This is the Best of Times

If you could go back to any time period in history to go live and raise a family, which would you pick?  Ancient Rome?  The renaissance? The 1950’s?  Any of these choices would be terrible compared to the time period we are living in right now.  That isn’t to say there aren’t some redeeming qualities about those time periods, but if you look at it objectively, there’s no contest:  This is the best of times.


Never in our history has there been less violence, less poverty, less hunger, and less sickness.  Never in our history has there been more wealth, more opportunity, and more inclusion.  Some people would argue that this is the most divisive, most dangerous, most unequal time in our history.  Those people don’t know history very well.  Any careful examination of the facts destroys that narrative at once.  There are certainly still so many problems that we have, and our room for improvement is infinite, but compared to any other time period in history, we have come so far.


That is not to say that the problems we have are not serious.  We are a highly imperfect species.  I am reminded of this constantly when I log into Twitter.  Read the comments on any Facebook news story, and you will be reminded of how far we have to go.  As with any period of progress we can experience significant growing pains.  I recently read John Mauldin’s series of articles called Angst In America (check his website here, and the first article in the series here), and they outline areas of genuine discord and pain in our economy and our social fabric.  But despite all the bad news, this is still the best time to be alive.


What about the robots coming to steal our jobs?

In the year 1900 the single most popular job was household help.  That job was completely disrupted by washers, dryers, dishwashers, and other household appliances.  Today, the top job is truck driver.  Will that profession get disrupted by autonomous vehicles?  Quite possibly.  There may be a machine that takes all the coffee shop baristas out of work as well.  But history has taught us that the benefits of technological advancement have always outweighed its costs.


Won’t those miserable millennials muck things up?

The knock on the millennials is that they are entitled little brats who don’t know how to work.  While I have certainly met a few of that variety, I can also say that I have met plenty more who work harder and smarter than any of their older counterparts.  I have been so impressed by some of the talent and dedication of these people.  I don’t know how people can interact with some of these young, ambitious, professionals and not have the utmost in confidence for our future.


What about global warming?  Resource depletion?  Threat of nuclear war?  Aren’t we at the edge of self-destruction?

The end of the world has been, and always will be, right around the corner.  However, in the race between human ingenuity/technological advancement and global destruction, I’ll bet on the humans every time.  We managed to land a man on the moon using slide rules and pocket calculators for heaven’s sake.  We have enough solar energy hitting the Earth to power the entire globe 10,000 times.


Isn’t terrorism and violent crime out of control?  Is it even safe to go outside?

Even though we still have far too many atrocities and acts of terror being committed, the average global citizen has the lowest probability of dying a violent death than at any other time in history. Military activity levels are down around the world, as is violent crime.  There will always be human beings with the capacity to commit unspeakable evils, but the evidence suggests that on the whole we are getting better.  Even in Chicago, where the murder rate is still embarrassingly high, it’s half of what it was in the 80’s and early 90’s.


So, the next time you turn on the news or scroll through social media and feel depressed, knock it off.  Turn off the television or set down your mobile phone and remember that the this is the absolute best time to be alive in the history of the world.  You are expected to live longer than your parents and much longer than your parents’ parents.  Not only that, but more of your life is expected to be lived relatively healthy as well.


Sure, people who are more pessimistic are viewed as being wiser and more trust-worthy, but I refuse to jump on that band wagon.  I just read a post from Morgan Housel called The Seduction of Pessimism where he explains this very phenomenon.  Despite what the sandwich board wearing doom-sayers proclaim, it is easier to be a downer.  It’s easier and it’s more popular to be a buzz-kill.  Remember high-school?  No popular kid went around saying, “I feel really great about that last exam.  I think I nailed it!”  It was always cool and easy to say, “ah man, that test is going to be a bummer.  I’ll be lucky to get a C”


But don’t fall prey to that negativity.  This is an amazing time to be alive, with opportunities abound.  Sure, there are challenges, but the exciting thing is that we all have a chance to do incredible things.  We all have a super computer in our pocket which can connect you to all the world’s collected knowledge.  Do you remember the South African kid who invented waterless showers just through research done on his smartphone?  What an incredible sign of the times.


And while tomorrow is never promised, I am willing to bet that life will be better in 10 years than it is today, and will be better still in 20.  Progress marches on my friend – and this is the best time ever to march with it.


Until Next Time

“…when I contemplate the immense advances in science, and discoveries in the arts which have been made within the period of my life, I look forward with confidence to equal advances by the present generation; and have no doubt they will consequently be as much wiser than we have been, as we than our fathers were, and they than the burners of witches.” – Thomas Jefferson