ABOUT THIS EPISODE

The Enlightenment worked, says Steven Pinker. By promoting reason, science, humanism, progress, and peace, the programs set in motion by the 18th-Century intellectual movement became so successful we’ve lost track of what that success came from.
Some even discount the success itself, preferring to ignore or deny how much better off humanity keeps becoming, decade after decade, in terms of health, food, money, safety, education, justice, and opportunity. The temptation is to focus on the daily news, which is often dire, and let it obscure the long term news, which is shockingly good.
This is the 21st Century, not the 18th, with different problems and different tools. What are Enlightenment values and programs for now?
A psychology professor at Harvard, Steven Pinker is the author of: Enlightenment Now (2018); The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011); The Blank Slate (2002); How the Mind Works (1997); and The Language Instinct (1994).
English
United States

TRANSCRIPT

00:00:01I'm stewart brand This seminar about long term thinking is brought to you by the long now foundation If you would like to see high quality videos that the talks in the siri's including this one they're available online for long now members at long now dot or ge I'm
00:00:21stewart brand from the long now foundation I want to see it work to about our speakers book something i've come to admire and even require and stuff that i'm going to spend the whole bunch of time reading or even listening to is density I want a lot of
00:00:44insight a lot of news a lot of meat per paragraph in the book and that's Relatively uncommon But this is about a third of the way through enlightenment Now you see you have a dog here just about every page And that's because the density of insight and originality
00:01:09and serious news is that thick in this book And what will your tonight is not the book The book has a whole lot more than what steve khun say in the course of an hour on the half hour conversation So let me introduce the speaker to the introduction
00:01:31to the late night now steven pinker Hey Thank you so much What an honor it is to be speaking at the long now and to be introduced by stewart brand From time to time we all ask cem deep and difficult questions Why is the world filled with both
00:02:02How can we make it better How do we give meaning and purpose to our lives Well as imponderable as these questions may seem there are some people with confident answers to them For example morality is dictated by god and holy scriptures When everybody obeys his laws the world
00:02:24will be perfect For example problems or the fault of evil people who must be shamed punished and defeated Our tribe should claim its rightful greatness under the control of a strong leader who embodies it's authentic virtue In the past we lived in a state of order and harmony
00:02:44Until alien forces brought on decadence and degeneration We must restore the society to its golden age Well what about the rest of us Many people know what they don't believe in but what what do we believe in in enlightenment Now i suggest that there is an alternative system
00:03:04of beliefs and values the one that we associate with the eighteenth century enlightenment in a nutshell that we can use knowledge to enhance human flourishing Many people embrace the ideals of the enlightenment without being able to name or described them As a result they faded into the background
00:03:23as ah bland status quo or the establishment Other ideal ideologies have passionate advocates and i suggest that enlightenment ideals to need a positive defense and an explicit commitment and that's what i've tried to do in enlightenment now enlightenment ideals i suggest revolve around four themes reason science humanism
00:03:45and progress Let me say a few words about each It all begins with reason And with the understanding that traditional sources of belief our generators of delusion faith revelation tradition authority charisma mysticism intuition the parsing of sacred texts are always of being wrong Uh reason in contrast is
00:04:11non negotiable as soon as you try to provide reasons why we should trust anything other than reason as soon as you insist that you are right that other people should believe you that you're not lying or full of crap You've lost the argument because you have appealed to
00:04:27reason human beings on their own are not particularly reasonable cognitive scientists have shown that we are liable to generalize from anecdotes to reason from stereotypes We seek evidence that confirms our beliefs and we ignore evidence that disk confirms them and were overconfident about our knowledge our wisdom and
00:04:48our rectitude But people are capable of reason if they adopt certain norms free speech open criticism and debate logical analysis fact checking and empirical testing Which brings me to the second enlightenment Ideal science science is based on the conviction that the world is intelligible and that we can
00:05:10understand it by formulating possible explanations and testing them against reality Science has shown itself to be our most reliable means of understanding the world including ourselves on important enlightenment Theme was that there could be a science of human nature and that beliefs about society are testable just like
00:05:29any other beliefs about the world Science moreover provides not just technical know how but fundamental insights about the human condition naturalism The laws of the universe have no goal or purpose related to human welfare which means that if we want to improve that welfare we have to figure
00:05:49out how to do it ourselves Entropy in a closed system without input of energy disorder increases things fall apart Stuff happens and that's because they're vastly more ways for thanks to go wrong than to go right Evolution Humans are products of a competitive process which selects for reproductive
00:06:10success not for well being As immanuel kant put it out of the crooked timber of humanity No truly straight thing can be built The third enlightment value is humanism that the ultimate moral purpose is to reduce the suffering and enhance the flourishing of human beings and other sentient
00:06:29creatures well human flourishing who could be against that well in fact there are alternatives to humanism It is by no means a trite or banal moral commitment for example there among the alternatives are that the ultimate good is to enhance the glory of the tribe the nation the
00:06:48race the class or the faith to obey the dictates of the divinity and pressure others to do the same to achieve feats of artistic or marshall or hero greatness to advance a mystical force a dialectic or struggle or pursuit of a utopian or messianic age Humanism is feasible
00:07:09because people are endowed with a sense of sympathy an ability to show concern for the welfare of others Another recurring enlightenment theme no by default our circle of sympathy is rather small We tend to feel the pain on ly of our genetic relatives are friends our allies cute
00:07:28little furry baby animals and that that's about it But our our circle of sympathy can be expanded through forces of cosmopolitanism the mixing of ideas and people such as education journalism mobility Art On reason As soon as i enter into a conversation with you i can't insist that
00:07:52my interests are special just because i'm me and you're not and hope for you to take me seriously Finally this leads to the enlightenment ideal of progress that if we apply knowledge and sympathy to reduce suffering and enhance flourishing weaken gradually succeed Well you may ask if human
00:08:13nature doesn't change How could progress even be possible And an answer from the enlightenment is through benign institutions that allow us to deploy energy and knowledge to combat entropy that magnify the better angels of our nature like reason and sympathy while marginalizing our inner demons are biases are
00:08:34illusions are tribalism our thirst for dominance and vengeance Examples of institutions that were brainchildren of thie enlightenment that we continue to enjoy our democracy Declarations of rights markets organisations for global cooperation and institutions of truth seeking academy's scientific societies free press lecture siri's and others So two hundred
00:09:04fifty years later how did that lightman thing work out Well if you ask most intellectuals the answer is not very well because i have found that intellectuals hate progress And intellectuals who call themselves progressive really hate progress It's Not that they hate the fruits of progress mind you
00:09:27Most members of the clarity would still rather have their surgery with anesthesia rather than without it It's The idea of progress that rankles thie chattering class If you think we can solve problems i have been told that means you have a blind faith and a quasi religious belief
00:09:45in the outmoded superstition of the false promise of the myth of the onward march of inevitable progress You are a cheerleader for vulgar american can do is um with the rah rah spirit of boardroom ideology silicon valley at a chamber of commerce you are a practitioner of wig
00:10:08history a naive optimist eh polly anna and of course a pam gloss alluding to the voltaire character who declared all us for the best in the best of all possible worlds Well penkala says it turns out was a pessimist are true Optimist believes there could be much better
00:10:24worlds than the one we have today But this is all irrelevant because thie question of whether there has been progress is not a matter of seeing the world through rose colored glasses or having a sunny disposition or seeing the glass as half full it's an empirical hypothesis human
00:10:41wellbeing could be measured life health sustenance prosperity peace freedom safety knowledge leisure If they have increased over time i submit that is progress so let's Look at the data beginning with life the most precious resource of all for most of human history Life expectancy at birth hovered around
