In this antidote to apocalyptic thinking, Gregg Easterbrook charts heartening statistics for humanity across the globe - historically lower crime rates, longer life, greater prosperity - and offers encouragement for combating remaining challenges, such as climate change.
Besides providing new ammunition for optimists, Mr. Easterbrook’s aim in this important book is to identify what we’ve been doing right and to consider what we can do about the still pressing problems we face, most notably the 'impossible' challenges of inequality and climate change—along with health-care costs, nuclear proliferation and others. These puzzles are solvable, he insists, if we make the effort ... Mr. Easterbrook wants to make optimism intellectually respectable again, and he has done so with cogent arguments and bountiful evidence. 'History is not deterministic, teleological, or controlled in any manner,' the author concludes. Yet he shows that 'history has an arrow' and—thanks to human ingenuity and effort—'the arrow of history points forever upward.'
Gregg Easterbrook’s It’s Better Than It Looks is a tour of how much better life is today — we live longer, we are richer, we are less subject to violence, we are more democratic — as well as a guide to dealing with the threats that might bring us down. He argues that fixes are available and not too hard to attain. I believe that this is more than half right, but ... There is no contradiction between having the best possible life and living on the edge of a precipice ... I found myself frustrated with It’s Better Than It Looks because Easterbrook is such an unreliable witness. Much of what he says is right, but much is not, or is wishful thinking, or sounds wildly optimistic, but does not seem to be documented and so is uncheckable. In the end, he weakens his case. If we are to persuade the skeptics that we really are better off than ever, all the facts have got to be right and demonstrably so ... Easterbrook, the author of several books, often airbrushes or smooths over history; temporary reversals are missed or their consequences minimized. This trivializes the argument that the future will be even better than the present. The past is indeed a tale of progress, but it is not a tale of continuous progress, and some of the reversals, though temporary, have been catastrophic ... progress has been interrupted by catastrophes, and we cannot soothe ourselves with the thought that the catastrophes will be temporary, even if we can persuade ourselves that temporary bumps cannot cause permanent derailment.
Countering the usual pessimism disseminated by the 'experts' and rebroadcast by the 'if it bleeds, it leads' media, It’s Better Than It Looks ably defends the view that the grand sweep of history has gone from generally bad to generally good for the vast majority of the world’s populace. Whether the book surveys global food supply, infectious diseases, the natural system, the economy, violence, technology or governance, the overall outlook consistently comes up positive, according to Mr. Easterbrook. His impressive, rather objective, amply-referenced, perspicacious analysis supports his optimism.