Switching from one year to the next often brings waves of general optimism for a ‘clean slate’, usually quickly followed by despair as bad things continue to happen. With freezing temperatures in the US and sweltering ones in Sydney, coupled with a dose of White House ridiculousness, 2018 has already had a fair share of not-great things.
But Microsoft co-founder and philanthropic billionaire Bill Gates has rallied against any melancholy New Year feelings some might be experiencing, penning a piece for Time magazine that continues his overall positive vibe from the end of last year (with the notable omissions of seals to smooch).
Citing US hurricanes, nuclear tensions, and civil wars in Syria and Yemen, Gates says it “may feel like the world is falling apart”.
“But these events — as awful as they are — have happened in the context of a bigger, positive trend. On the whole, the world is getting better,” he writes.
Gates’ view is backed by data. He draws on global statistics for the number of children who die before their fifth birthday, which has been cut in half since 1990, and the number of people in poverty, which is down to a 10th of the global population, compared to a third in 1990.
“Women are gaining political power and now make up more than a fifth of members of national parliaments — and the world is finally starting to listen when women speak up about sexual assault,” he says.
“More than 90% of all children in the world attend primary school. In the US, you are far less likely to die on the job or in a car than your grandparents were. And so on.”
Gates encourages people confronted with shocking or negative news to use it as a force for change or to support those who make change. This is how the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was started, he says.
“If you’re shocked by the idea of millions of children dying, you ask: who is good at saving kids, and how can we help them do more?” he says.
To this extent, Gates views some modicum of bad news as a good thing, saying change comes when people have something “to be mad about”. But that anger needs to be balanced by upsides as when you can see good things happening and change occurring, “you can channel your energy into driving even more progress”.
Gates was guest editor for the most recent edition of Time, which he says will be a “crash course on why and how the world is improving”.
“I hope you’ll be inspired to make it even better,” he says.
I was excited when @TIME asked me to serve as its first guest editor. I asked some of the people I respect most to write about what makes them optimistic. I hope they inspire you, too: https://t.co/PlQu9kSHh6 pic.twitter.com/XhdocOGRpi
— Bill Gates (@BillGates) January 4, 2018
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