00:11:04thirty years of age but then with the discovery of vaccination sanitation antibiotics and other advances in public health and medicine Life expectancy across the world has increased so that today it is seventy one years and virtually no one guesses that it's that high As with many examples of
00:11:25human progress the development has been highly uneven Across the regions of the world Europe was the first region to escape early death followed by the americas In the twentieth century asia has shown spectacular increases and most recently africa has begun begun to close the gap Thier life expectancy
00:11:48in europe is greater than eighty years But in all regions of the world life expectancy at birth is increasing Indeed in kenya life expectancy has increased by ten years in the last ten years which means that a for kenyan citizen every year he would get a year older
00:12:08but not approach death at all Uh child mortality in for most of human history the greatest reducer of life expectancy was death in fragile children Even in sweden which today we think of as the world's most one of the world's most advanced countries in seventeen fifty one third
00:12:33of swedish children did not make it to their fifth birthday That was reduced to a third of a percentage point That is one hundred fold decrease again Other regions of the world got a later start but followed the same trajectory Here we have canada in north america south
00:12:53korea In asia chile hit latin america and ethiopia in sub saharan africa which has reduced its rate of child mortality from twenty five percent to six percent still too high But the progress is continuing In the eighteenth century one percent of swedish women dial died in childbirth That
00:13:15has been brought down by a factor of two hundred fifty two point double o four percent on a similar progress was that experienced in the united states in malaysia And here we have ethiopia health for the greatest proximate cause of death for most of human history was infectious
00:13:35disease that is largely eliminated as a cause of death in the developed world in the developing world it is still a major killer but tremendous progress has been made there Just in the last twenty years the rate of childhood deaths from the five most deadly infectious diseases has
00:13:53all been in decline Pneumonia diarrhea malaria measles and hiv aids sustenance It takes about twenty five hundred calories to sustain a ah an active adult male on average And it was only with the british agricultural revolution in the second half of the eighteenth century that the first country
00:14:16was able to exceed that measure Thanks to advances in agronomy like crop rotation later to the invention of synthetic fertilizers the mechanization of agriculture the selective breeding of vigorous hybrids and networks of transportation every region of the world has developed the ability to feed itself Here you have
00:14:39the graph for the world as a whole Now this would be a dubious form of progress if all those extra calories we're just making fat people fatter but in fact they have greatly reduce the rate of undernourishment In nineteen seventy about thirty five percent of the developing world
00:14:56was undernourished That has been cut Down to less than fifteen percent Again the spread of that progress has been uneven Latin america was the first region in the developing world to decimate undernourishment who you have three regions in asia and here is progress in sub saharan africa Also
00:15:17thanks to the availability of calories famine which was one of the horsemen of the apocalypse could strike any continent and cause sudden devastation has been reduced And famines today are found mainly in war torn and remote regions Prosperity For most of human history there was little to no
00:15:39economic growth This graph shows the gross world product from the year one to the year two thousand fifteen And as you can see not much happened until the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century and there's been a two hundred fold increase in gross world product since the early
00:16:00eighteenth century Again they're the progress has been highly uneven The uk was the first country to make the what angus deaton calls the great escape from universal wretchedness and poverty The united states quickly exceeded it Here we have south korea in asia chile and china and india are
00:16:22now showing exponential growth They gross the gdp per capita in india today is about what sweden had in nineteen twenty Once again this would be a dubious example of progress if all of the gains went to the one percent richest But in fact they have drastically brought down
00:16:42the rate of extreme poverty dollar ninety per person per day in two thousand fifteen dollars the bare minimum necessary to feed one's family By that definition about ninety percent of the world's population was extreme extremely poor two hundred years ago that has been brought down to less than
00:17:00ten percent on dh there's been a seventy five percent reduction in the rate of extreme poverty Justin's nineteen Ninety nine because poor countries are getting richer faster than rich countries air getting richer the the index of international inequality as inequality between countries has started to decrease unnecessarily increased
00:17:24during the industrial revolution when some countries broke away from the pack of aa universal poverty But now more recently the tide has begun to turn now within rich countries Of course inequality has increased but that does not mean that developed countries have turned their backs on the poor
00:17:45in recent years Quite the contrary For hundreds of years no european or developed country spent more than one point five percent of its gdp on regis redistribution toothy pour the aged children the sec But in the course of the twentieth century every developed country embarked on a massive
00:18:06a program of redistribution so that today the median among countries in social transfers is twenty two percent Thanks largely to these transfers the rate of poverty in the united states has decreased even as inequality has increased in nineteen sixty the poverty rate when it's calculated as disposable income
00:18:28that is after taxes and transfers was thirty two percent That has fallen to seven percent and when poverty is measured in terms of consumption What people can afford to buy It's gone from thirty percent no less than three percent Peace for most of human history war was the
00:18:48natural state of relations between our countries and peace was a mere interlude between wars You can see this in this graph which plot's thie percentage of years that the great powers of the day the eight hundred pound gorillas the empires and states that could project military force beyond
00:19:06their borders were at war with each other in the fifteen hundreds and sixteen hundreds of the great powers were pretty much always at war Today they are virtually never at war The last great power war pitted the united states against china sixty five years ago If we zoom
00:19:24in on the twentieth century then of course two of the wars that did occur were horrific bloodbaths But thanks to after the second world war thanks to expanding economies denser commercial relations between countries on dh norms against conquest and thie changing of borders by force the rate of
00:19:50death in wars of all kinds has skittered downwards There were peaks for the korean war the vietnam war the iran iraq war and most recently the syrian civil war But the rate has come down from twenty to one hundred Thousand per year in the late forties and early
00:20:07fifties to about nine during the vietnam era to about five during the iran iraq war to one point two today Freedom and rights there has been recently conspicuous backsliding in democracy in countries like russia and turkey and venezuela But still the overall trend in governance has been towards
00:20:32democracy As this graph showing the relative democracy versus autocracy score across the world shows that even with the back sliding in democracy of recent years thie world has never been more democratic than it has been in this decade and less that's strike you as incredible Keep in mind
00:20:52that in two hundred years ago the number of democracies in the world could be counted on one hand and embraced one percent of the world's population As recently as the early nineteen seventies the world only had thirty one democracies Half of europe was behind the iron curtain and
00:21:07under the control of communist totalitarian dictatorships Spain and portugal were literally fascist dictatorships Greece was under the control of the colonel's a military junta Almost all of latin america was under the control of military governments Taiwan a south korea Indonesia all military governments all and all of them
00:21:30today our democracies there were about fifty two democracies Sorry about fifty two democracies in nineteen eighty nine eighty seven In two thousand nine the first year of the obama presidency went by the time obama left office there were one hundred three democracies in the world comprising fifty six
00:21:49percent of the world's population Also the power of governments to brutalize their citizens is being curtailed Capital punishment used to be pretty much ubiquitous across countries and it was applied to trivial misdemeanors like shoplifting and poaching often in grizzly toward public torture executions like disembowelment and that burning
00:22:14at the stake But beginning with the enlightenment and swelling to a flood in the twentieth century country after country has abolished the death penalty If current trends continue the death penalty will vanish from the earth by twenty twenty six Also more and more countries have decriminalized homosexuality again
