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Pinker vs. Krugman Part 2 transcript

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00:01
DANIEL D'AMICO: Welcome, to everyone.
00:03
Thank you all for attending this evening's Janus Forum Lecture
00:05
event sponsored by the Political Theory Project
00:07
here at Brown University.
00:09
My name's Daniel D'Amico.
00:10
I'm the associate director of the Political Theory Project.
00:13
I'd like to begin with a brief description of what the PTP is
00:17
and our unique vision behind the Janus Forum program,
00:20
such as tonight.
00:21
Our mission at the PTP is to invigorate
00:23
the study of ideas and institutions
00:26
that make societies free, prosperous, and fair.
00:30
Furthermore, we aim for all of our programming
00:32
to promote interdisciplinary methods and viewpoint
00:35
diversity.
00:37
But what does that mean?
00:38
Perhaps no program of ours better showcases this mission
00:42
than the Janus Forum events, like this one.
00:45
In short, we seek to bring together scholars
00:48
with substantially different ways of looking at the world
00:52
to discuss critically some of the most pressing social issues
00:55
of our time.
00:56
The Janus Forum provides an event space
00:59
where members of the Brown community
01:01
can view and engage with alternative intellectual
01:03
perspectives by top scholars and in direct comparison with one
01:07
another.
01:08
When designing Janus events, we simply
01:10
try to think of two established members
01:12
of the academic profession whose research and conclusions
01:15
represent tangibly different outlooks about the world.
01:20
Very smart and very well-informed
01:22
people can often see the world in very different ways.
01:26
Tonight's conversation is centered on the question,
01:29
is humanity progressing?
01:31
And we are joined by Professors Steven Pinker and Paul Krugman.
01:34
The format for tonight's event is straightforward.
01:37
Each presenter, beginning with Professor Pinker,
01:40
will discuss the motivations and findings of their work
01:43
for approximately 20 minutes.
01:45
Following both presentations, they'll
01:47
be afforded about 15 minutes to directly engage
01:50
with one another.
01:51
And we'll conclude with questions and answers
01:53
from the audience.
01:56
Now, I'd like to introduce our first presenter.
01:59
Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist
02:01
who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics,
02:05
and social relations.
02:07
He is currently the Johnstone Professor
02:09
of Psychology at Harvard University
02:11
and has also taught at Stanford and MIT.
02:14
He's the author of several bestselling books, including
02:16
The Better Angels of Our Nature, and his most recent,
02:18
Enlightenment Now--
02:20
The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.
02:23
Please join me in welcoming Professor Steven Pinker.
02:26
[APPLAUSE]
02:35
STEVEN PINKER: Thank you very much.
02:37
Is humanity progressing?
02:40
Well, that depends on what you mean by progress.
02:43
But that turns out to be, I think,
02:45
a surprisingly easy question to answer.
02:48
Namely, progress consists of improvements
02:50
in human flourishing.
02:52
Human well-being can be measured--
02:54
life, health, sustenance, prosperity, peace, freedom,
02:58
safety, knowledge, leisure, happiness.
03:01
If they have increased over time,
03:03
I submit that would be progress.
03:05
Well, let's go to the data, beginning with the most
03:08
precious thing of all, life.
03:10
For most of human existence, life expectancy at birth
03:14
hovered around 30 years of age.
03:16
But then, starting in the 19th century,
03:19
with advances in sanitation, vaccination,
03:22
and other developments in public health and medicine,
03:25
life expectancy has increased so that today, worldwide,
03:28
it is 71 years-- virtually no one knows that it is that
03:32
high--
03:32
in the richer countries of the world, more than 80 years.
03:36
But every region of the world has
03:38
shown substantial improvement so that the life expectancy
03:41
in sub-Saharan Africa today is what
03:45
it was when my grandparents were growing up
03:48
in Europe a century ago.
03:50
For most of human history, the biggest source
03:53
of low life expectancy was the mortality
03:56
of children, the most vulnerable members of our species.
04:00
Even in a developed country like Sweden 250 years ago,
04:03
one third of children did not live
04:05
to see their fifth birthday.
04:06
Sweden brought its rate of child mortality
04:09
down by a factor of a hundred.
04:11
And every region of the world has followed suit,
04:14
such as in North America, Canada, in East Asia,
04:18
South Korea, in Latin America, Chile,
04:20
and in sub-Saharan Africa, Ethiopia,
04:23
which has brought its rate down from 25% 30 years ago to 6%
04:30
today--
04:31
still too high, but the progress is continuing.
04:34
Mothers, too, were in mortal danger when they gave birth.
04:37
250 years ago, about 1% of Swedish mothers
04:41
died in childbirth.
04:42
That has been reduced by a factor of 250,
04:46
as it has in the United States, Malaysia, and Ethiopia.
04:51
Sustenance-- humanity has, for most of its history,
04:56
been unable to feed itself.
04:57
Famine was one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
05:01
But starting with the British agricultural revolution
05:03
in the 18th century, all of the developed countries
05:07
have acquired the ability to feed themselves.
05:12
This would be a dubious accomplishment
05:14
if all those extra calories were just making people fatter,
05:17
but in fact, they have reduced the rate of undernourishment
05:20
throughout the world.
05:22
In 1970, about 35% of people in the developing world
05:25
were undernourished.
05:26
That has fallen to less than 15%, starting in Latin America,
05:29
then in Asia, and now in sub-Saharan Africa.
05:34
As a result, famine, which used to strike
05:36
any part of the world, wreaking massive devastation,
05:39
now is confined to only the most remote and war-torn regions
05:44
and as a matter not of the world's inability
05:46
to grow enough food, but to get it to the places
05:49
where it's needed.
05:51
Prosperity-- for most of human history,
05:53
there was pretty much no economic growth
05:56
to speak of until the Industrial Revolution.
05:58
This graph shows that the gross world
06:00
product for most of human history
06:02
was less than one pixel high before increasing
06:05
by a factor of about 200, beginning with the Industrial
06:08
Revolution.
06:10
Now, again, this would be a dubious example of progress
06:14
if all of the gains were going to the proverbial 1%.
06:17
But in fact, as a result, the rate of extreme poverty
06:22
is being decimated.
06:24
200 years ago, by the current standard of extreme poverty
06:28
extrapolated backwards, one could say that 90%
06:31
of the world's population lived in extreme poverty,
06:33
$1.90 per person per day.
06:35
Now, it's less than 9% of the world
06:40
that lives in extreme poverty.
06:41
And in fact, there's been a 75% reduction in extreme poverty
06:45
just in the last 30 years.
06:47
Virtually no one knows about it.
06:50
Within rich countries, there has been increased attention
06:54
to the plight of the needy, whereas 150 years ago,
06:58
rich countries devoted about 1.5%
07:01
of their GDP towards social redistribution
07:04
to children, to the elderly, to the sick, to the poor.
07:07
In the 20th century, every developed country
07:10
went on a program of social spending
07:12
so that, today, the median OECD country
07:16
redistributes 22% of its gross domestic product
07:21
to social spending.
07:23
Peace-- for most of human history, the natural state
07:26
of relations between states and empires was war,
07:29
and peace was merely a brief interlude between wars.
