The future is unknown. Except for some opinion leaders, like Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist. He says the world will get better and better, and violence will fade away. He uses historical data and says people are controlling their murderous urges. We see riots, mafia and terrorism, but they kill less people. Even wars are less deadly. The scientist thinks brutality is a sign of backwardness, which is losing to rationalism, liberalism and other ideals of his favorite era - the Enlightenment, which is returning. Pinker foresees improvement in every area. We will be happier, healthier, smarter and more respectful of human rights. Inequality, hunger and illiteracy will vanish. We will also solve the climate crisis. The American luminary seems to promise us everything, from the resurrection of Elvis Presley to smarter TV talk shows.
Pinker uses historical data, but not all of it. History also shows that progress can be reversed. It happened to the Romans, who gave us many wonders, when their civilization collapsed in the fifth century. Literacy vanished in Britain. Life expectancy dropped to 32. Beautiful villas were replaced by huts. As for violence, any excuse will do and men in suits will hang, whip and burn witches, as Willy Russell wrote. Killer instincts gone? Really? Look what Russians do to Ukrainians and admit that such talk is bullshit.
And yet we at Diligo believe in a better world. Not because of historical statistics, but because of technologies that can create it. Need to rebuild a coral reef? 3D printing is the solution. Excess carbon dioxide causes global warming? Cloud computing can reduce CO2 emissions by 60 million tons per year, which would be equivalent to taking 22 million cars off the road. The fight against hunger is another example. Thanks to data analysis and precision agriculture equipment, more food can be produced, using less water, land, energy and pesticides. In the field of education - internet communicators allow to conduct remote lessons and lectures, which gives a chance to acquire a profession or finish studies also for less privileged individuals. Finally, health care - telemedicine, e.g. diagnostics with the help of a smartphone, eliminates the need to travel to medical facilities, which is especially important for poorer and communication-excluded people.
Pinker’s assurances of a better world lull us into complacency. Instead of listening to him, let’s start acting. Technology allows us to shape the future. We can’t predict it, but we can influence it. Technology makes life better or worse. It can be a friend or an enemy. Let’s choose.