t exist?

      Why am I not surprised?

  • spangled drongo says:

    Science is aware of, but doesn’t necessarily understand, “the luxury effect”:


    The ecological dynamics of cities are influenced not only by geophysical and biological factors, but also by aspects of human society. In cities around the world, a pattern of higher biodiversity in affluent neighbourhoods has been termed ‘the luxury effect’. The luxury effect has been found globally regarding plant diversity and canopy or vegetative cover. Fewer studies have considered the luxury effect and animals, yet it has been recognized in the distributions of birds, bats, lizards and indoor arthropods. Higher socioeconomic status correlates with higher biodiversity resulting from many interacting factors—the creation and maintenance of green space on private and public lands, the tendency of both humans and other species to favour environmentally desirable areas, while avoiding environmental burdens, as well as enduring legacy effects. The luxury effect is amplified in arid cities and as neighbourhoods age, and reduced in tropical areas. Where the luxury effect exists, benefits of urban biodiversity are unequally distributed, particularly in low-income neighbourhoods with higher minority populations. The equal distribution of biodiversity in cities, and thus the elimination of the luxury effect, is a worthy societal goal.


  • spangled drongo says:

    In spite of our wonderful progress through the 20th C while carrying the dead bodies of the Marxism Madness, we seem to be determined to allow bureaucratic control to immerse us in this never-ending stupidity:


  • Chris Warren says:

    Fake news from Hans Rosling –


    What the true picture is;


    However, it is still possible to see an improvement (on a world scale) as the global income Gini Coefficient has gone from 68.7 to 64.9 over 10 years.

  • Chris Warren says:

    When people start shouting “bizarre” I find they are generally protesting far too much.

    Roslings symmetrical distribution has no relationship with reality which exhibits an extraordinarily skewed distribution that can only be explained by centuries of colonial politics and emasculating Third World nations.

    In fact the so called “steady improvement” is bizarre given that in the first 10 years the improvement in Gini was 3.8 points, while the projection of the next 22 years is a much, much slower rate of 3.6 points (over this extended period). This is not steady improvement – it is declining improvement.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      I guess you are experienced in people finding your comments bizarre. No shouting, just a description. You supply two graphs that have little relationship to one another. They are drawn from different sources. The second one actually shows the improvement you are denying. Then you tell us that the improvement isn’t fast enough. Compared to what?

  • Neville says:

    The Munk debate on human progress took place in 2015 and the winners were Dr Matt Ridley and Dr Steven Pinker. Sadly you cannot watch the full debate but the four men involved were interviewed before the start and were able to state their positions.

    Ridley was brilliant as usual and Pinker’s intellect also shines through although I think his position on AGW is not supported by the evidence. Here’s the link.


  • […] commenter to my last essay thought that I had ‘a Pollyanna view of the world’. I didn’t think it was a compliment, but it […]

  • Bazza says:

    Is the world improving, or not?
    Certainly for the tech gods in Silicon Valley with their so-called utopian dreams.
    We are heading towards a dystopian future disrupted by a gig economy that no data can predict the outcome of.
    So no, I don’t think the world is improving because data has no human face and can be used selectively as Rosling did.

    • Chris Warren says:


      This depends on what you measure. If you measure;

      inequality (not between nations)
      housing costs
      wages cuts vs executive salaries
      job losses
      housing affordaboility
      GHG emissions
      debt levels
      terrorism and school shootings

      then you get a very different view to that derived by Rosling, So the question boils down to how you balance the two and whether we can allow such trends to continue forever?

  • spangled drongo says:

    We were doing well until the mindless got bored:

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