00:22:33There has been backsliding in russia and several african countries but overwhelmingly the trend is towards decriminalization child labor In eighteen fifty thirty percent of english children were sent to work on in farms and factories with thie growth of affluence A premium that modern economies put on education and
00:22:56in general evaluation of the lives of children The rate of child labor has plunged in england in the united states even more dramatically in italy And it's come down in the world as a whole on accomplishment for which kailash security won the nobel peace prize three years ago
00:23:15Violent crime pretty much any region of the world in a state of anarchy suffers from high rates of interpersonal violence Records for homicide go back in europe some almost eight hundred years and in thirteen hundred in western european countries had a homicide rate of about thirty three per
00:23:35thirty five one hundred thousand per year With the consolidation of centralized states and kingdoms across the medieval patchwork of baroness and thief's the rate of homicide came down in england and the netherlands from thirty five to one A similar reduction in italy and pretty much any part of
00:23:55the world in which frontier regions come under the control of the rule of law will see a transition from high rates of violence to relatively low ones as the code of vendetta and a culture of honor is replaced by a court system in the rule of law it
00:24:15happened in later in colonial new england It happened in the american wild west when the when the sheriff's came to town and even countries that remain notorious for their high rates of violence such as mexico have seen a fivefold decline of violence from what it was seventy or
00:24:33eighty years ago we zoom in on the last fifty years we see that the united states which as with many measures of human flourishing is something of a an outlier among western democracies way punch below our wealth in measures of human well being And in the united states
00:24:50and another western countries there was something of a crime boom in the nineteen sixties but starting in nineteen ninety to the united states brought its rate of homicide down by more than half and the world as a whole has reduced its homicide rate by about thirty percent Just
00:25:06in the last twenty years There is a plan from the university of cambridge of how the world could reduce its homicide rate by fifty percent in the next thirty years and that's quite a feasible goal Other kinds of violent crime have also been in decline The domestic violence
00:25:24is just violence against wives and girlfriends Rape and sexual assault are down seventy five percent since the records were first kept in the nineteen seventies Children are safer there safer from violent victimization at school including bullying and safer from physical abuse and sexual abuse by caregivers in fact
00:25:42we've been getting safer in just about every way thanks to advances in safety technology and cars like seat belts and air bags Thanks to the design of better highways and more consistent enforcement of traffic laws the chance of being of being killed in a car accident has fallen
00:26:02by ninety six percent in the last century We are eighty eight percent less likely to be mowed down a sidewalk ninety nine percent less likely to die in a plane crash fifty nine percent less likely to fall to our deaths ninety percent less likely to drown ninety two
00:26:20percent less likely to die by fire Fire departments by the way are putting themselves out of business ninety two percent less likely to be a suffix e ated However there is one category of accidental death that has gone the other way That is the category called poison by
00:26:37solid or liquid And here you see the results of the american opioid epidemic At the same time we're ninety five percent less likely to be killed on the job on what about the acts of god the droughts floods wildfires storms volcanoes landslides media or strikes Earthquakes thanks to
00:26:59more resilient infrastructure better early warning systems and better emergency responses where ninety six percent less likely to be to die in an act of god presumably not because god has become more merciful Oh god indeed i think about the quintessential act of god the everyone's favorite metaphor for
00:27:20unpredictable date with death The literal bolt from the blue Yes we are ninety seven percent less likely to be killed by a bolt of lightning Knowledge We are naturally illiterate And even in early modern europe no more than fifteen percent of thie pop population could read and write
00:27:46European countries achieve universal literacy by the mid twentieth century Germany a little bit later Here you see italy the united states chile and mexico Here you have the trajectory for the world as a whole showing that today eighty percent of the world can read or write and ninety
00:28:03percent of the world under the age of twenty five not just boys but girls In seventeen fifty on lee six girls could read a right for every ten boys and that gender parity was achieved in the late nineteenth century The world as a whole is very close to
00:28:23gender parity in literacy Even the most backward parts of the world Pakistan and afghanistan have shown dramatic increases for which we can thank the other winner of the nobel peace prize in two thousand fifteen malala yousafzai And in perhaps the most incredible example of progress of all the
00:28:45one that diff diff i cz belief that people their jaws dropped we have been getting smarter This is true in a well documented effect known as the flynn effect i q scores all over the world have increased by three points per decade for a century a gift of
00:29:05thie spread of education but also of the trickling down of abstract concepts and visual symbols from technical domains like science and technology to everyday experience We'll have these games improved our quality of life In many ways they have in eighteen seventy The typical work week in the united
00:29:31states and western europe was greater than sixty two years That has fallen by twenty two hour sixty two hours per week That isthe that's followed by twenty two hours a week And in addition most american workers get three weeks of paid vacation thanks to the universal penetration of
00:29:49running water and electricity and to the adoption of what used to be called labour saving devices like washing machines vacuum cleaners refrigerators dishwashers stoves and microwaves Thie amount of our life that we lose to housework has fallen from sixty two hours a week to less than fifteen hours
00:30:11a week That is from about eight hours a day to two hours a day And when i say we i really should say women because house work is highly gendered given that housework is the activity that people rate as thie least favorite way to spend their time This
00:30:26itself is an enormous gain in quality of life thanks to shorter workweeks and less time lost the housework Leisure time has increased by about eight hours a week Just since nineteen sixty five The game for women started to level off around nineteen ninety five and i was puzzled
00:30:46by this graph and read the fine print on the tables and the reason for the leveling office that women are spending more time with their children So eh a single working mother today spends more time with their children than a married stay at home mom did in the
00:31:01nineteen fifties so forget the stereotypes from leave it to beaver Now is the time when women are spending more time with their children We also forfeit less of our paycheck to necessities from sixty percent a century ago to less than a third today hasn't made us any happier
00:31:21It's often said that money can't buy happiness but that's not exactly true If you look at a graph of self rated life satisfaction as a function of gdp per capita on a log rhythmic scale you see there's actually a pretty strong relationship both within across countries as indicated
00:31:43by the scatter plot of points and within countries as indicated by thie arrows impaling each point again it's a log rhythmic scale which means thie relationship starts to bend over when you get to higher income levels But what this graph suggests is that as countries get richer as
00:32:04all countries they're doing their citizens are likely to get happier And indeed the world values survey has sound that in forty five of the fifty two countries they have tracked eighty six percent happiness as increased over the last forty years has it come at the expense of the
00:32:21environment And the answer is it surely has although that is starting to turn around According to a report card given to countries called the environmental performance index one hundred seventy eight out of one hundred in eighty countries have shown improvements in environmental quality over the last few decades
00:32:41I'll just show you a snapshot of what's happened in the united states since nineteen seventy thanks to the the year of the formation of the environmental protection agency thanks to legislation that regulates pollution and to pollution control technology while the american population has increased by forty percent gdp
00:33:02has increased by a factor of two and a half We've driven twice as many miles but the five major air pollutants have been reduced by sixty percent So the idea that is ah conventional wisdom both on the extreme libertarian right and in the extreme green left that we
00:33:21have to choose between economic growth and environmental protection It turns out to be false Deforestation in temperate regions of the world has fallen to zero as forests or no longer cleared for farms and abandoned farms are in fact being re colonized by temperate forests The situation is not
00:33:44as rosy and when it comes to tropical forests where there is still alarming deforestation But the tide has turned and the peak for deforestation was more than forty years ago and it has come down since nineteen seventy The world has shipped twice as much oil by sea but
