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Podcast: The case for global optimism with Steven Pinker

Two smiling young women wearing headscaves | GZERO World with Ian Bremmer the podcast


Listen: War in Ukraine. Global poverty on the rise. Hunger, too. Not to mention a persistent pandemic. It doesn't feel like a particularly good time to be alive. And yet, Harvard psychologist Stephen Pinker argues that things are getting better today than ever across the world, based on the metrics that matter. Like laundry.

In 1920, the average American spent 11.5 hours a week doing laundry (and that average American was almost always a woman, dudes just wore dirty clothes). By 2014, the number had dropped to 1.5 hours a week, thanks to what renowned public health scholar Hans Rosling called "greatest invention of the Industrial Revolution”: the washing machine. By freeing people of washing laundry by hand, this new technology allowed parents to devote more time to educating their children, and it allowed women to cultivate a life beyond the washboard.

The automation of laundry is just one of many metrics that Pinker, uses to measure human progress. But how does his optimistic view of the state of the world stack up against the brutality of the modern world? Ian Bremmers asks this "relentlessly optimistic macro thinker" to share his view of the world on the GZERO World podcast.

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