THINK:ACT MAGAZINE "OWN THE FUTURE"
It’s time to revisit the Enlightenment ideals
Steven Pinker weighs in on big data, health and social advancements and finding solutions in reason
with Steven Pinker
Experimental psychologist and social researcher Steven Pinker thinks it's time we revisit the ideals of the Enlightenment. Here he answers three questions concerning humanity's long-term advancement.
The state of global affairs has some feeling like we are entering humanity's end days. In his new book "Enlightenment Now", Pinker details why this thinking is incorrect and why now more than ever we must all vigilantly defend the values of reason, science and humanism.
How will big data continue to change our world?
Our decisions will be more based on reality. Any judgement under uncertainty is fallible, but human intuition is a low bar – one of the most robust findings in psychology is that humans predict outcomes less accurately than even simple algorithms.
Is it true? Have we really never had it so good?
In most ways, yes. We are healthier and longer-lived. We are better educated, less poor, more peaceful and more democratic. We are safer, less sexist and less racist, better socially connected and have greater access to knowledge and culture.
Do you think the values of the Enlightenment can prevail?
They can, although that does not mean they will – they need a constant defense against the darker side of human nature, with its tribalism, authoritarianism, magical thinking and zero-sum mindset. Gut instincts are fine for personal tastes, but for business and political policies, and for living a wise and satisfying life, reason is superior. That, perhaps, is the most important lesson of the Enlightenment.
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- Photos Laif/Redux/Bryce Vickmark; Laif/Redux/Bryce Vickmark; Illustration: Sasan Saidi; Francesco Ciccolella; Kyle Dorosz; Jörn Kaspuhl; Jim Stoten/Bernstein/Andriulli