00:34:03has had eighty five percent fewer oil spills and the amount of the earth's surface that's protected against economic exploitation has doubled from eight percent to fifteen percent while the amount of the world's oceans that air protected has also doubled from six percent to twelve percent Well i hope
00:34:21to have convinced you that that progress is not a matter of having a sunny disposition but it's an empirical fact Aunt how is the fact of human progress reflected in the news Well i'm gonna show you a graph that uses the technique of sentiment mapping that tallies the
00:34:41number of positive versus negative words in a sample of new stories going back to nineteen forty five when it comes to the new york times During this era of increasing peace prosperity and happiness the new york times has gotten glover and glamour and that is true of a
00:35:00summary of the worlds broadcast as well which has become increasingly morose So why do people deny progress Part of the answer comes from cognitive psychology Amos tversky and daniel kahneman have shown that the human brain tends to estimate risk and probability via a shortcut They call the availability
00:35:21heuristic namely thie more easily We can recall examples from memory the more uh common We think an event is for people for example think that tornadoes kill more people every year than asthma attacks whereas it's drastically the other way around presumably because tornadoes make for great television and
00:35:41asthma attacks Not so much Indeed if you combine the availability here stick with the nature of news recalling that news is about stuff that happens not stuff that doesn't happen You never see a journalist saying here i am reporting live from a country that is not at war
00:36:00or a city that has not been attacked by terrorists also news is about sudden events not gradual changes As thie economist rack max rosa points out the news could have reported had run The headline one hundred thirty eight thousand people escaped from extreme poverty yesterday every day for
00:36:21the last twenty five years but they never ran that headline leading to the story In the hypothetical story in the onion cnn holds morning meaning meeting to decide what future should panic about for the rest of the day You combine the availability here stick with the nature of
00:36:44the news and you get the impression that the world is getting more dangerous and always has been there's another feature of our psychology that predisposes us to pessimism about the world called the negativity bias that bad is stronger than good We dread loss is more than we anticipate
00:37:01gains We dwell mohr on what could go wrong then what could go right especially recent bad events Bad events that in distant memory tend to lose their negative coloring Explaining an observation by franklin pierce adams that nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad
00:37:22memory The negativity bias also opens up a market for doom sayers and profits to remind us of hazards we may have overlooked As a result pessimism often sounds serious Optimism sounds frivolous As morgan household a financial writer Point out pessimist Sound like they're trying to help you optimists
00:37:45on like they're trying to sell you something There's also a status competition among elites society is divided into different professional guilds and clubs with different responsibilities for making the society run To complain about modern society is a back handed way of putting down your professional rivals It's a
00:38:07way for academics to look down on business people for business people to look down on politicians for political challengers to look down on incumbents and so on This has been going on for quite some time as thomas hobbes said in this in the seventeenth century competition of praise
00:38:25incline a story reverence of antiquity for men contend with the living not with the dead Let me end with three questions about progress on enlightenment you might think isn't it good to be pessimistic too Ah flick the comfortable to break the mark to speak truth to power Well
00:38:45not exactly it's Good to be accurate Of course we must be aware of problems and suffering and injustice where they occur But it's also important to be aware of how they could be reduced There are dangers too Thoughtless pessimism such as fatalism Why throw good money after bad
00:39:05Why throw money down a rat hole The poor will always be with you Why waste time and money on a hopeless cause Indeed if we are doomed as many profits remind us then we should just enjoy life while we can since there's nothing we could do teo forestall
00:39:21that Do eat drink and be merry for tomorrow we die It can also open the door to radicalism If every institution is in irrevocable decline If the society is degenerating fast and on the verge of collapse well that opens up calls to smash the machine drain the swamp
00:39:43burn the empire to the ground under the expectation that anything rising out of the ashes has got to be better than what we have today or to empower and aspiring demagogue who promises on ly I can fix it Is progress inevitable Well of course not Progress does not
00:40:04mean that everything gets better for everyone everywhere all the time That would be magic not progress Progress consists of using knowledge to solve problems and problems are inevitable Solutions create new problems which have to be solved in their turn Also the world can always be blindsided by nasty
00:40:25surprises and i've mentioned a number of thumb the world wars the nineteen sixties crime boom aids in africa the american opioid epidemic and there are severe global challenges that we have not solved foremost among them being climate change and the risk of nuclear war I think it is
00:40:45best to see these not as apocalypse is in waiting but as solvable but as yet unsolved problems weaken address climate change by attempts to de carbonized our economy via carbon pricing and low zero and negative carbon technologies and to pursue denuclearization via international stability which would make nuclear
00:41:09weapons ah needed obsolete anachronistic and programs of arms reduction Just a couple of hints that these are not vain utopian hopes is the fact that in some ways they have already begun there's a natural arc in modern economies Toward omitting less co two per dollar of gdp Ah
00:41:35here we have a graph for the uk showing that as the uk underwent the industrial revolution it admitted far more co two as large amounts of coal were burned to power the industrial revolution But then there was a transition from coal to oil from oil to natural gas
00:41:55from on then to renewables and nuclear energy and hydro which has resulted in less coatue being emitted per ah unit of wealth The us underwent the same transition china did with huge spikes from the maoist era where people were forced to set up backyard smelters that it'd vast
00:42:16amounts of co two zero economic output And but it it it started to come down as it has for india and the world is a hole Now i have to emphasize this does not mean that the climate will have a soft soft landing Those figures have to go
00:42:31down to zero which is on extraordinary challenge but it shows that economies are not inherently tied to flaming carbon Um the major fact about nuclear weapons is that no nuclear weapon has been used in war since nagasaki More than seventy years ago And there is a something like
00:42:52a a taboo against the use of nuclear weapons even least so far including tactical nuclear weapons and there's been a ah massive reduction in the size of the world's arsenal at least so far on eighty five percent reduction since the height of the cold war in the nineteen
00:43:11eighties Indeed about ten percent of american electricity is generated from fuel nuclear fuel from spent nuclear weapons In i bailey soviet more generally progress is not a mystical force but it depends on embracing the ideals of the enlightenment namely applying reason in science to enhance human flourishing If
00:43:36we continue to apply these principles than progress could continue and if we don't it may not Final question Does the enlightenment go against human nature as some romantics and defenders of religion insist it's humanism just too arid or tepid or flat to satisfy human needs is the conquest
00:44:00of disease famine poverty violence and ignorance boring Do people need to believe in miracles A father in the sky a strong chief to protect the tribe Myths of heroic ancestors Well it's not so clear Secular liberal democracies turn Out to be the happiest healthiest places on earth probably
00:44:22in the history of our species and they're the top destination of people who vote with their feet Also i don't dare say that applying knowledge and sympathy to enhance human flourishing is he relic glorious maybe even spiritually This is a heroic story that is not just a myth
00:44:42It is true or true to the best of our knowledge which is the only truth we can have Also it is a heroic story that doesn't belong to one tribe but to all of humanity to any a sentient being with the power of reason and the i drive
00:45:00to persist in its being because it depends on leon the convictions that life is better than death health is better than sickness Abundances betterthan want freedom is better than coercion Happiness is better than suffering and knowledge is better than superstition and ignorance Thank you very much Thank you
00:45:26Right My first note says Remember dimension post show book sales Thank you out there You haven't mentioned trump except by and sort of inference but sensei his mentioned you bought quite a lot and you see me saying that one of the ways these various success curves khun b
