Smile! There are several reasons to be optimistic about our world

Breaking news: We are safer than ever before, and we're becoming richer and healthier too. However, newspapers don’t tend to report good things. Overall, it’s bad news, and then more bad news, with a pinch of disastrous news. But there are, in fact, many things to be optimistic about.

“Now is the best time, pretty much. Those who think the past is better have not read enough history,” according to Elon Musk of Tesla fame. “I think a lot of times people are quite negative about the present and about the future, but really if you are a student of history, when else would you really want to be alive?”

Bill Gates agrees, “The world is getting better, even if it doesn’t always feel that way.”

Extreme poverty, victims of war and child labour are down. There are fewer famines and the number of deaths from natural disasters is lower than it used to be. We don’t really see this because, for stories to be ‘newsworthy’, they must usually be bad.

But here are some reasons to be happy about the world:

Many countries and individuals are richer:

According to the World Bank, more than a billion people have moved out of extreme poverty since 1990. (The World Bank defines “extreme poverty” as living on less than $1.90 per person per day).

And the Legatum Prosperity Index tells us that in the last 10 years, prosperity has improved in 148 countries out of the 167 it surveys.

Countries considered ‘bad’ are getting better:

The Economist picks a ‘country of the year’ each December. This is, in the Economist’s view, the most improved country that year. In 2020, the prize went to Malawi, in southern Africa, where both democracy and respect for human rights improved, according to the think-tank, Freedom House.

Global middle class is larger than ever:

The middle class are people whose income falls in a bracket that allows them to spend money comfortably on things like food, housing and entertainment.

About half of the world’s population can now be considered middle class. In the US for example, middle class income is between $45K and $137K, according to the Pew Research Centre in Washington DC.

There continues to be inequality within countries but nevertheless, the middle-class portion of the global population is rising. Additionally, about half the people on earth now live in a democracy – which was just a distant dream for most of history.

Less wars:

In Western Europe, there has been no war or major conflict since the Second World War. And leading countries that don’t always see eye to eye, such as the USA and China, don’t want a war. Historically, the world’s two most powerful nations have frequently resorted to armed conflict, but thankfully lessons have been learned from the past.

More intelligence:

Global IQ scores are rising by 3 points each decade. We are getting cleverer and this is largely thanks to better nutrition, a better environment (allowing brain development) and better education.

It seems that Bill Gates has a valid point when he says he is, “optimistic about the future because [he knows] that advances in human knowledge have improved life for billions of people, and [he is] confident they will keep doing so.”

Recommended links:

Here are six reasons to be optimistic about 2020 (

Musk, Gates and Buffett say now is the best time to be alive (

Seven reasons why the world is improving - BBC Future

Book Review: Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman | LSE Review of Books

Pew Research Center | Pew Research Center