The world is getting a better place – upbeat Christmas video


If you had a time machine so you could live in any point in history, how far back would you go?

You can only use the time machine once… would you live in the Victorian age, the Enlightenment age of discovery, Tudor England…?

I wouldn’t use the time machine at all. I would want to live now because the world has never been such a good place. Not that long ago life was brutal and short for most people, regardless of where you lived.

Watch my short Christmas upbeat video here where I explain the detail behind my optimism.

🎩 Hat tip again to Our World In Data – some great charts and graphics for the curious optimist.

🎩 Another hat tip to the late, great Professor Hans Rosling, who was the master of this subject:

His 1-minute video here
His 19-minute TED talk here

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

For a transcript of my video, keep reading:

It’s Christmas and I want to end the year on a positive note and explain to people why the world is such a good place. It’s very easy to get dragged down by the headlines, so let’s look back in history, and then also look back at the last 12 months at what could have been happened.

So first off, we’re going to look at life expectancy and the shape of those lines consistently show life expectancy is improving dramatically in the last 100 years, but the laggard and a theme we will keep coming back to is Africa and the other thing to notice that slight drop at the end is COVID pandemic, but really just look at the trajectory of life expectancy everywhere and getting better.

Now child mortality is obviously closely linked to that. This is so good that I’m going to show you a video of this but just look at the picture in 1800. Life expectancy and child mortality are just terrible everywhere, no matter where you live. For this let’s start in 1900 and just look how the colours change with this video, how much lighter they get, how much child mortality is and certainly from the 1950s onwards, the only pockets left by the end a couple of years ago are in Africa. Again, not the greatest statistics to be showing you and but what I want to focus on here is that just because some places are bad doesn’t mean they can’t also be getting better. So there’s work to do there, but the picture has definitely improved.

Again, child mortality in a different way. Look at the shape of those lines, the trajectory of those going down to how much that’s improving everywhere and how low it is in Europe and America. In the shape of the lines down in China, India, but again, the laggard is sub Saharan Africa. So it’s improving but there’s still work to do.

GDP per capita, look at the key on the left-hand side, the scale, it’s a logarithmic scale, so that hides the dramatic improvement incomes over the last 100 years. But again, look at the shape and the lines and the steepness of the improvement in India, in China, in Asia. And again, the laggard, so it’s improving but there’s still work to do is Sub Saharan Africa, but just focus instead on the fact that that is improving.

Okay, so now we’re going to look at income distribution. Just like child mortality and life expectancy was bad everywhere in 1800, global incomes were low everywhere. The key line here to look at is this line here is $2 a day which in 2011 terms is the global definition of extreme poverty. So most people, anywhere in the world lived in extreme poverty 200 years ago. Fast forward to 1975, that’s a definite improvement but there’s still a lot of people in Asia and Africa below that line. Fast forward again to 2015 and again, there’s a huge improvement. A lot of people in Asia really improving courtesy, I think, of the dramatic growth in China. But at the extreme low end, on less than $1 a day, most of those people are in Africa. But look at the scale on the bottom again, it’s a logarithmic scale, so that scale from $10 to $200 really hides a dramatic improvement in all those measures in the last few hundred years.

And what else has happened in the last 12 months? Well, the Americans shot down a Chinese balloon suspected of spying on them, but then it didn’t actually collect any data. People were concerned this was going to lead to some frosty relations between America and China but that did’t happen.

Silicon Valley Bank went bust in March and dragged down two other American banks with it. Silicon Valley Bank was the third largest bank failure in American history. People were worried this was going to spread to other banks, but that didn’t happen.

Now, a few weeks later, in March, Credit Suisse had to be bought out by UBS. This didn’t help the fears of contagion at the time, but again, it didn’t happen.

FTX, the cryptocurrency exchange, actually went bankrupt in November last year, but it took until November this year for Sam Bankman Fried to be found guilty of all seven charges of money laundering and fraud. So I think cryptocurrency is still the Wild West, and that’s why everything we do is so heavily regulated because you step outside that and all manner of things can go wrong. So don’t touch cryptocurrency with a bargepole is my main thought.

The Bank of Japan have had negative interest rates for seven years. They are widely expected to creep up into positive territory next year and the market is expected to take that in its stride. So interest rates have gone up everywhere and the markets seem to be reacting well to it.

Closer to home, this is the Office of National Statistics showing unemployment in the UK it’s about 4%. So although interest rates have gone up a lot, unemployment hasn’t. It’s still about 4.2%, it’s increased ever so slightly. What companies are doing you can see here, the real drop off right at the end of the chart is the vacancies so there just aren’t quite as many jobs as advertised. But the picture is not as bad as people suspected it could have been when interest rates rose so much.

So my main message is, the world is not as bad a place as you think that might be.

And on that note, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.