07:33
Today, wars between great powers,
07:36
the 800-pound gorillas on the world stage,
07:39
has pretty much ceased to exist.
07:40
The last great power war pitted the United States against China
07:44
in Korea more than 65 years ago.
07:47
And since 1946, after the disaster of the Second World
07:51
War, even in the 1940s, the rate of death in battle
07:55
worldwide was about 20 per 100,000 per year.
07:59
That has fallen to less than 1 per 100,000 per year.
08:03
And great power wars, indeed, wars between nations,
08:06
appear to be obsolescence.
08:10
Freedom and rights-- we have all read with alarm
08:13
about the erosion of democracy in countries like Russia
08:16
and Venezuela and Turkey.
08:19
Nonetheless, if you count up the number
08:21
of countries that are democratic or autocratic scaled
08:25
by how democratic or autocratic they are,
08:28
you see that the world has never been more democratic than it
08:30
has been in this decade.
08:33
A majority of countries are more democratic than autocratic.
08:36
A majority of people live in countries
08:39
that are more democratic than autocratic.
08:42
Also, the power of states to brutalize their citizens
08:46
has been unevenly but steadily reduced.
08:51
Through most of the history of states and empires,
08:54
justice was meted out by cruel punishments
08:58
like braking on the wheel, burning at the stake,
09:01
clawing with iron hooks, sawing in half, and impalement.
09:07
But then, beginning with the Enlightenment
09:09
in the 18th century, country after country
09:11
abolished the use of grisly, sadistic torture
09:15
as a means of criminal punishment,
09:17
including the United States with the Eighth Amendment
09:20
against cruel and unusual punishment, which
09:22
occurred pretty much in the middle of this process.
09:25
Countries have been abolishing the death penalty,
09:28
which used to be ubiquitous.
09:30
And if current trends continue, which they probably
09:33
won't, but if you extrapolated the line,
09:35
capital punishment will have vanished from the face
09:37
of the earth by the year 2026.
09:40
Country after country has decriminalized homosexuality,
09:43
including just in the last few months
09:45
India, Lebanon, and Trinidad and Tobago,
09:49
a process that also began, for the first time in history,
09:52
around the end of the 18th century with the Enlightenment.
09:56
Other abolitions that began around the time
09:58
of the Enlightenment include witch-hunts,
10:00
religious persecution, like burning heretics,
10:03
dueling among men of honor, blood sports,
10:06
like bear baiting, debtors' prisons,
10:08
and most famously of all, slavery.
10:11
Slavery used to be legal everywhere on Earth.
10:14
No one seemed to think there was anything wrong with it.
10:16
The Bible had no problem with slavery.
10:18
So-called democratic Athens was a slave-holding society.
10:22
But beginning with the end of the 18th century,
10:24
there was a trickle of abolitions
10:26
that then grew into a flood, which has recently encompassed
10:30
the entire Earth as of 1980, when Mauritania
10:33
abolished legal slavery.
10:34
So for the first time in human history,
10:36
slavery is illegal everywhere on Earth.
10:40
On a smaller scale, the institutionalized violence
10:45
against racial and ethnic minorities
10:46
has been in decline, although tragically not to zero.
10:50
In the United States, lynchings used
10:52
to occur at a rate of about three a week, 150 a year.
10:56
That has fallen to zero.
10:58
And the kind of racist attitudes that
11:00
have underlain violence against minorities
11:03
have been in decline.
11:04
The opinion polls that ask people, do you think,
11:07
for example, black and white students
11:09
should go to separate schools, or would you
11:11
move out if a black family moved in next door,
11:13
have declined to the range of crank opinion.
11:16
My colleague, Mahzarin Banaji, with her student,
11:20
Tessa Charlesworth, has shown that more implicit measures
11:23
of racism, the kinds of things that people don't necessarily
11:26
confess to but that you can detect
11:28
via unobtrusive measures, have been in steady decline
11:32
since she first started measuring it
11:34
in the turn of the millennium.
11:36
Is it not just an American phenomenon
11:38
but a worldwide phenomenon?
11:40
It used to be that more countries had apartheid or Jim
11:44
Crow laws that discriminated against ethnic minorities
11:47
than policies like affirmative action
11:51
that favored their ethnic minorities.
11:54
As of the 1990s, the situation has been reversed.
11:58
And hard as it may be to believe,
12:00
but worldwide, the liberal values
12:04
have been increasing, that is, tolerance of homosexuality,
12:08
belief in equal rights for women,
12:10
believe in democracy, obviously most dramatically
12:14
in Western Europe but also in Southern Europe,
12:18
in the Americas, in Eastern Europe,
12:21
in the former USSR, Latin America, East Asia, South
12:25
Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Islamic Middle East
12:28
and North Africa.
12:30
There are obviously still big differences
12:33
between endorsement of liberal values across the world's
12:36
regions.
12:36
But amazingly, among cohorts of younger people,
12:40
people in the Islamic Middle East and North Africa today
12:44
are more liberal than their counterparts in Sweden
12:46
were in 1960.
12:48
And lest that seem incredible, you
12:49
could imagine that a young person in Egypt
12:52
today could very well recognize the value of gay marriage.
12:56
If you would ask that of a typical Swede in 1960,
12:59
they would have thought you were crazy.
13:01
Children's rights-- for most of human history, children
13:04
were set to work in farms and factories.
13:07
In 1850, as any reader of Charles Dickens
13:10
would appreciate, about 30% of children worked.
13:13
And that fell to single digits in England
13:17
and the United States by the 20th century,
13:19
and in other countries like Italy.
13:21
Worldwide, also, child labor is in decline.
13:24
Within the United States, the victimization of children,
13:27
such as violent victimization at school, including bullying,
13:30
has been in decline, and physical abuse and sexual abuse
13:33
by caregivers.
13:34
Indeed, violent crime in general has been in historic decline.
13:38
In any region of the world that exists in a state of anarchy,
13:42
there will be violent predation, often followed
13:44
by vendettas and blood feuds.
13:47
In medieval Europe, for example, the homicide rate was about 35
13:52
per 100,000 per year.
13:54
Then, with the consolidation of medieval kingdoms out
13:57
of the feudal patchwork, the homicide rate
14:01
in every European country fell to about one
14:03
per 100,000 per year.
14:06
That's replicated in any part of the world in which frontier
14:09
regions are brought under the control of the rule of law,
14:12
happened again in colonial New England,
14:14
happened in the American Wild West.
14:17
And even parts of the world that remain
14:19
highly violent today, such as Central America and Mexico,
14:24
were five times as violent a century ago.
14:28
On a smaller scale, within the United States,
14:30
violence against women has been in decline,
14:32
including domestic violence against wives and girlfriends
14:36
and rates of rape and sexual assault.
14:39
Knowledge-- the natural state of humanity
14:42
is illiteracy and ignorance.
14:44
And for most of human history, literacy
14:47
was a privilege of a wealthy or priestly caste.
14:54
But basic education, which 200 years ago
14:58
was a privilege that went to less than a fifth
15:00
of the world's population, is now enjoyed by more than 80%
15:04
of the world's population, 90% of the world's population
15:07
under the age of 25.
