For many years — decades, maybe? — it seems like we’ve all been in a rush to be done with the previous year and to get on with the next. This year doesn’t feel much different, especially at the global level.
In politics, authoritarianism continues to rise, and global alliances continue to fracture. In technology, we continue to make systems that are exploitable by those that want to bend the world to their will. And, we still can’t manage to decide what we’re doing about climate change, even though we’re unquestionably into uncharted territory now, except for all the people that still consider it an open question which is a whole different problem.
Yet, despite the potential for despair, the central message of Hans Rosling’s Factfulness book is what’s on my mind right now:
It turns out that the world, for all its imperfections, is in a much better state than we might think. That doesn’t mean there aren’t real concerns. But when we worry about everything all the time instead of embracing a worldview based on facts, we can lose our ability to focus on the things that threaten us most.
As a species, we know more about everything than we ever have. We can find and use facts to advance ourselves. We have better tools than ever. Science works, even as it helps us discover and leverage things that are stranger and more amazing than ever. Shit in the world is getting real, but we’ve got more tools to bring to bear on it than ever before. We just have to do it.
For the new year, I hope that all of us do a better job using facts to figure out what is really important to focus on and then to bring the willpower to follow through.