If you try to tell the average person that the human race is better off now than ever before, you’re liable to be attacked – if not physically, then at least verbally. For whatever reason, people prefer to feel miserable. They prefer to believe Armageddon is just around the corner, that moral values are degenerating, violence increasing. Newspapers and magazines print ten times as much bad news as good news, and they do so for a reason: people will pay for the privilege of living in a cloud of gloom and doom.
Someone has to deal with the day-to-day bad news. That someone ain’t me. Instead, I prefer to be a bad citizen. I avoid news shows, news websites, and newspapers. I cancelled my long-running subscription to National Geographic because they seemed incapable of writing a happy article. Even the rare piece about a positive development invariably had a sour note thrown in.
While some of the bad news from today will have a lasting impact, most of it won’t. Few people can recall more than a handful of tragedies from ten or twenty years ago, never mind fifty or five hundred years go (hence the belief that things are getting worse). Similarly, in ten or twenty years, most of the events that dominate today’s headlines, that lead people to walk about hunched over waiting for the sky to fall: most of that will also be forgotten by all but historians and those with eidetic memories.
These days, the only periodical I read is the journal Science. They too are susceptible to printing the occasional National Geographic article. For the most part, though, what shows up, as the name implies, is scientific research. Never mind that I understand one word in ten. What matters is that each issue (there are 51 a year) shows our expanding knowledge of the universe. Here are brilliant people working hard to make the future a better place. A place where there are fewer diseases, less poverty, less hunger, cleaner energy, cleaner water, safer automobiles.
Not only are the scientists and technologists working for a better tomorrow, they are succeeding. The long lists of names on those articles, the range of organizations and countries represented: all that shows the depth and breadth of the culture of advancement. While few of these people or their discoveries will make headlines, their work will have lasting value, and will touch the lives of more people – and in a positive way – than any number of bad people with assault rifles.
This is why (sorry to sound a discordant note) the future is looking brighter every day.