15:09
It has happened unevenly across the world's surface,
15:13
but every region has shown spectacular gains, and not just
15:18
men but women, whereas 250 years ago only six British women
15:23
could read and write for every 10 men who could.
15:26
The industrialized countries achieved gender parity
15:29
and literacy by the end of the 19th century.
15:32
And the world is very, very close
15:34
to gender parity in basic literacy.
15:37
Even the most backward regions, Pakistan and Afghanistan,
15:41
have shown progress in getting girls into school.
15:44
And perhaps the most astonishing, incredible,
15:49
difficult-to-believe example of progress that I have come
15:51
across--
15:52
we have been getting smarter.
15:54
This is true.
15:56
In a well-documented phenomenon known as the Flynn effect,
15:59
IQ scores have been increasing all
16:01
over the world by about three points a decade for
16:04
about a century.
16:06
OK, do any of these forms of progress, the kinds of things
16:10
that economists like to measure, actually
16:12
improve the quality of our lives?
16:13
Well, in many ways they do.
16:15
For example, 150 years ago, the typical workweek
16:18
in the United States and Europe was 62 hours.
16:21
That has fallen to less than 40.
16:24
And because of the universal penetration
16:27
of running water and electricity and the widespread adoption
16:30
of labor-saving devices, like washing machines,
16:33
vacuum cleaners, refrigerators, dishwashers, stoves,
16:36
and microwaves, the amount of our lives
16:39
that we forfeit to housework, which people
16:41
indicate is their least favorite way of spending their time,
16:45
has fallen from more than 60 hours
16:47
a week to fewer than 15 hours a week.
16:49
Thanks to the shortening workweek and the smaller amount
16:53
of our lives that we waste on housework,
16:55
the amount of leisure time has increased over the last 50
16:59
years, both for men and for women.
17:01
The reason that it has leveled off for women
17:03
is that women today spend much more time with their children.
17:06
A single working woman today spends more time
17:10
with her children than a married stay-at-home mom
17:12
did in the 1950s.
17:15
OK, does it make us any happier?
17:18
And the answer is it almost certainly does.
17:20
There is a well-known relationship
17:23
between life satisfaction and income, GDP per capita.
17:28
This is plotted on a logarithmic axis, it must be noted,
17:32
since obviously an extra dollar improves
17:35
the happiness of a poor person much more
17:37
than the happiness of a rich person.
17:39
But it is a relationship that holds across countries.
17:41
And each arrow impaling a dot represents the population
17:45
within a country.
17:46
So richer countries are happier.
17:48
Richer people within countries are happier.
17:50
You'd expect that as the world gets richer,
17:52
its people ought to get happier.
17:54
And in general, that seems to be true, as best
17:56
we can tell from longitudinal data.
17:59
In 71% of countries for which we have happiness data over time,
18:04
happiness has increased.
18:06
Interestingly, the United States is not one of them.
18:09
Happiness has declined a bit in the United States.
18:12
But the United States was a pretty happy country
18:14
to start with.
18:14
And contrary to a widespread urban legend
18:18
that the world is getting more suicidal,
18:21
the exact opposite is the case.
18:22
Suicide rates have declined by about 40% worldwide.
18:26
But once again, the United States
18:27
is something of an outlier of this trend.
18:29
Our suicide rate has been creeping up since its low point
18:32
around 1999.
18:35
OK, well, I hope to have persuaded you that progress
18:38
is not a question of optimism.
18:40
It's not a question of wearing rose-colored glasses.
18:43
It's not a question of seeing the glass as half full.
18:46
It is a demonstrable, empirical fact about human history.
18:50
So let me wrap up with three questions about progress
18:52
that I suspect have occurred to many of you.
18:55
First is, well, what caused it?
18:57
The universe does not contain any force that
18:59
lifts humanity ever upward.
19:01
Quite the contrary, there are a number
19:03
of forces in the universe, such as the second law
19:05
of thermodynamics, such as the laws of evolution,
19:08
that pretty much grind us down.
19:10
But in Enlightenment Now, I make the case for reason, science,
19:15
humanism, and progress, namely, the reason
19:18
that we have been able to claw back
19:20
at the processes of entropy and evolution
19:22
is because of the development of reason, science, and humanism.
19:26
Now, you might say, is that really an explanation?
19:29
I mean, doesn't everyone believe in
19:30
reason, science, and humanism?
19:31
What else could it be?
19:33
Well, there are alternatives to humanism,
19:36
such as religious morality, such as authoritarian nationalism
19:41
and populism-- and I don't have time to go into this,
19:45
but in many ways, the forces of populism
19:48
are pushing back against pretty much every one
19:50
of the drivers of progress that I've
19:52
been trying to document-- reactionary ideologies that
19:56
try to wrench society backwards, and Utopian, romantic,
20:00
and messianic ideologies that imagine
20:02
a world in which everything will be perfect.
20:05
Second question that people often
20:07
raise, not perhaps quite so bluntly,
20:10
is that, even if there has been progress,
20:12
are we better off denying it to prevent complacency, people
20:16
falling back into complacency?
20:18
And I would argue, no, we're best off with an understanding
20:23
of the world that is accurate.
20:26
Of course, we must be aware of danger, suffering,
20:29
and injustice wherever they occur,
20:31
but it's important to be aware of how they can be reduced.
20:34
Because even if there are dangers in complacency,
20:36
there are also dangers in thoughtless pessimism.
20:40
One of them is fatalism.
20:41
If you really believe that everything is getting worse
20:44
and worse, despite all of the efforts of humanity
20:47
to make the world a better place,
20:49
well, why waste time and money on a hopeless cause?
20:52
As Jesus said, the poor you will always have with you.
20:55
And if you're convinced that we're
20:56
doomed, that if climate change doesn't do us in then
21:00
runaway artificial intelligence will,
21:02
then the rational response is, well, eat, drink, and be merry,
21:05
for tomorrow we die.
21:06
Why even now bother?
21:08
The other danger to thoughtless pessimism is radicalism.
21:11
If you think that all of our institutions are failing
21:14
and beyond all hopes for reform, you will be receptive to calls
21:18
to smash the machine, drain the swamp,
21:21
bring the empire to the ground, or to aspiring leaders who
21:25
promise, only I can fix it.
21:30
Third question-- is progress inevitable?
21:33
And the answer is, of course not.
21:36
Progress does not mean that everything
21:38
becomes better for everyone, everywhere, all the time.
21:42
That would not be progress.
21:44
That would be a miracle.
21:46
And progress is not a miracle.
21:48
Progress consists of using knowledge to solve problems.
21:51
Problems are inevitable, and solutions
21:54
create new problems that must be solved in their turn.
21:57
So the existence of problems today--
22:00
and Lord knows we have many of them--
22:02
does not mean there has been no progress,
22:04
because the problems of yesterday
22:06
were, in almost every case, worse.
22:09
As Franklin Pierce Adams said, "Nothing
22:11
is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory."
22:17
Progress, I suggest, can continue
22:19
if we remain committed to reason, science, and humanism.
22:23
And if we don't, it won't.