00:46:05reverses the policies of my administration You want to fill that out of it Yes uh well i uh i face a challenge in writing a book on progress that came out in after two thousand sixteen What we after two thousand sixteen doesn't look like so much progress And
00:46:22i got i got conflicting advice Some people said oh he's just a blip Progress is going to continue You want your book to be relevant long after he's left the stage bill mention him Your mother said well you should after every measure progress that you document you say
00:46:39but this has threatened if donald trump gets his way So i uh i didn't follow either bit of advice but i did try to put the trumpism in perspective in a couple of ways One is first of all it is undoubtedly true that all of almost all of
00:46:57the measures that i ah attributed progress too are really under threat from from trump's Policies thie international community of both of commercial connections through trade and strong international norms and associations like like like the u n like the ability to impose sanctions to countries that violate the taboo
00:47:23against conquest are threatened The regulations that have made technology safer that have allowed environmental protection to environment to be protected as thie economy has grown a reliance on science and evidence both as a way to expand extend the human life span and to implement policies like crime reduction
00:47:48that air driven by evidence we act eagle hunt they really are threatened It isn't just the standard liberals discussed with donald trump i pinpoint why each one of these causes of progress really really has been threatened So question is is for one thing Does that mean that trumpism
00:48:09and authoritarian populism or generally are the wave of wave of the future So have we was progress nice while it lasted but the enlightenment is over and i the park's gonna be turned back Well i mean you know no one knows but there are some reasons teo think
00:48:25not that's a little premature to declare the enlightenment dead among them Are that a lot of thes processes are trends that have been in progress for for decades It seems unlikely that they will suddenly do a u turn for what that's worth including just the political on dh
00:48:46sentiments toward liberalism One graft i chose not to show tonight comes from the world values survey and it looks at attitudes of tolerance women's rights political democratic political party participation and every region of the world they've been going up since nineteen sixty s So that's more than more
00:49:09than fifty years big differences across regions but with the middle east to north africa the world's least liberal region and western europe most But there has been a steady increase in every region of the world This is driven by urbanization by education by connectivity forces that air themselves
00:49:31not likely to stop overnight Also if you look at the age distribution of support for populism i have a graph that shows thie degree of support for donald trump in two thousand sixteen brexit in two thousand sixteen and european populist parties over the last fifteen years and they
00:49:50all kind of fall off a cliff is a function of age now people contrary To the old cliche that if you're not a liberal when you're twenty you have no heart If you are a liberal when you're sixty you have no head attributed to many people that that
00:50:06turns out to be false People basically carry their liberalism with them as they age which suggests that populism miss something of ah middle agent old man's movement and the demographics are likely to push it against it of related demographic question is immigration is a big event especially in
00:50:24europe north america are immigrants more liberal or what It depends a lot of the immigrants and in and in fact some of the rise of populism is do not teo i think a retreat from enlightenment values but to the specific incident of huge waves of immigration from parts
00:50:43of the world that are the least liberal middle east in north africa often not assimilating quickly and bringing a lot off counter enlightenment values with um such as we were just fundamentalism and oppression of women and there has been a backlash against that massive immigration that has empowered
00:51:04some of the right wing populists in europe of the other the one thing i do in dealing with populism and trump is amiss to note that this is actually not the first time that enlightenment values have been resisted even though it it sounds like an oxymoron to talk
00:51:22about the intellectual roots of trumpism But and at first i thought that that trumpism was just pure it just streaks of human nature from of authoritarianism tribalism demonization that you always pushed back against enlightenment And i think there is something to that I think the white mage is
00:51:46not so cognitively natural Tribalism really is a recurring motive but there actually is Trump was advised by people like steve bannon michael anton steve miller who consider themselves intellectuals They are considered themselves well read and they were influenced by counter enlightenment political thinkers and philosophers by crackpot french
00:52:12and italian fascists from the nineteen tens in the nineteen twenties from friedrich nietzsche who has a rabidly counter and like and figure And pretty soon after the enlightenment unfolded there was a resistance movement kind of romantic counter enlightenment nationalist tribal ist blood and soil devaluing the individual in
00:52:36favor of the culture the tribe the land the bloodline and it gained a sentence At various times of european history especially in central europe around the time of world war one world war two it was in a bay it's after world war two because the world sort of
00:52:53saw what it leads to and but but it does tend to bubble up and that's what we've been seeing i think with with authoritarian populism a couple questions about the research that what we just saw her flex craig ass how do you perform your research to ensure the
00:53:10statistics use aren't affected by an implicit bias toward data that shows positive progress And i would add to that i can't believe you did all this research So you say a little bit about how you accumulated the material is behind these graphs which is you know that yeah
00:53:28meat of what you have here from various places I was assisted greatly by a couple of new websites that have popped up that are kind of data aggregators Max rose er's website our world in data stupendous source of data because not only are there graphs but you can
00:53:49download them and linked to the a rich original source of each one ofthe often united nations organizations thie food and agricultural organization the world health organization the world bank there's another one by marrying toupee called human progress dot or ge there's hans and ola rose ling's website gap
00:54:09minder So that was a kind of portal into some of the standard data sets and others i found from various sources by off if i read a large number of books by experts in the particular domains and would go to their references and follow up on there data
00:54:28sets And i don't think any of the any other sources that eye sight are particularly controversial in terms of their their direction that iss you could quibble about exact values but but i would be surprised if any of them were were not the consensus huffy academic experts in
00:54:50each field So i think it's pretty well established among historical criminologists for example that there's been a massive reduction homicide since the middle ages I think craig's question is sort of how do you defeat your own confirmation by us Well if by looking at curves to go in
00:55:07the wrong direction like the opioid epidemic like the great american crime boom and that will not just american western crime boom in the in the sixties seventies and eighties If that graph state high that would be a counter example to progress in that domain in if if the
00:55:25graph for deaths in wars was world war one and then world war two and then world war three you know that would be this confirmation so anything could be just confirmed that that's easy The fact is the grafts to go down like that i should be most actually
00:55:39if i were you i'd be welcoming anything that is sort of counter to these trends because they're so continuous widened gross and so on then anything goes against it you sort of need it in order to add some kind of plausibility Teo is two and another Another example
00:55:54for those who kind of eagle eyed very very quick grab graph spotter's may have seen a number of reversal such as the fact that the american homicide rate which fell pretty steadily from nineteen ninety two to two thousand fourteen went up in two thousand fifteen and two thousand
00:56:12sixteen i mean not didn't undo the decline but wiped out about nine years of progress and the syrian civil war represents a reversal with peak was probably the year before last let's hope but that was a we're in the wrong direction In fact in the book i have
00:56:33for grafts for violence i put a little arrow pointing to the last year of data plotted in my previous book the better angels of our nature to address the question Well did you maybe catch the world at a lucky moment and has it all fallen apart since then
00:56:52and in a couple of cases like the thea uptick in american homicide has gone in the other direction The syrian civil war again was a blip up from the low from two thousand ten so the grass could go any which way and you're right they would be if
00:57:10they all just went mon atomic lee downward that's been stressed things such lovely greedy kai from the united nations innovation lab asked where there's female impart mint leadership fit into this new era of enlightenment Yeah it's it's actually a thief But i am explored maurine the better angels
