Question: Are you generally optimistic or pessimistic about the way the world is headed?
Pinker: I’m a cautious optimist about the near future. I think that by a lot of measures, things have gotten better. There’s less homicide now. There’s less rape. There’s less war. There’s less civil war. There are more freedoms. We know more. We live richer lives. We can listen to vast amounts of music at the press of a button. We have available a mind boggling library of information from the Internet, from sources like Amazon and other resources made available by the online world. The blogosphere allows for a richness of debate that didn’t exist 10 or 20 years ago. By a lot of indicators, things have gotten better and there’s no reason to think that that won’t trend . . . that trend won’t continue. The blot on the horizon is that there are some things that can happen that may be improbable; but if they do happen will be very, very bad, such as a nuclear device exploded by a terrorist. So the note of caution in my optimism is that although I think it’s . . . the chances are that things will get better, there are some low probability events that if they do occur, they will be very nasty indeed.