22:25
Thank you.
22:26
[APPLAUSE]
22:38
DANIEL D'AMICO: Our second presenter
22:40
this evening is Paul Krugman, who
22:43
is professor of economics and distinguished
22:45
scholar at the Graduate Center's Luxembourg Income Study Center
22:49
at City University of New York.
22:51
Previously, he was a professor of economics
22:53
at Princeton University.
22:55
In addition to the Nobel Prize, Professor Krugman's
22:58
economic research has garnered him
22:59
the John Bates Clark award as well as
23:01
many other prestigious credits.
23:04
His latest books include End This Depression Now!,
23:08
The Conscience of a Liberal, The Great Unraveling,
23:11
and several others speak directly
23:12
to tonight's topic of humanity's progress and/or lack thereof.
23:17
Please join me in welcoming Professor Paul Krugman.
23:19
[APPLAUSE]
23:30
PAUL KRUGMAN: OK, so in some ways,
23:33
I'm picking up where Steven Pinker left off.
23:37
And I would actually maybe even dispute, a little bit,
23:43
the question that is the theme of this forum.
23:45
Because the question, is humanity progressing,
23:50
I think really are two different questions.
23:52
One is, have we progressed, to which the answer is, yes,
23:57
of course.
23:58
The second is, will we continue to progress?
24:02
And that's where I get worried.
24:09
Steve Pinker gave us a whole lot of measures,
24:12
which are interesting, I think, fascinating.
24:15
I've had a omnibus, simplified way
24:19
of thinking of it all, which is I would apply the Rawls test.
24:24
I think probably a lot of people have read
24:26
John Rawls' theory of justice.
24:29
And Rawls had this brilliantly simplified conceptual idea,
24:33
that the way you should decide what kind of society
24:35
should we have is to imagine yourself to be someone making
24:41
a decision about what kind of society
24:43
we're going to have without knowing who in that society
24:47
you would be.
24:47
Imagine this hypothetical state behind the veil of ignorance
24:52
where you have to decide on the structure of a society.
24:54
I think it has to be one that reflects
24:56
the realities that, after the society is created,
24:58
people will know who they are, and incentives will matter,
25:01
and people won't be angels, and so on,
25:03
and that this is a way to think about what justice is.
25:07
And I think many people are, at some level,
25:11
Rawlsians, or at least partial Rawlsians.
25:15
But while Rawls was thinking about the design of a society,
25:19
it's also a way of assessing the state of a society.
25:23
And if you do the Rawls test and ask yourself
25:25
not what kind of society would you design but what era would
25:30
you choose to be born into, which period in human history
25:35
would you choose to be born into if you
25:37
had to make that choice without knowing which person you would
25:40
be with that era, clearly the early 21st century
25:44
is the time you would choose.
25:46
It's a time when, by almost every measure, life is better.
25:54
Actually, in many ways, by the way,
25:56
if you think of yourself as an anonymous human being
26:00
ex ante trying to choose the things that
26:03
would be most encouraging, the things
26:06
that would really make you say that now is the time
26:11
to be alive would be the enormous economic progress
26:15
that's been made in developing countries.
26:18
It's the rise of China and India that
26:20
have meant that billions of people who previously lived
26:24
lives of great desperation live, now, lives that
26:27
are a lot closer to decency.
26:29
But there are lots of other things.
26:30
In fact, if I could trade places with Louis XIV,
26:35
I wouldn't do it, because he didn't have modern medicine
26:40
or decent coffee.
26:44
However, from my point of view, that's
26:48
not the interesting question.
26:49
The question is, how much can we count on future years
26:55
being as clearly better than the distant past
26:59
as the current situation is?
27:03
And what you see, once you start to look at things,
27:06
is that, although the trend over the very long run
27:11
has been clearly upwards, there have
27:14
been a lot of episodes of retrogression,
27:17
that there are times when things do move backwards.
27:20
And I'm going to start with one that, at some level,
27:22
is really not very important but happens to be something
27:24
that I really know about.
27:26
It's where I actually do know the thing I'm talking about,
27:29
which is globalization and global economy.
27:33
Now, globalization is not actually inherently
27:37
a good thing, although, by and large, it has been.
27:40
It served a very important factor
27:41
in the rise of the emerging nation middle class.
27:48
But it's certainly something where you might
27:49
expect that it would progress.
27:55
The technology of international commerce,
27:57
of international communication keeps getting better.
28:03
There was a really decisive point
28:04
when a global economy became possible
28:07
based upon the technology of the steam engine and the telegraph,
28:11
but it's continued to progress.
28:12
And you would think that, therefore, clearly world
28:18
must be ever continually becoming a smaller
28:21
place, a more integrated place.
28:24
But if you do international economics at all,
28:26
you know that that's not true.
28:29
So we have reasonable numbers on the share of trade imports
28:36
plus exports in world GDP.
28:40
And a slight disconnect between two different data sources,
28:47
but they basically agree.
28:52
And there was a big rise in world trade between 1870
28:56
and the eve of World War I, made possible by steamships
29:01
and railroads and submarine telegraphs and canals
29:06
and so forth, which then went into reverse.
29:10
And there was a long period when trade became much less
29:15
than it had been before.
29:16
There was a long period when the world became bigger,
29:18
if you like, or the world became less flat
29:20
or whatever your preferred metaphor is,
29:23
when national economies became more disjoint from each other.
29:28
And what that was about was, fundamentally,
29:32
politics and the things that people
29:33
do in the name of politics.
29:35
There was a lot of protectionism.
29:40
Protectionism is bad.
29:41
U-Boats sinking merchant ships is worse.
29:45
So world trade came apart.
29:48
And then it was reconstructed.
29:50
And there's this long period of rising world trade
29:53
that begins after World War II.
29:56
It's a political construct.
30:01
Actually, it's the most successful example
30:03
of international diplomacy in world history.
30:07
The world-trading system that we created,
30:09
a rules-based system in which countries negotiate reductions
30:14
and barriers, make greater integration possible
30:18
and set rules about deviations.
30:20
So it's not completely rigid system,
30:22
but it's a system that makes it hard to backtrack.
30:27
I used to sometimes say it's levers and ratchets, move
30:30
things up, but then you have things
30:31
to keep them from sliding back.
30:33
And so you had this gradual reconstruction, gradual.
30:38
We didn't really get back to the level of global integration
30:41
that we had in 1913 until sometime in the 1980s.
30:45
It took a long, long time to get back to the--
30:49
John Maynard Keynes' first famous book,
30:52
The Economic Consequences of the Peace,
30:54
begins with this nostalgic vision of the world
30:57
as it seemed to be on the eve of World War I,
30:59
where the English gentleman ordering breakfast in bed
31:04
could pick up his telephone and order
31:06
products from all over the world,
31:07
and how that had gone away.
31:09
And now, we're back, and it's better
31:11
because you can do it on your smartphone.
31:13
But it took us a long, long time to get there.
31:15
Now, you have a takeoff at the end, which
31:18
is the hyperglobalization, which is something, yet again, that's
31:22
new--
31:24
not worth going too far into that.
31:28
But all of this was made possible
31:29
by a quite difficult process of political progress.