00:57:28of our nature than that in this book just the question that people often ask about violence is as women are more empowered would you expect rates of violence to go down The answer is probably yes and in the case the broader case of human flourishing Um i didn't
00:57:47comment on this but it does seem but there is a in the switch from say marshall values tribalism national glory to humanism You could say this is a kind of feminization of morality that ah world in which it's safe to bring up children you know grow up get
00:58:07an education who don't die of disease it will starve to death as opposed to the glory of the nation You could say that that's a shift from pro typically masculine to mohr feminine values And it may not be a coincidence that many of these changes have been coincident
00:58:24with the rising empowerment of women since since the nineteen seventies Also going in your world back anemia which is famously slow too feminized Well it's actually hasn't been slow to famine ice I mean there are some there is the students but how about in the power structure Um
00:58:45well not depends on the discipline Okay come from the same or i'm a psychologist Are discipline is doing pretty well for gender parity Fact my main area of specialization was language development in children which was majority female psychology is one of the more closer to closer to gender
00:59:05parity Not exactly Um and it's depending on the discipline there's a enormous difference is in the percentage of scientists who are female Okay Ah here's a livestream question from unfriend you howie livestream i recommended folks just started trying it myself and on life dream you see the slides
00:59:26barely see it in the theater and questions come to the stage So hero yes How does the balance of knowledge things were getting better and passion required to continue the trends Ah blend how do we manage to make it easier for people to be rational pessimists and optimistic
00:59:43activists is national pacifists of optimistic people serve sit back saying things you're going to be okay i had to go golf Yeah you know i don't know if that's happened In fact i'm doing planning to experiments with a student of mine jason moro teo to see whether narratives
01:00:02of decline and degeneration or narratives of conditional progress are more likely to empower people To donate effectively to charity tio bob not to discount the future as much so we don't know for sure mike Well my hunch is that there is a non optimal amount of pessimism and
01:00:26that many people are more pessimistic than the optimum And i don't know if this is true It's it's an empirical question I just know it s o you should never do this but course we all do Just for my own experience i feel i've been mohr of ah
01:00:42a donor to charities More of an activist more spoken out more since i have seen all of the ways in which humanity is has increased its human activity can pay off in things actually getting better It's not just feeling good it's not just conspicuous virtual six signaling but
01:01:04trying to make the world better mix a little better now and i i appreciate that more Have you yourself over the course of these last couple of times of research books shifted your own personal relationship You were from less pessimistic to a more optimistic absolutely and in fact
01:01:19there's a there's a paper trail because in two thousand two i wrote a book called the blank slate on the modern denial of human nature and a belief in human nature has tended to Militate toward a kind of tragic view of the human condition we're we're not angels
01:01:37We could never have a utopia On the other hand as a cognitive psychologist my view of human nature always accommodated a system of our brain that can creatively combined new ideas Someone who studies language I know that we can share our hard won wisdom through through words and
01:01:56so there is scope for human improvement even with a belief in human nature way cut off new ideas we try them we share them we keep the ones that work But i think since between writing a blank slate defending human nature and the better angels of our nature
01:02:12which was inspired by stumbling across graphs showing declines of in violence i've become mohr optimistic based on the data and mohr on i think more engaged in ineffective altruism and advocacy half our positive change well affecting this is an interesting measuring if you looked at activists across the
01:02:34board and we're sort of evaluating their effectiveness as s is activists in the domain that they care about and then measure their effectiveness as activists and at domaine against there a person is a more optimism Is anybody looking to see what makes an effective activist Is this part
01:02:54of that story that i would love to know What the answer So i suspect that that effective all activists are do have some enough at least enough optimism enough animal spirits of schemes put it to take the risks under uncertainty to make the personal sacrifices under some reasonable
01:03:12expectation that they'll return benefits to human welfare again this is speculation i think it's something that should be studied I have a question language here that you're this language guy we call it optimism and pessimism and when there's an optimist or a pessimist it's so like a communist
01:03:30and commune news and there's this a belief structure we're talking about or what Yes uh well it this guy goes back to a belief in human nature I'm virtually certain that a big chunk of differences among people in level of optimism versus pessimism is heritable justcause everything is
01:03:48is partly heritable and on and there are certain personality traits that would tend to correlate with optimism Pessimism that we know are heritable such as neuroticism which is a degree of worry and core Lady So who's More neurotic of the pessimists But your optimism that the term optimism
01:04:09i think it actually does go back to the era of live knits and voltaire and an optimist was someone who believe that this is the best of all possible worlds namely this's the optimum on ironically enough voltaire was actually not satya rising I never got that optimism which
01:04:27actually is not the way we not the way we use the word now because as i mentioned if you're really an optimist you don't think that this is the optimum heaven forbid So what I don't know where president is about to find out but in case full tear
01:04:42wasn't even sadder Rising hopes for a better future He was an enlightenment figure He was sad arising almost the opposite live minces thie odyssey according to which we have no choice but to accept the evil and violence and suffering and early death in the world because it's metaphysically
01:04:58impossible for the world to be any better than it is Because if if it could be better god would have made it better So what we have we're stuck with it's impossible for the world to be better that's what live nets had in mind on dh that's What
01:05:12Voltaire was sad arising Speaking of that there's a question from a person named anonymous Who says is there S is there a religious component from monotheism which helped or be considered helping modern enlightment in science and quality of life Well the certainly the enlightenment thinkers themselves were even
01:05:38though they many of them were not atheist Some of the more deists they believe that god kind of wild up the clock of the universe senate in motion and then let it kind of unwind by itself without any intervention None of them really appealed to judeo christian doctrine
01:05:55to justify much of anything They in fact often the enlightenment is almost defined as a abandonment of justification by scripture Dog my tradition there is a notion of progress in among religious thinkers that may have influenced the enlightenment The idea that there has been progress from at least
01:06:18among christian thinkers from the ancient hebrews to jesus the only church today if your parts into the reformation So there is that notion at least Concept of progress huh But it's ah well these churches were an institution Are they an institution in the enlightenment sense that you've been
01:06:37talking about is sort of a ameliorate er of a lot of the fragment and feudal like killing and all the rest Well some of them especially the catholic church fought the enlightenment tooth and nail just after mr for example Was argued against the abolition of torture on dh
01:06:58grizzly torture executions because people will just run wild with licentiousness if they don't have the fear of being tortured to death uh he's against reading of novels because then people would start to get ideas about non conformity so certainly that the catholic church was dead setting and actually
01:07:16in many ways continues to be and then many of our much of the what you might think of as um sort of strange opposition to enlightenment including some of the negative reviews of enlightenment now come from prom cap prominent intellectuals who would be the first to note that
01:07:37they're influenced by catholicism's such as andrew sullivan such as ross do that and there's been a queasiness among many catholic thinkers to steve bannon another a catholic thinker to the idea that on again he makes no bones about it He's hey he addressed the vatican and one of
01:08:00his most famous speeches was delivered there I'm the idea that thie individual human is thie both the locus of moral value evaluation that what's important is how happy each one of us is that the human reason is the source Of moral doctrine as opposed to something that is
01:08:21bigger than any of us in the church and the church tradition that the freedom and individual self determination have just led to licentiousness to pornography and abortion on dh divorce There has been a tension between enlightenment and at least some we were just traditions Others though have been
