10 reasons 2016 is the best time to be alive, according to an economic globalisation expert

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baby mom swinging ocean playing laughing happy Flickr/Chimothy27 2016 is the best time to be born in all of human history so far, according to Johan Norberg.

If you closely follow the global news cycle, you would be forgiven for believing that we are diving head first into an apocalypse. Crises in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine; terrorist attacks across Europe and the Middle East; mass shootings and police violence in the US; and frequent natural disasters everywhere else have left many calm, rational people in a state of fear.

Only 4% of Brits and 6% of Americans believe that the world is getting better, according to polling by YouGov .

But despite this universal sense of dread, humans are actually more safe, wealthier, healthier, more free, less hungry, and more literate than ever before, Johan Norberg argues in his book Progress, which is published on September 1 .

Norberg, an author and lecturer in economic globalisation, says that the key reason we are so anxious about the state of the world is that we are sharing information so much more quickly through 24 hour news channels and the internet.

When a natural disaster or a mass murder happened in a foreign country in the past, we would not read about it in a newspaper until a week later. "By then it would be solved, it would be over," Norberg told Business Insider. "We would be sad about it, but then we would turn to the next page."

"Now we can see what is happening live, we don't know how things will end. " he added. "That triggers our fight or flight instincts - it gives us the sense that everything is falling apart in the world right now."

Norberg explained that this sense of doom is misplaced. He gave 10 reasons for why 2016 is actually the best time to be alive.

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1. There are much fewer hungry people in the world.

1. There are much fewer hungry people in the world.

One of humanity's most basic needs is food. Without sufficient calories on our plates, all of our other desires become unimportant. As recently as the 18th century, 20% of people from England and France had access to so few calories that they were physically unable to work, Norberg writes in his book, which led to people being short, stunted and unhealthy.

While malnutrition is still a serious problem in parts of Asia, Africa, and Latin America, we have seen a rapid fall in the percentage of people affect within the last few decades. In 1992, 19% of the world's population was undernourished, but this has fallen to 11% in 2016.

The proportion of people worldwide who are undernourished has dropped from 50% in 1945 to just more than 10% in 2015.

The proportion of people worldwide who are undernourished has dropped from 50% in 1945 to just more than 10% in 2015.

2. More people have access to clean water than ever before.

2. More people have access to clean water than ever before.

"Food is not enough to sustain life," Norberg said. "A lack of sanitation and clean water has historically led to the most suffering and early death. That’s now been taken care of."

From the end of the 19th century, many wealthy cities began building up-to-date sewer and water systems. This reduced mortality rates in these cities by more than 40%, Norberg explains in his book. Poorer countries were not able to take advantage of effective sanitation until the late 20th century, but when they did, the progress was rapid. 2.6 billion people have gained access to safe water supplies since 1990, according to Norberg.

More than 90% of the world's population now has access to safe water.

More than 90% of the world's population now has access to safe water.

3. We are staying alive, on average, for much longer.

3. We are staying alive, on average, for much longer.

Those in the older people who are nostalgic about the past ought to be thankful that they are still alive, according to Norberg's findings.

As recently as 1900, worldwide average life expectancy was just 31. Now it has sky-rocketed to 71.

"Nothing happened in life expectancy for 100,000 years and then in 200 years we’ve doubled it," Norberg said. "It continues to outperform what all the scientists expected."

Life expectancy has doubled in the last 100 years.

Life expectancy has doubled in the last 100 years.

4. The proportion of people in extreme poverty has shrunk.

4. The proportion of people in extreme poverty has shrunk.

While Norberg admitted that economic inequality has grown in recent times, with a tiny group of billionaires owning a greater share of the world's wealth than ever before, in absolute terms, everyone is a whole lot wealthier.

In 1820, 94% of the world's population lived in "extreme poverty," according to Norberg. Now that figure is less than 11%. Moreover, much of that improvement has taken place in recent years. Every day between 1990 and 2015, 138,000 people were lifted out of extreme poverty.

"We live in a remarkable time," Norberg wrote. "Never before has the world seen such a dramatic poverty reduction."

Now fewer than 10% of people live in extreme poverty.

Now fewer than 10% of people live in extreme poverty.

5. Despite what it feels like, there is much less violence in the world.

5. Despite what it feels like, there is much less violence in the world.

One of the most counterintuitive claims in Norberg's book is that we live in less violent times than ever before.

