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The world in 2015: winter is coming…

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Now for the good news: things really are getting better | Steven Pinker

It takes a streak of foolhardiness to answer the question “What are you optimistic about?” Because any response would seem to taunt the fates to prove one wrong. But in 2007 I took the bait and ventured that every form of violence, when measured objectively, was in decline – a claim I buttressed with 100 graphs in my 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Friends advised me I was setting myself up for embarrassment: a war with Iran, a contest over oil, or a nuclear terrorist attack could erupt any day. And wasn’t I even a bit superstitious about the impending centennial of the first world war?

Though I was documenting the past rather than prognosticating, a decade’s worth of new data provides a chance to calibrate our understanding of global trends. In the early 21st century did a bunch of undulating curves fortuitously scrape bottom? Or, as I argued, was something systematic going on?

To any headline-clicker, the answer is obvious. The year 2015 began with the Charlie Hebdo massacre and proceeded to a failed ceasefire in Ukraine, atrocities by Islamic State, and a human catastrophe in Syria that has spilled over Europe’s borders.


Graphic evidence: Steven Pinker’s optimism on trial

Every year the eminent psychology professor updates the 100 graphs that appeared in his 2011 book The Better ­Angels of Our Nature, showing that every form of violence is in decline. Here are his latest findings.

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