01:08:45influenced by the enlightenment and many religious denominations have become more humanistic more liberal Quaker ism was in some ways ahead of the curve because they were both abolitionists and pacifists in an era where not all enlightenment thinkers were and certainly most other religious denominations were not and other
01:09:04denominations mainstream protestantism the more liberal branches of judaism have i think been affected by the enlightenment tied and have backtracked from the iron age morality from the theological doctrines and have become institutions of humanism themselves You're among a sort of public somewhat aggressive atheists Ah correct aggressive I
01:09:32mean i'm i'm clear I mean i have the statement there is no evidence that god exists and i think that i think that's a true statement i don't thinks aggressive it's perceived as aggressive i think precisely because it is only by faith tribe community bloodline that you have
01:09:53beliefs almost by definition that are based on faith on dh So if you simply put those beliefs under a rational microscope it sounds like you're attacking the people who acquired those beliefs because of the community that they were born into So that's where i think the perception of
01:10:10aggression comes from even though it's just a hypothesis And you know why Why can't i say there's No evidence if there's no evidence So house atheism doing on one of your church up down Well there's there's Two different trends By the way and i have tio quote here
01:10:25bertrand russell who when he was challenged on the bicep vicar on the bbc Like what What would you say if after you die you find yourself staring the almighty in the face And he said o lord why did you not give me more evidence But back to your
01:10:47question And the large says what part of the word face do you not understand So there are there are two transiting going in opposite directions One of them is that when people shift their religious belief it is in the direction of losing their religion The fastest growing religion
01:11:12in terms of converts is no religion at all However religious people have more babies so the number of people that that are in communities of faith is increasing even though the number of people who become religious eyes decreasing The other trend that makes us overestimate the thie influence
01:11:37of religion Why many people believe that despite enlightenment hopes people are getting that religion is playing a larger and larger role aside from just sheer for thick undid e which itself may change in the future as because a lot of the trends that have reduced religion gossipy thanks
01:11:56like urbanization like like education like affluence ous those continue they also affect fertility And so it could be that the trend toward the demographic transition to lower for chip fertility may also involve secularization But together i think distorted of our perception of the role of religion is that
01:12:18religious people vote and thie and a lot of second people do not Why do Religious people vote partly their their their clergy tell them to um it may also be that may be one reason And so in fact in the two thousand sixteen election i think the voting
01:12:37rate among evangelical christians was in the ballpark of eighty percent the voting rate among so called nuns in o n e not not not that it was more like twenty five percent Now partly this is age uh there's a pretty big cohort effect for religion gossipy the younger
01:12:59the group the less religious But it may also be that whatever social cultural personality type allows you to affiliate with any institution makes you mohr engaged in the political process on that some of the nuns aren't so much kind of students of bertrand russell who figured it all
01:13:20out But they just kind of withdraw from all institutions from churches but also from the political process Okay um here's the internet question social media question justine asked How do you feel about communication over the internet It's affected our ability to have ah discourses in advancement And where
01:13:41does that fit into the story You think Yeah So that's the means of nowadays everything that goes wrong is blamed on social media right Right And you know maybe some of things that have gone wrong our fault of social media some surely are uh i don't really no
01:13:56that's i think it's too but by that i mean who cares what i know But it is not no in the sense that it's so new that i don't think there's a good body of literature on how much social media has driven the polarisation that we have seen
01:14:11a lot of it has been driven by cable news and there we do know that it has an effect just by the natural experiment that cable companies offer different menus of stations on dh fox news particular eyes sometimes introduced to one town before it's introduced to another town
01:14:31So for social slave just yes and independent very er an experiment of nature and what happens is there is absolutely an effect of fox news on voting and political opinions When fox news is introduced to a town the citizens moved to the right on dso that's not social
01:14:50media But that is an effect there's also a big effect again i don't know If if we have the social science stated to disentangle them but segregation by education on dh that more highly educated people ten toe live with one another more their patterns across urban areas vs
01:15:09suburbs of uranium saying this in san francisco it's going bloody obvious and that the like minded communities may be driven by physical proximity and by occupational segregation assigns you know as much as by social media filter bubbles There's a couple of where should we go from here Questions
01:15:30Alexander rose asks what trends or data give you the most concern Emily s where should we focus our efforts for progress in the future In your opinion Yeah well you know maybe suffered questions that may be related maybe relation Now what Where should we focus Wealthy Certainly in
01:15:49terms of actual physical threats i'm concerned about climate change I assume you are too but maybe not as much as me or mourner but i don't know you so well I think you are I'm concerned about climate change I am concerned about the low probability high damage scenario
01:16:16of nuclear war interesting still hope not because i think it's particularly likely but just because it's if it does happen it's it could be be a lot of people could be killed very quickly in the world of ideas I am concerned about the rise of authoritarian populism I
01:16:35as i said i think they're our demographic and trans air probably will prevent it from taking over But in the meantime it certainly has gained control of a number of countries I'm concerned about impediments to economic growth if b if there are uh structural brakes on growth like
01:16:58a debt like on expanding retired population supported by a shrinking working population in japan where exactly on dh one thing that surprised me as i wrote the book is how many good things come from economic growth i mentioned happiness is one but the flynn effect of rising i
01:17:19q scores is affected by how wealthy country is liberal values Richer countries in general are more tolerant more progressive more liberal least if this source of their wealth comes from knowledge and commerce as opposed to picking stuff out of the ground Because there are a number of extraction
01:17:39states particularly in the middle east arab oil states that are very rich and very reactionary But putting aside them in general wealth buys liberalism buys intelligence It buys happiness advice piece it buys democracy on average So if economic growth were to plateau than a lot there'd be a
01:18:02lot of negative consequences So that's something i think about no one question of enlightenment now new enlightenment that was then this is now you're talking about the values which were established then and that are still valid to push for what's different two hundred years long time a whole
01:18:23hell of a lot of ghana And there were still even evoking something It was basically invented over two hundred years ago Is itself strange and amazing but okay we'll go with that What is an enlightenment now made of Ah is are we just seeing this is the enlightenment
01:18:43playing out quietly behind the scenes making all these graphs go forward Eyes there's something extra special of these questions are raising that we might be doing now so that we are the volterra is indeed a rose And so on of our time what are we talking about now
01:18:58In terms of weight Well now we certainly are talking about limiting the resurgence of tribalism nationalism racialism i think that in general although i don't think that religion is necessarily incompatible with enlightenment values because religion has become more lightened but certainly fundamentalist beliefs getting your morality from scripture
01:19:25getting your theory of causation from scriptures So you're using prayer or faith as a solution to problems I think it's probably highly problematic i'll be concrete There is belief there there's a huge correlation between um utter denial of human made climate change and both right left politics much
01:19:49greater correlate correlation in a scientific literacy fact the correlation of scientific literacy is probably zero The correlation with where you are on the right left scale is very very high point eight or something or point nine and there is a correlation with with religiosity So there was a
01:20:06movement in the nineteen nineties and first few years the twenty first century toward sometimes called um stewardship of the environment on a confluence of the religious with the environmental movement i think it's called creation environ Mental is um it went by a number of names It was completely
01:20:31dashed when obama became president on the republican party vowed a principle of absolute noncooperation with anything the obama administration proposed and of course evangelical christians were locked up by the republican party And so the dream and e o wilson had ah whole book where he had a letter
