We’re told the world is getting better all the time. In January, The New York Times’ Nick Kristof explained “Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History.” The same month, Harvard professor and Bill Gates’ favorite optimist Steven Pinker lamented (in a special edition of Time magazine guest edited by – who else? – Bill Gates) the “bad habits of media… bring out the worst in human cognition”. By focusing so much on negative things, the theory goes, we are tricked into thinking things are getting worse when, in reality, it’s actually the opposite.
For the TEDtalk set, that the world is awesome and still improving is self-evidently true – just look at the data. But how true is this popular axiom? How accurate is the portrayal that the world is improving we so often seen in sexy, hockey stick graphs of upward growth and rapidly declining poverty? And how, exactly, are the powers that be “measuring” improvements in society?
On this episode, we take a look at the ideological project of telling us everything’s going swimmingly, how those in power cook the books and spin data to make their case for maintaining the status quo, and how The Neoliberal Optimism Industry is, at its core, an anti-intellectual enterprise designed to lull us into complacency and political impotence.
Our guest is Dr. Jason Hickel.