While tragic wars in the Middle East and elsewhere rage on and dominate our news headlines, there are actually fewer people killed in these conflicts than in the wars of previous generations.

"We have probably never lived in such a peaceful era as the one right now," Norberg said. "One of the reasons for this is that we’ve moved from the culture of 'honour,' where we constantly defend our honour and the family’s honour by being violent."

The murder rate in Europe has dropped from a peak of more than 40 per 100,000 people in the 14th century, to one per 100,000 today.

The murder rate in Europe has dropped from a peak of more than 40 per 100,000 people in the 14th century, to one per 100,000 today.

6. We are making progress in reducing pollution and protecting the environment.

6. We are making progress in reducing pollution and protecting the environment.

Norberg's next claim is perhaps even more surprising.

"If you look at the leading pollutants that we worried about in the 1970s — those which pollute our rivers and forests and so on — they've been reduced by something like 60% since the 1970s," he said. "We've reduced the amount of oil spilt in the ocean by 99% since the 1970s."

However, the fact that we are more environmentally friendly than we were in the 1970s does not mean that we have dealt with the problem of global warming.

"That’s absolutely right, but, when it comes to industrial pollution, that’s a modern phenomenon," Norberg responded. "We mus not forget that when we are creating these problems we are often solving other problems which are worse for mankind."

Pollution has more than halved in the UK since 1970.

Pollution has more than halved in the UK since 1970.

7. The world is getting more literate every day.

7. The world is getting more literate every day.

One area it hard to deny that we have made progress in is literacy. The percentage of people able to read and write has quadrupled from 21% in 1900 to 86% in 2015, according to Norberg's data.

But, in recent years, since the spread of the internet and rise of social media, more people have begun using writing as a tool for communication than ever before.

"Just a few gens ago very few people wrote more than the odd letter," Norberg said. "Now we all write."

The percentage of people who can read and write has increased from 12% to nearly 90% in the last 200 years.

The percentage of people who can read and write has increased from 12% to nearly 90% in the last 200 years.

8. Individual freedom and democracy has spread.

8. Individual freedom and democracy has spread.

Another big gain for humanity in recent years has been the increase in freedom and democracy.

While slavery and human trafficking still exists in crime syndicates and the underworld, just 200 years ago it was legal in many countries. The global slave trade began shrinking when it was abolished in all British colonies 1834 and has since been made "formally banned everywhere," Norberg said.

Alongside the abolition of the slave trade, the world has become much more democratic. In 1900, no countries in the world gave each and every citizen one vote. Norberg writes:

"By 1950, the share of the world population living in democracies had increased from zero to thirty-one per cent, and by 2000, increased to fifty-eight per cent, according to Freedom House, the civil liberties watchdog."

Legal slavery has transitioned from being the norm to unheard of since 1800.

Legal slavery has transitioned from being the norm to unheard of since 1800.

9. Societies are more open to all genders, races and sexual orientations than ever before.

9. Societies are more open to all genders, races and sexual orientations than ever before.

"We do complain about bigotry when its out there but that's because we are most sensitive to it," Norberg said. "One of the reasons we are so sensitive to it now is because it is no longer generally acceptable."

The rights of ethnic minorities, women, homosexuals, and transgender people were almost unheard of in even the freest western democracies 100 years ago, Norberg argues. For example, in 1900, only New Zealand gave women the right to vote.

While huge progress has been made in giving equality of rights to all people, Norberg admitted that there was still a long way to go.

More than 180 countries give women the vote in democratic elections.

More than 180 countries give women the vote in democratic elections.

10. The next generation will have it even better.

10. The next generation will have it even better.

Norberg's final reason for why 2016 is best time to be alive is that things are looking even brighter for the next generation.

The rate of child labour is constantly dropping (from 168 million in 2012 to 245 million in 2000). In turn, rates of child death are falling, and education is rising. Moreover Norberg argues that the number of people who own smartphones (soon to be three billion) will have a profound impact on the people's breadth of knowledge.

Nevertheless, Norberg does not see progress as inevitable.

"If people don't understand the progress we have made, if we don't understand the alternative to the kind of open liberal societies that we live in, then there’s a huge risk," Norberg said. "We could throw it away, in exchange for the temptation of any kind of demagogue who promises us anything in return for our liberties."

Only around 10% of 15-17 year olds work.

Only around 10% of 15-17 year olds work.
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