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Terror, catastrophe, disease, war, and natural disaster—we all see these headlines daily. So often, one comes away feeling that the world is in crisis. There are, of course, crises and calamities that deserve our attention; but they should not blind us to the abundant empirical evidence of global progress. As a foremost public intellectual will demonstrate, the data in 2018 are clear: across most every measure and all parts of the world, people are living longer, healthier, happier, and more prosperous lives. To what should we attribute these tangible improvements in the human condition, and how can we ensure that they continue?
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. He grew up in Montreal and earned his BA from McGill and his PhD from Harvard. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. He has won numerous prizes for his research, his teaching, and his nine books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and The Sense of Style. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and one of Foreign Policy’s “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and writes frequently for The New York Times, The Guardian, and other publications. His latest book, published in February, is called Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.