Are Things Getting Better?

Are Things Getting Better?by William Lee Rand
Originally published in the Summer 2012 issue of Reiki News Magazine.

When talking with people about the condition of the planet, often you get the idea that people believe things are getting worse and that we’re headed toward the apocalyptic destruction of the world or some other terrible experience. This idea is often reinforced when we watch the news as mostly what is shown are stories about wars, torture, atrocities, murders and crime as well as famines, tsunamis, earthquakes and other horrible events that are taking place on the planet. The general idea that one might get from this information is that conditions for human life are declining and that the prophecies of old concerning the end of the world are close at hand.

However, when we actually look at the facts and the numbers of these negative events and the number of people being affected, and compare them with the past, we get another picture. As I’ll explain below the world is safer now than it has ever been and is actually moving toward a global experience of abundance for all. I know you may think that these ideas are completely unfounded, but they are supported by recently researched information that has been verified by others and published in peer reviewed scientific journals.(1) So please read on as there is an amazingly positive experience taking place on the planet, and it’s important for your own well-being to be aware of it.

I began thinking about the idea that the world is becoming safer several years ago. I noted that we haven’t had a world war in over sixty years. The significance of this is accentuated when we realize that over 95 million people died in World War I and II.(2) And although we have had wars since then, far fewer people have died in them. Add to this the fact that with the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the threat of global nuclear destruction ended as well. This is a very significant event, as prior to this there was little assurance that life on the planet would continue. The military strategy implemented by the Soviets and the U.S. at that time was based on Mutually Assured Destruction. This strategy created an arms race that eventually resulted in the deployment of 21,000 nuclear weapons, which were aimed at all the major cities of the world; their launch could have been triggered by a mistaken report, a computer glitch or a deliberate attempt by either side to make a preemptive strike.(3) This was a very scary time to live through; yet it passed. And while some may argue that it might be possible for small nuclear weapons to be detonated by terrorists or even for a small nuclear war to take place, there is no longer the threat of global nuclear destruction, and this is a tremendous improvement. 

Validating this train of thought is recent breakthrough research on the study of violence throughout history. This research indicates that things are getting better. In his new book, The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist demonstrates through detailed statistical analysis of historical records that our planet is currently safer than it has ever been. He shows that all forms of violence are declining including war deaths, family violence, racism, rape, murder, muggings, robbery and other punishable crimes.

“The decline of violence may be the most significant and 
least appreciated development in the history of our species.” 
—Steven Pinker

While this information is supported by factual research, it is not what most people seem to believe is taking place. An important question is why are so many caught up in pessimism and negative scenarios when the facts don’t support this viewpoint? One reason is that as a species, we have evolved from a time when there were lots of dangers around, and those who focused on the dangers were the ones who survived and passed on their genes. This evolutionary process developed a part of the brain called the amygdala that’s purpose is to alert us to danger. However, although we no longer live in a world that is as dangerous as the one we evolved in, our physiology hasn’t had time to change. The amygdala still causes many to give more credence to dangerous, negative ideas than to positive ones. This is why conspiracy theories, doomsday prophecies and the negative media news stories are so popular. Stimulation of the amygdala by negative information places one in a state of fear, making it difficult to think in a rational way and because of this there’s a tendency to simply trust and follow anyone who appears to be a leader, such as those who promote the negative scenarios. What is necessary is to release the fear and regain your ability to think for yourself; then look for the verified, factual information and form your own opinion.

Another reason a negative view of the world may be present is simply because in the past, no one did the research to see what actually was happening. However when historical records are examined as was done by Pinker and others, it can be seen that the world was a far more brutal place in the past than it is now. For example, battlefield deaths have dropped by over 1000 fold from what they were centuries ago and deaths from genocide were 1400 times greater in 1942 than what they are now. The number of democracies in the world has gone from 20 in 1946 to almost 100 now. Rape in the U.S. is down 80 percent since 1973, murder in general and within families, racial discrimination, capital punishment, spanking children and child abuse are also down and the acceptance of a more diverse sexual and gender orientation is higher now than ever before. 

