The Edge, an online magazine devoted to the Third Culture, asks a big question each New Year of its contributors, who read like a roll call of the brightest people on the planet. This year’s was:

"What are you optimistic about?"

One of the contributors, psychologist Steven Pinker, points out that sadism and violence in human beings has shown a steady decline (with a few zigzags along the way, obviously). Thiis is backed up by this statistic from another contributor, curator of the TED Conference Chris Anderson:

Percentage of males estimated to have died in violence in hunter gatherer societies? Approximately 30%. Percentage of males who died in violence in the 20th century complete with two world wars and a couple of nukes? Approximately 1%. Trends for violent deaths so far in the 21st century? Falling. Sharply.


I’ve singled out these two contributors, but really, the whole thing is worth reading. I will return to some of the other points raised in the responses in future – there’s so much there!

Warning – if you’re easily upset by cruelty you may want to give the Pinker article a miss, as he mentions (in the first paragraph) some rather distressing stuff that used to happen.

What Pinker’s optimistic about
What Anderson’s optimistic about

Mankind is getting less violent

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