31:35
And it's a process that's very much, actually,
31:38
in doubt as we speak.
31:40
I spent last night at a symposium on the state
31:42
of the world-trading system.
31:47
So we've had a bunch of Trump tariffs and retaliatory tariffs
31:50
and so on.
31:52
Quantitatively, they don't add up to very much yet.
31:55
They're not small numbers, but it's a big world out there.
31:59
But the collapse of norms has been spectacular.
32:03
All of the rules that we thought bound countries appear--
32:07
when you have a situation where the United States is going
32:09
to limit imports of steel from Canada
32:12
on the grounds of protecting national security,
32:16
which is what we just did, Canada.
32:21
We've seen that the norms that sustained
32:24
that period of progress are in great danger.
32:27
Now, trade is what I studied in my life,
32:30
but it's not the most important thing in the world.
32:35
OK, other retrogressions-- the world
32:39
made a lot of economic progress between the mid-19th century
32:45
and the eve of World War II.
32:48
And then stuff happened.
32:51
So OK, this is Germany, real GDP per capita
32:58
as best we can estimate.
33:05
By the end of the Weimar Republic,
33:07
they had barely gotten back to where
33:10
they were on the eve of World War I. They did make, actually,
33:14
unfortunately, sad to say, a lot of economic growth
33:17
under the Nazis, although not much of it
33:20
went for consumer goods.
33:21
And then, well, being destroyed in a war can do a lot.
33:27
And though Germany is now famed for the speed of the recovery
33:35
after World War II, as of 1951, so almost 40
33:42
years after the beginning of World War I,
33:45
Germany was, and even by this measure,
33:49
barely better off in material terms, and no doubt
33:52
large numbers of individual Germans worse off,
33:55
in material terms, than they had been.
33:56
So this is a pretty extended period of retrogression.
34:01
Other examples of regression--
34:08
oh, look, one of the things--
34:11
I'm old enough to have spent a large part of my life
34:14
facing a Cold War and thinking about nuclear war and all
34:22
of that.
34:22
And it didn't happen.
34:24
And there was a true, miraculous political development
34:29
with the abrupt collapse of communism.
34:33
That abrupt collapse of communism
34:34
brought a lot of liberty to a lot of people.
34:38
It also brought an amazing amount
34:40
of social and economic collapse to the former Soviet empire.
34:47
Here's Russian life expectancy.
34:53
Things really went to hell with the fall of the Soviet Union.
35:00
I'm not a scholar on this.
35:01
I don't know exactly what the breakdown
35:05
of the causes of increased mortality
35:07
is, although you can make some guesses.
35:08
And actually, there's been some amazing and scary work
35:13
about the problems that we're having in parts of America now.
35:16
There's a belt of rising mortality and declining life
35:20
expectancy.
35:21
And Anne Case and Angus Deaton, who've been documenting it,
35:24
are saying it's deaths of despair.
35:28
It's suicide, alcohol, and opioids--
35:31
well, a whole lot of deaths of despair, probably fewer opioids
35:37
and more vodka.
35:40
And it's only in the last few years
35:44
that Russia has gotten back to the life
35:47
expectancy it had in the closing years of the communist regime.
35:52
And it's a pretty extended period of retrogression.
35:58
All right, give you an example that's closer to home
36:01
and actually is a happy story now but only for now--
36:12
so, where I now live, it's a great time now
36:17
to live in New York if you can afford
36:18
a place, which is the problem.
36:20
But housing costs aside, there was a period
36:29
when social order really did break down
36:33
to a very important extent.
36:34
We did go from being from a city that was pretty safe,
36:39
was never completely violence free,
36:43
but it was a pretty safe place in the early 1960s.
36:47
It became an extremely--
36:49
well, maybe not by the standards of the Middle Ages or Stone Age
36:55
societies, but by modern standards
36:57
New York became a very dangerous place,
37:00
and peaking in the 1980s.
37:07
There was a real sense in which life in New York for lots
37:11
of people became a lot worse.
37:14
There was a period when dystopian books and movies,
37:21
Escape from New York, that sort of thing, was [INAUDIBLE]..
37:25
That wasn't coming out of nowhere.
37:26
That wasn't a fantasy.
37:27
That was driven by what seemed to be
37:29
the very real collapse of social order in America's greatest
37:33
city.
37:34
Now, that has turned around.
37:37
And these days, New York is, once again, a very safe place.
37:41
And so a few months ago, when the battery in the smoke alarm
37:47
went dead, causing it to beep, which always happens
37:53
at 3:00 in the morning, and it turns out
37:55
I did not have a spare battery in the drawer,
37:58
I went out on Broadway at 3:00 in the morning,
38:00
and there were people around, and it was perfectly fine.
38:04
So right now, New York is, once again, not a perfectly safe
38:09
but a remarkably safe, livable place to be.
38:12
And so you ask, what did we do?
38:14
Why did things go so wrong, and what did we do?
38:18
What made them go right again?
38:20
And indeed, there's been a great deal of research.
38:22
And I think the answer, with fairly high degree
38:24
of confidence, is we have no idea, that there
38:29
are interesting stories of all kinds.
38:32
But fundamentally, we don't know why things got so much worse.
38:36
And we certainly don't know why things got so much better.
38:38
Which means that, of course, if they were to get worse again,
38:41
it's not as if we know what the answer is to make them better.
38:45
So things go backwards.
38:47
Extended periods of retrogression
38:50
are, in fact, a quite common feature of history.
38:56
Now, so far, all of the setbacks to progress
39:06
have turned out to be temporary.
39:11
So far, all the setbacks have been temporary.
39:13
OK, that, if you're wondering, is a bust
39:16
of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor
39:20
best known nowadays for the fact that Russell Crow
39:24
killed his son in the arena but previously
39:28
best known as the emperor who was also a philosopher.
39:34
So let me tell you a little bit about ancient Rome
39:40
and preindustrial economics.
39:42
It turns out we've been learning stuff about that.
39:45
The basic view, which is still basically right,
39:51
is that the preindustrial world was
39:54
Malthusianism, that technological progress was
40:00
slow, real but slow.
40:02
Population always pressed upon resources.
40:06
And so, over time, living standards always
40:12
tended to be driven down to the edge of subsistence
40:15
so that, while the area covered by civilization grew over time,
40:22
it reached new places, the standard
40:26
of living of the ordinary person did not
40:30
show any sustained improvement.
40:32
The subjects of Louis XIV probably
40:35
lived no better overall than the ancient Sumerians did.
40:39
The long story is that preindustrial societies
40:43
were static and poor in terms of their standard of living.
40:51
And I think, until fairly recently, we
40:53
would have thought of ancient Rome as fitting right
40:56
into all of that, that the rise of the Roman Empire
41:00
was a political thing--
41:02
somebody managed to create a unified regime--
41:05
but otherwise was still basically in that mold.
41:09
And that's still largely right.
41:11
That is, there was no industrial revolution in ancient Rome.
41:16
But there is an increasing amount of evidence now
41:19
that says that there was actually pretty substantial,
41:22
real economic progress during the heyday of the Roman Empire.