This change in human behavior is an amazingly positive discovery and one, which when understood and accepted, allows people to feel safer and to know that society is moving in the right direction. This is important because numerous scientific studies have shown that those with a positive, optimistic attitude are healthier, more creative and lead more productive and meaningful lives.(4)

Pinker also studied why the world is getting safer and came to some interesting conclusions. First of all, when city states and countries were organized thousands of years ago, one of their important activities was to create law and order by creating laws, setting up a police force and creating courts and jails—and this greatly discouraged violent crimes. Pinker also postulates that more peaceful behavior is developing because of the rise of feminism and the movement of society toward the acceptance of a wider range of values and life styles including members with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

However, the main reason Pinker feels that the world is becoming safer is based on the Flynn effect, which indicates that people are actually getting smarter.(5) I.Q. tests use a score of 100 to indicate a person of average intelligence. And over time the tests have had to be continually adjusted upward to keep 100 as average. This means that a person with an I.Q. of 100 now would be considered to have an I.Q. of 130 if he or she were to take the test that had been given in 1910. So people we consider to be of average intelligence now would actually be considered near geniuses if they had lived a century ago! The improvement is evenly distributed across all I.Q. levels and is mainly in the area of problem solving. Several reasons have been hypothesized about why this is happening, but so far a verifiable cause for this positive effect has not been found. 

As people become more intelligent, they tend to more clearly consider the long term consequences of their actions, and this consideration results in people being motivated to develop non-violent methods of solving disputes. Greater intelligence also helps people more easily understand the value of human life and the utility of working with others in harmony, and in this way the world becomes kinder and more compassionate. 

The exponential rise of technology is also helping to bring about peace and prosperity on the planet. In their recent book, Abundance, The Future is Better Than You Think, Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler explain how the ever increasing pace of technological development is empowering people to more easily solve problems and live together in peace.(6) They state that "Humanity is now entering a period of radical transformation in which technology has the potential to significantly raise the basic standard of living for every man, woman and child on the planet. Within a generation, we will be able to provide goods and services, once reserved for the wealthy few, to any and all who need them, or desire them. Abundance for all is actually within our grasp." They envision a future world of nine billion people all of whom have clean water, food, shelter, education, medical care and so forth.  

One of the many examples authors Diamandis and Kotler give is the use of the smart phone and its connection to the Internet, and how it is credited as being the inspiration for the Arab Spring. The smart phone is also playing an important role in third world countries. For example, in the past it used to take many people in these countries three days or more to walk to a bank to deposit or withdraw money or to pay bills. Now cell phones allow them to do online banking, thus saving all the time they used to use to walk back and forth to the bank. In addition, they can communicate with each other, share ideas, learn of the latest news and organize plans. Cell phone communication and Internet access is making it easy for the citizens of these countries to start businesses, thus increasing their income and standard of living. And when one person finds a solution to a world problem it can quickly become available to everyone instantly. In this way many more of the world’s people are becoming empowered to solve their own problems. 

The cell phone is providing many useful services at low cost, without using precious natural resources. As an example, a cell phone can take the place of a set of encyclopedias and give access to a wealth of information including a library of a million books, all without cutting down a single tree or creating the pollution associated with the production, transportation and sale of hard copy books. Apps and attachments to smart phones are being developed to provide medical tests, the results of which are sent to a physician for diagnosis with the prescribed treatment returned by email thus making health care more available. In the next eight years three billion more people will be connecting to the Internet, thus adding three billion more minds to the global conversation and greatly enhancing the creative process of the planet, making it far more likely that solutions to our global problems will be found.

These changes are happening quickly and in a very short time the world will be a completely different place. While there is still destitution and horrible situations in many places, the overall situation is far better than ever before and changes are happening so quickly that some estimate that by 2035, what we currently classify as poverty and negative living conditions will rarely be found anywhere.

The increasing acceptance of Reiki is another important indication of improving world conditions. The fact that millions of people worldwide have received Reiki sessions and taken Reiki classes is in itself an indication that conditions on the planet are improving. By making Reiki a part of their lives, people are shifting their awareness toward love, peace and harmony as valid ways to heal and to solve problems and deal with challenges in life. Its increasing use in hospitals as a regular part of patient care is an indication of its integration into mainstream society, which is an important step toward improving the quality of life for everyone. 

The fact that the world is getting better is encouraging to all those who are praying and sending Reiki to help those in need and to bring about the end of war and sickness and poverty. It indicates that our efforts are creating positive results and that the compassionate, loving, healing energy of Reiki is making a difference in the world, thus inspiring us to do even more to help those in need. May each of you be blessed by the loving energy of Reiki as you follow your spiritual path and fulfill your purpose on earth.




4 Shawn Achor, The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work (New York: Crown Business, 2010).