01:20:52to a hypothetical minister of how they could find common cause and protecting god's gift of the environment Forget about it There was just the evangelicals became implacably opposed to any measures to address carbon emissions or environmental protection in part of it was pull show that a a a
01:21:13a large percentage of them believe god wouldn't let let any bad thing happen God would let there be climate catastrophes So this is a case in which a counter lightened belief enlightened belief could have really pernicious consequences Cancer in the sense here using concerned about climate as a
01:21:31sort of measure of enlightenment uh enlightenment actually in people in the light ones moving it would be that would be one one example but it also sounds like you're telling the outliers of this political spectrum that if there were less out lowers and more folks sort of arguing
01:21:50agreeably with each other rather than totally not listening that that's some outward movement in the right direction i would So here right Hard laughter both problems I i think so yeah thie just from just from research that shows that when people are committed to a political ideology they
01:22:14are demonstrably less rational This is been shown by a number of ways by philip tepp lock whom i've spoken the syriza shown that if you look at how accurately people predict the future you know not kind of seeing into the next century but just hold their feet to
01:22:34the fire make concrete predictions about what's gonna happen the next six months to a year the political ideology ideologues do much worse than the kind of the bz and nerds the ones who try toe assess based great probability and tweak it up or down by the evidence And
01:22:50another example is the work of the year legal scholar daniel kahan whose did a famous experiment It was reported in a number of newspapers as why politics makes us stupid or ah politics interferes with your ability to do math That presenting data too People from the hypothetical study
01:23:13where the data we're jiggered so that there was a kind of gut feeling as to what they implied whether a cosby that was wrong that is if you look at the rod numbers it would seem that a cosby but if you take a second and just do the
01:23:27proportions then you realize it's the other way around so deliberately a little bit of a trick questions that required a bit of reflection If you if it's a non political issue does this skin cream successfully treat a rash then the more numerous you are the less likely you
01:23:50are to be seduced by the wrong answer both if you're a liberal or conservative but as soon as the issue becomes politicized namely does concealed carry law increase to reduce the crime rate same numbers Then it turns out that the more numerous liberals and conservatives did worse when
01:24:08the data went against their preferred hypothesis on dso politics makes us stupid on that that's the basis my expectation that less polarization would lead to more optimal policies How does that play out in academia Know you've invaded against over politicization of who can speak on campus john i
01:24:29think it has distorted certain issues in academia That was one theme of my book The blank slate that a lot of issues in psychology i think had been distorted by the fact that certain answers were deemed politically more acceptable And there was a kind of blinkers toward data
01:24:47that contradicted it That was the theme that was then taken up by by phil tet lock again and john height and jose sort of group of order Sheen is conservative public intellectual academics You well conservative in the sense from the perspective of what i got insanely liberal what
01:25:04are we doing about it Well i prefer to be a hypothetical location called the left pole so when your you know when you're at the north pole all directions or south when you're at the left pole all directions are right So from the left pull in academia by
01:25:24that standard wait let me call the conservative about very peculiar conservative I'm one of the biggest donors among the harvard faculty to the democratic party I voted for hillary i'm really by all by no stretch of the imagination of conservative except by this peculiar the perspective of the
01:25:41left hole is that getting better on campus or worse by the way it's ah getting worse uh that many the point of the tet lock height duarte stern article was that the kind of diversity that really advances intellectual understanding and policy is diversity of viewpoint uh and that
01:26:09has been decreasing even in an era in which diversity is celebrated as the civil liberties lawyer harvey silverglate put it in modern universities the meaning of diversity is people who look different but think alike And uh so so what Heterodox academy which i'm i'm affiliated with and john
01:26:32height and others have advocated is science will advance if we have a diversity of viewpoints simply because no one is obvious isn't no one is infallible science progresses when hypotheses are floated The incorrect ones are refuted by data on if we only try hypotheses from a narrow a
01:26:55slice of the spectrum of possibilities We're probably going to be wrong a lot of the time Okay go And with nice general question from neil goldberg How do you relate Contemporary china which has made huge progress along all these measures And you would not exactly describes an enlightenment
01:27:13society So you know it's a Yeah a question that i don't know the answer But it is I think it is a profound question Certainly china as repressive as it iss on dh even more so with the announcement of a few days ago of the act removal of
01:27:30term limits for as usual it's certainly mohr has greater degree of personal freedom than it did in the air of mao on some enlightenment institutions like markets no were adopted by china to its enormous benefit in terms of prosperity Lifespan So say probably they were docking with lee
01:27:52kwan you had done in singapore That was that enlightenment to the phenomenon that we did there in one way yes and in other ways no So yes in terms of markets which was unenlightened mint innovation compared to royal charters and my candle ism and beggar like neighbor policies
01:28:11so openness to trade and to private enterprise lets a sickly and enlightenment institution But of course not democracy Another enlightenment brainchild that was not adopted So it's kind of a hybrid if i enlightenment and authoritarians institutions houses So look really final question going forward one hundred two hundred
01:28:38years since that's the frame that talking about the enlightenment sort of raises you know here's this set of ideas center practices set of traditions that have been around for a couple of centuries Do they own the next couple of centuries And if that's the case are we basically
01:28:54just looking at this trend line continuing or what What What do you see in the longer time frame you what's the long now this whole question this well uh i might copout by citing filter at locking spoken in the siri's who found that even his super forecasters the
01:29:12best of the best predictors felt a chance five years ago So i don't know i guess i guess the best i could say is that it's possible that it will continue I mean they're huge challenges climate being one of them Energy avoidance of b tail risks like like
01:29:30nuclear war but but on the other hand the process once set in motion does barring these potential catastrophes have the potential to improve indefinitely even though if it'll never bring us to utopia because of human nature crooked timber of humanity and all that stuff because solutions generate new
01:29:50problems which constantly have to be solved in their turn But still barring the unlikely but catastrophic events like it's possible that the problem would continue for centuries Let me leave you with a research question for a writer opens your next book but whatever yeah that is This is
01:30:10long term thinking actually useful or worth anything or anything other than amusing is there You know if you look back in alignment thinkers were they long term thinkers the founding fathers the us sort of war because they were actually sort of creating a society a nation and so
01:30:28on and the constitution reflection to their ideas what should be applicable for generations So it was that set You could probably say long term thinking was good for them but across the board it would be interesting to tease out in the way that you've changed out how the
01:30:47enlightenment values have played out in my play on is there any goddamn valued a long term Yeah yes but long term thinking i said i said we both agree this doesn't mean being a seer and prognosticating what will happen but rather um engaging but it's just taken responsibility
01:31:09for rather than exactly control the long term exactly I mean just as yeah i think it's actually essential to just clara clarify i think even if it isn't making confident prognostications but as a set of what if scenarios absolutely for the same reason that i don't think you
01:31:27could do history without thinking of counterfactual sze what would have happened if just because the notion of causing the fact is inherently tied to counterfactual sze of the past and then and also of the future So i think it's tremendously valuable if it's not confused with prophecy but
01:31:43it isn't prophecy it's it's long term thinking well we get neil ferguson does counterfactual among other things is in the story and speaking in the fall so i'll ask him the same question thank you for doing this The seminar about long term thinking was brought to you by
01:32:06the long now foundation You could see high quality videos that the talks online by joining long now as a member at long now dot or ge Thank you for listening I'm stewart brand

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