41:27
And you have various kinds of evidence.
41:30
We know what ordinary working people
41:31
were eating because we can do analyses now
41:36
that show what was in their diet.
41:38
And there was a lot more meat and fish.
41:41
There was a lot more protein in there
41:43
than you might have expected.
41:44
We have pretty good estimates of urbanization rates.
41:51
If anybody still reads Edward Gibbon and the Decline and Fall
41:54
of the Roman Empire, it opens with this passage
41:57
about how the happiest era in the history of humanity
42:01
was the two centuries of the good emperors--
42:06
not entirely wrong.
42:08
It's not actually probably true at the time he was writing.
42:15
Malthus gets a bad name now, but Malthus
42:17
was right about all of human history
42:20
up until Malthus wrote, which is not an accident because Malthus
42:24
is a product of the Enlightenment, which
42:26
produces all of this breakaway progress
42:29
that we've seen since then.
42:31
But ancient Rome appears to have been
42:37
a fairly substantial excursion from that Malthusian baseline.
42:43
It was, in fact, a substantially wealthier society
42:46
than the typical preindustrial society.
42:50
And in particular, Italy, the heart of the empire,
42:52
as best we can tell-- and all of this
42:55
is inference based upon indirect evidence.
42:57
But as best we can tell, Italy in the first and second
43:02
centuries AD probably had a material standard
43:06
of living that would not be achieved again
43:10
until, let's say, the Dutch Republic of the 17th century.
43:15
It really was the highest, that peak of economic performance
43:23
that humanity had managed to achieve.
43:25
And it would not be equal for a very, very long time.
43:29
OK, now suppose you were a Roman, an educated Roman
43:36
living late in the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
43:39
And you went to attend a TED Talk, which
43:43
isn't as much of a joke as it sounds like,
43:45
because, in fact, listening to esteemed orators
43:48
deliver speeches was a form of recreation for the Roman elite.
43:52
So you went to a TED Talk, and the orator
43:57
would explain to you that if you look at all of the indicators
44:01
that we have about the past two centuries, they show progress.
44:06
We have peace.
44:07
We have occasional wars with barbarians and Parthians
44:11
and whatever, and occasional civil strife,
44:14
and occasional crazy rebellions by those people
44:18
in Judea and whatever.
44:20
But by and large, we have peace.
44:23
Crime is pretty low because we've been policing banditry
44:27
pretty well.
44:27
The sea lanes across the Mediterranean are safe.
44:30
And visibly-- you can just see it--
44:33
prosperity has been rising.
44:34
Things have been better.
44:35
So although there have been bad stretches,
44:38
so far all the setbacks have been temporary.
44:42
And of course, I guess we should blame Russell Crow.
44:46
No, but anyway, everything fell apart, in fact,
44:49
with the death of Marcus Aurelius.
44:51
There was a period of troubles, civil war, strife,
44:55
plagues as well.
44:57
But the Roman Empire went through a very bad period.
45:00
It was reconstructed, eventually,
45:03
really about a century later.
45:06
But the New Roman Empire with Diocletian
45:10
was harsher, meaner, more violent, more militaristic,
45:13
and poorer than the Rome that existed before.
45:17
And in the Western Roman Empire, it only lasted for--
45:20
only lasted for-- still generations but in the end
45:25
did, in fact, give way to barbarism.
45:30
This is a case of retrogression on a grand scale.
45:34
And as I've been saying, it was probably
45:39
around 1300 or 1400 years before,
45:45
in economic terms, anybody managed
45:47
to reach the level of development
45:50
that Rome had achieved during the reign of Marcus Aurelius.
45:54
So bad things happen, and they happen
45:56
for extended periods of time.
46:00
So here we are now.
46:02
The progress we've achieved is a lot bigger than the progress
46:05
that Rome achieved under the emperors.
46:10
In duration, it's not clear it's that much longer.
46:14
I mean, from a global point of view,
46:16
things really turn around--
46:18
I guess it depends on which measure you use.
46:22
Certainly, the world in 1700 was not dramatically
46:27
free from the Malthusian trap.
46:28
Even in 1800, only pieces of it were.
46:32
So really, we're talking about a couple
46:34
of centuries, maybe a bit more, of progress.
46:37
Do we know that that progress is going to continue?
46:43
And the answer, of course, is that we don't.
46:45
And there are a whole series of reasons to be worried.
46:50
There's climate change, above all.
46:53
And climate change is scary, and it's coming.
46:57
And so far, it actually requires an enormous leap of optimism
47:02
to believe that we will deal with it before it's
47:05
catastrophic, but other things as well.
47:08
And there are many things.
47:12
I think even 15 years ago, if you
47:14
had suggested that actual fascists would once again be
47:18
a significant factor on the political scene in the West,
47:22
people would not have taken you seriously.
47:24
And yet, there they are.
47:26
Income inequality, which is what's actually
47:28
studied at the Stone Center--
47:30
I'm obliged to mention our benefactor
47:34
when I talk about where I sit--
47:36
the inequality has clearly increased enormously.
47:41
Now, how much actual decline in living standards
47:44
there's been, even for people at the bottom,
47:48
is something that actually depends on your data.
47:50
But that, in itself, is telling, that it
47:52
depends on how you measure it.
47:54
But again, when I think of all those things,
47:56
if someone had told you--
47:59
certainly, when I was growing up,
48:02
if somebody had told you in the 1960s
48:08
that what Thomas Piketty calls patrimonial capitalism,
48:13
a society dominated by a tiny, wealthy elite, much of whose
48:17
wealth is inherited, would be making a comeback,
48:20
you would have thought they were crazy.
48:22
And yet, there's a lot of reason to think that that
48:24
is, in fact, where we're going.
48:26
So things can go very, very wrong.
48:29
The fact of progress is real.
48:34
The chances that it will, in fact, go into reverse
48:41
also seem alarmingly large.
48:44
And yes, I think fatalism is a really bad thing.
48:48
But complacency is also a really bad thing.
48:51
We can screw this up massively, and there's a pretty good
48:55
chance that we will.
48:56
Thanks.
48:57
[APPLAUSE]
49:07
DANIEL D'AMICO: So I wanted to afford
49:09
you both a significant portion of time
49:11
for some degree of direct interaction.
49:14
So having the second word, so to speak, thus far,
49:17
Professor Pinker, if you had any direct questions for Professor
49:20
Krugman.
49:21
STEVEN PINKER: Well, I don't know
49:22
if it's a direct question so much as it is, perhaps,
49:25
reframing the premises that brought us here.
49:27
Because I know I can see from the slides of the various odd
49:32
couples that you've had in previous Janus events and from
49:35
some of the buildup that you're--
49:37
indeed, the introductions to us that you're
49:40
kind of setting this up as a major debate or disagreement.
49:44
And as far as I can tell, there really isn't one.
49:46
Because certainly, as I have insisted in both my books
49:52
on progress, the idea of progress
49:54
does not mean that nothing can ever go wrong again.
49:56
[INAUDIBLE] said, that wouldn't be progress,
49:58
that would be a miracle.
49:59
And that's just not the way the universe works.
50:02
It's not the way progress works.
