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#MustRead: Steven Pinkers “Enlightenment Now"

February 15, 2018

[ Non-billionaire readers have to wait until the end of February for the new book written by Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker. Microsoft founder Bill Gates has already read "Enlightenment Now" and declared it as his new favorite book. A reason for us to look closer at the book.

 

It's not the first time that the billionaire has raved about Pinker: As the Microsoft founder wrote on his blog, that he has considered his work for years "The Better Angels of Our Nature" (German Version: "Violence: A New History of Humanity") as the best book he has ever read. In this work, the Canadian psychologist has argued that humanity is currently living in the most peaceful phase of its history. Gates says he has "never read a clearer explanation of progress".

 

But Pinker's new book "Enlightenment Now" is even better. The new work will continue the argument of the last book, and intertwines  the discussion of violence with fifteen other indicators of progress, such as quality of life, knowledge or security.

 

The result: it's "like better angels on steroids":

"Steven's new book tells us we're living longer, with greater wealth, peace and equality, and less racism and sexism. It's so counterintuitive to the feeling in the air. What's the value in correcting that? Will it change behavior? ", Says Gates.

 

Especially impressive are the facts that Pinker uses for his argument: in 2014, one US citizen had to spend one and a half hours a week washing his clothes. In 1920 it was still eleven and a half hours. That may seem trivial at first - however, the rise of the washing machine saves almost half a day a week, which can be used for other activities, such as "for the binge-watching of television series to establiched a company".

 

Overall, he mostly agrees  with the author, writes Gates further, although Pinker is somewhat optimistic about artificial intelligence applications. The author gathers the super question of who controls the robots at the end - a topic that also his billionaire colleague Elon Musk dedicates.

 

For such inconsistencies in detail, is Gates still "glad, that we have brilliant thinkers like Steven Pinker to help us see the big picture."

 

"You can say the same fact two ways. Extreme global poverty has been reduced from 90 percent 200 years ago to 10 percent today. That’s great! Or you can say: More than 700 million people in the world live in extreme poverty today. They’re the same fact, and you have to be able to describe them to yourself both ways", so Pinker.

 

An interesting "Table for Three" conversation that the New York Times has had with the two can be read here: http://nyti.ms/2nxpreh

 

And for all the impatient among you: Bill Gates offers a trial chapter on his website for download:

Downloadlink Enlightenment Now

 

We are curious in anyway and have a look at the book! ]

 

 

 

 

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