I was quite taken by a recent tweet from Bill Gates. He said: ‘[T]he world is getting better. Sounds crazy, but it’s true. This is the most peaceful time in human history. That matters because if you think the world is getting better, you want to spread the progress to more people and places. It doesn’t mean you ignore the serious problems we face. It just means you believe they can be solved … This is an amazing time to be alive. I hope you make the most of it.’
Faced with political uncertainties, the refugee crisis, war, terrorism, and the growing poverty gap, it’s not easy to think of the world as getting better. Bill Gates nevertheless draws support for his optimism from the work of the American psychologist Steven Pinker, whose analysis of recent data on homicide, war, poverty, and pollution found that we are currently doing better in every one of them compared to 30 years ago.
Pinker and Gates believe that progress is about solving problems through thoughtful engagement. ‘We will never have a perfect world,” says Pinker, “But there’s no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing.’
Perhaps there’s a message there for all of us. If we are thoughtfully engaged in everything that human experience offers us, we can find hope amongst the mess and carnage that people create; and we in turn can bring hope and life to others. And as Christians, if we also recognise that God is active in the world, especially in the darkest and most painful places, then with God’s grace we can all share in the hope of salvation. And in that we should be joyful.