50:04
And indeed, every one of the regressions that Paul
50:06
mentioned I discuss in some detail in Enlightenment
50:09
Now and in The Better Angels of our Nature.
50:11
And there have been other regressions,
50:13
such as the Spanish flu epidemic in the closing months of World
50:19
War I where life expectancy went down by a lot, AIDS in Africa.
50:26
Some of you may have spotted in the life expectancy
50:29
curve in Africa--
50:30
there was a dip, a pretty substantial one,
50:33
although as with, indeed, all of the regressions,
50:37
there was not only recovery but soaring progress after it.
50:42
It doesn't mean that every reversal will be temporary.
50:47
Again, that would be mysticism.
50:50
In asking the question, has there been progress
50:53
and how do we continue it, that must not
50:57
be equated with the question of, have problems
50:59
been permanently abolished?
51:01
Is regression now impossible?
51:03
Of course, it's possible.
51:04
There's lots of reasons why we could have regression,
51:08
including, as I mentioned, the forces of evolution
51:11
and entropy, which are always pushing back.
51:13
So the question is, are we now at a point
51:16
in which we should expect things to go backwards?
51:21
And the obvious answer is, we don't know.
51:25
I think both Paul and I are terrified
51:29
that some of the forces of authoritarian populism
51:32
are systematically set in opposition to many
51:36
of the forces that have driven this progress,
51:38
such as international cooperation,
51:41
such as reliance on scientific data as opposed to ideology,
51:46
such as intelligent social spending.
51:52
All of the drivers of the progress
51:54
are very much threatened.
51:55
And I guess the question is, are the more fearful developments
52:03
of the last few years--
52:04
do they represent the future?
52:06
Are we at a turning point in history as, by the way,
52:09
every generation believes it to be?
52:11
That if you go back, no matter what
52:14
the level of progress or advancement, was there always
52:17
prophets saying, well, things have been good so far,
52:20
but just you wait.
52:21
We're on the edge of a precipice.
52:23
We've been enjoying the view after jumping off a building.
52:30
So far, so good.
52:32
But catastrophe's about to happen.
52:34
And it is true.
52:35
It could happen.
52:37
The question of will it happen, are we now at the turning point
52:41
in history that has constantly been predicted,
52:43
is impossible to say for sure.
52:47
But there are certain things that I
52:48
think we can look at to try to decide whether we should all
52:51
take poison and be done with it or whether there are actually
52:57
reasons to believe that we will solve the problems facing us
53:01
in the way that previous generations solved
53:04
the problems facing them.
53:05
In terms of authoritarian populism, which, I agree,
53:08
terrifies me as much as it does Paul,
53:10
there are some demographic trends that are pushing back
53:13
or that will be expected to push back over the longer term,
53:17
including urbanization.
53:20
The support for authoritarian populist
53:22
tends to come from rural and exurban areas,
53:26
and the world is urbanizing, including education.
53:28
The support for populism comes from less educated segments.
53:32
The population in the world is getting more educated.
53:36
And just generational turnover-- the supporters
53:39
of authoritarian populism tend to be baby boomers
53:42
and silent generation members.
53:45
The Gen X, Millennium, and iGen are much less supportive.
53:49
People tend to keep their political orientation
53:53
as they age.
53:53
It's not true that everyone gets more conservative when
53:56
they grow older.
53:57
So at least these are not guarantees,
53:59
but they are forces that suggest that Trumpism is not
54:06
a permanent future.
54:08
PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah, I mean, again, to a certain extent,
54:12
this is going to turn into the Monty Python sketch
54:14
about having an argument, trying to have an argument.
54:18
I'm not sure we have one.
54:22
I mean, let me put it this way.
54:26
In terms of my Rawlsian notion of progress,
54:32
the way I would put it is, how highly should we
54:36
rate the possibility that, behind a future veil
54:42
of ignorance, knowing the history of the next couple
54:46
of generations, that someone, given the choice between being
54:50
born into the world in 2050 as opposed to being
54:55
born into the world in 1990, would say, oh, I'll take 1990?
54:59
Thank you.
55:00
Those were the good times.
55:01
And I think there's a reasonably large chance.
55:06
I'm enough of an optimist to think
55:09
it's not the more likely outcome, though sometimes,
55:12
when I think about environmental issues, I flip on that.
55:16
But there's a reasonably good chance
55:20
that that test will say that we will actually
55:22
have regressed going forward.
55:26
And I just also want to say that, more often than not,
55:33
people saying everything is at risk right now have been wrong.
55:37
This is true.
55:41
One of the things that happens when you move academic offices
55:44
is you clean out your books.
55:45
And every time I've moved, I discovered
55:48
there's a whole bunch of books from 1993
55:53
or 2005 titled something like The Crucial Decade Ahead.
56:07
But there have been times when it's gone the other way.
56:10
And so a famous book by Norman Angell, The Great Illusion,
56:17
published in 1910, which is--
56:21
now, what Angell said was war does not make sense
56:26
in the modern economy, said that no amount of conquest
56:31
can possibly be worth the cost of war.
56:33
Now, he didn't actually predict that there wouldn't be wars,
56:36
but he was widely read as saying that.
56:40
And of course, right on cue comes World War I
56:43
and a war on a scale of destructiveness no one
56:46
had imagined possible.
56:50
But he was making the case for enlightenment values--
56:54
let's be rational about this, it doesn't make sense--
56:58
and hoping, I think, that he would persuade people,
57:01
which, unfortunately, he did not.
57:03
And his point remains true, but it doesn't seem
57:07
to stop wars from happening.
57:10
And it takes a lot of work.
57:15
Something like the peacefulness of modern Europe
57:18
compared with the terrible first half of the 20th century
57:22
was not something that evolved automatically or naturally.
57:26
It required an enormous amount of statesmanship.
57:35
How many statesmen of that caliber
57:37
do you see in the corridors of power right now?
57:44
DANIEL D'AMICO: For fear of fomenting disagreement,
57:47
I am curious about a point of distinction in Professor
57:51
Krugman's presentation.
57:54
The trajectory of progress versus retrograde
57:58
seemed to hinge critically on politics.
58:03
Yet, that's a factor that's not necessarily
58:05
listed in Humanism Science and Reason in your emphasis.
58:12
So I'm curious about how you each see the relationship
58:15
between politics and science.
58:18
STEVEN PINKER: Well, it very much
58:19
is in that a lot of the political institutions
58:22
that, I think, both of us would credit
58:23
for some of this progress were products
58:28
of ideas, some of them first broached
58:32
during the Enlightenment.
58:33
For example, the post-World War II peace, in part,
58:37
was a gift of the United Nations and norms against conquest,
58:43
the immortality of states, the grandfathering of borders,
58:47
the increase in trade, as Paul showed.
58:51
Trade decreased after World War I,
58:55
and the outbreak of World War II probably is not a coincidence.
59:00
All these ideas were broached by Immanuel Kant
59:02
in Perpetual Peace in the 1790s.
59:08
Policies are motivated by good ideas, and then, of course,
59:13
subject to empirical testing.
