Short Book Summaries

Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress | Steven Pinker

The Enlightenment gave birth to a renewed focus on science,  reason and human flourishing. Scientific improvements in agriculture created less famine and reduced poverty, war and autocracy. Scientific progress and trade amongst countries have lead to astonishing wealth growth. Within the last 200 years, global poverty decreased from 90% to 10%. We have greater global longevity, health, nutrition, peace, freedom, human rights, and tolerance — even in autocracies. Though inequality persists, greater state social spending offsets it. And increases in wealth, not changes in inequality, better predict increased human flourishing. “As people are getting healthier, richer, safer, and freer, they are also becoming more literate, knowledgeable, and smarter.” Yet news thrives on negativity, and humans have a bias towards thinking the average lives of others are markedly worse than our own (and in the US, we’re generally satisfied with our own). This feeds a negativity loop that drives apocalyptic thought. If we appeal to reason and science,  though, progress will march forward, and humanity will continue to flourish as it has since the Enlightenment.

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