59:14
Because no one from an armchair can perfectly well
59:17
predict what's going to work or not when
59:20
democratic governments, in the best sense of democratic,
59:22
of namely seeing the effects of policy, the outcomes on people,
59:28
and adjusting accordingly, then the same kind of mindset that
59:32
goes into science, namely, empirically
59:35
testing your ideas without a priori assurance
59:38
that they'll be correct but letting the world
59:42
tell you what works or isn't is very much enmeshed in politics.
59:48
Not all of the advances, though, are political.
59:51
So for example, the increasing life expectancy
59:57
was very much a product of advances in public health,
60:01
in the germ theory of disease, in the technology
60:04
of sanitation, in the invention of artificial fertilizers,
60:08
in the Green Revolution of the '60s.
60:10
So those weren't political, although, of course,
60:13
to be fully implemented, you need
60:14
to have the right political infrastructure.
60:17
PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah, I think that knowledge is an enabler.
60:23
And so no matter how good the political leadership
60:33
of the world had been in a previous era,
60:35
it could not have achieved where we are now.
60:38
Actually, one thing I didn't mention,
60:39
one of the things that appears to be
60:41
true about the ancient Romans is that they were well nourished.
60:44
They were prosperous.
60:45
They were also rather sick.
60:49
They were pretty heavily infested with microbes,
60:53
because actually having created a unified trading
60:56
area in the Mediterranean, they'd
60:58
created a pretty good breeding zone for microbial disease.
61:02
And so infectious disease was actually a pretty big problem.
61:06
The Romans were well nourished and literate and short.
61:10
STEVEN PINKER: By the way, are those data
61:12
on the prosperity of Romans-- do they include the slaves?
61:15
PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah--
61:16
STEVEN PINKER: It was a slave society.
61:18
PAUL KRUGMAN: --as best we can.
61:19
There were not as many slaves as people think.
61:21
There were parts of the economy--
61:23
but I just want to say that the point is that the Romans were
61:27
actually very good at order, and they were actually
61:29
very good, much better than we are at the moment,
61:32
at carrying out infrastructure investment when it was needed.
61:36
But they didn't know about modern disease theory.
61:42
Had they known about it, they probably
61:43
would have done a pretty good job of dealing with it.
61:46
So there's a lot of stuff.
61:47
There's an enabling factor.
61:49
Going back to the stuff where I really
61:50
know what I'm talking about, clearly global trade
61:55
is something where you need technologies
62:00
and the advance of knowledge, and not just the fancy stuff.
62:06
We talk about the internet or whatever,
62:09
but it turns out that the standardized-sized shipping
62:13
container is a huge driver of the way
62:17
that the world has changed over the past 40 years.
62:21
But the point is that politicians
62:24
or the political system can either
62:27
create an environment which is favorable for making use
62:31
of the possibilities that knowledge offers,
62:34
or it can create an environment that's very unfavorable.
62:38
And of course, it also somewhat matters
62:39
whether the political leaders are interested in hearing about
62:44
truth, facts, science, which, again,
62:47
is one of the things that's making me pessimistic
62:50
these days.
62:54
STEVEN PINKER: Going back to your Rawlsian question
62:56
projected into the future-- by the way,
62:58
I completely agree that the Rawlsian question is the way
63:01
to assess progress.
63:02
And in fact, for reasons of time,
63:04
I actually cut out my own version of the Rawlsian
63:07
question from my talk, which I use
63:09
as an epigraph for the section on progress in the book.
63:12
And it comes from Barack Obama, a student at Harvard, at least
63:16
in law school, presumably influenced
63:18
by Rawls when he said, if you had to pick a moment
63:20
to be born, and you didn't know who you'd be
63:21
or where you'd be, you'd choose now.
63:23
So I think that is the right question.
63:25
It's a funny question to ask about the year 2050,
63:27
because what's going to happen in 2050 very much
63:30
depends on what we do now and on the results of thousands
63:33
of conversations, such as the one that we're having now.
63:36
And I see the value of acknowledging the fact
63:41
of progress in the past not as saying, well,
63:44
we can automatically extrapolate lines,
63:46
because obviously we can't.
63:50
Going forward, as we say, what should be our attitude?
63:55
Since we're going to be bending that curve up,
63:59
down, or sideways, what do we do to keep it going up?
64:01
And I think the answer is to look at what has pushed it
64:04
up so far, try to do more of that, including,
64:08
in the case of climate change--
64:09
I have an op-ed coming out in the Times on Sunday,
64:13
assuming that they don't postpone it yet another week,
64:15
called How to Save the World, in which I and my co-authors,
64:19
Joshua Goldstein and Staffan Qvist,
64:22
identify what I think we ought to do
64:24
to meet the challenge of climate change.
64:27
This is not optimism that we actually
64:30
will meet the challenge and do what has to be done.
64:32
Maybe we won't.
64:34
I have no idea.
64:35
I would not place a bet.
64:36
But on the other hand, our challenge
64:38
now, since we don't know, is not to place bets
64:42
about what's going to happen in 2050
64:43
but to argue to do now what would
64:48
bend the curve in the right direction, what would solve it,
64:51
knowing that that is what our successful ancestors did
64:55
when they did succeed.
64:57
DANIEL D'AMICO: We have about 25 minutes remaining
64:59
in our program, and I'd like to leave
65:01
sufficient time for questions from the audience.
65:03
There are two microphones in each of the respective aisles.
65:07
If you're interested, by all means.
65:19
Start with the left.
65:22
AUDIENCE: Thank you both for an excellent lecture.
65:24
At the end of your discussion, Dr. Pinker,
65:26
you alluded to the fact that we need
65:28
to be thinking about policies now
65:29
that, for the future in 50 years,
65:31
will provide the greatest benefit to human society.
65:34
From my perspective, as a soon-to-be-graduating senior,
65:36
our politics has shifted in a way,
65:38
whether talking about the media, about campaign finance,
65:40
that encourages politicians to take short-term solutions
65:43
to long-term problems.
65:44
If both of you would be willing to respond with one thing
65:47
that we should be looking for in our politics
65:49
or as individuals in our future society to address this change
65:52
and to promote more long-term solutions to these problems.
65:57
STEVEN PINKER: I guess my own recommendation would
66:01
be to distinguish between two mindsets in terms
66:05
of how we deal with the problems we have now.
66:08
One of them is that you can blame problems on evil people,
66:12
and the path to progress is to punish and shame
66:17
and defeat them and make sure that good triumphs over evil.
66:20
The other is that there are problems.
66:23
There have always been problems.
66:26
It's a lack of knowledge that would mean
66:31
the problems would persist.
66:32
It's attaining the right knowledge
66:33
that would mean that we could get out of them.
66:35
Now, neither of them are completely
66:39
viable as political philosophy.
66:40
Sometimes, you really do have to oppose people who
66:43
stand in the way of progress.
66:45
But I tend to think that there's too much of a tendency,
66:49
in both campus and Washington politics, to see problems
66:53
as the malevolent designs of evil people, of course,
66:57
on both sides as opposed to the result of ignorance
67:01
and not knowing how to solve our problems.
67:03
PAUL KRUGMAN: I just want to say,
67:05
I actually disagree with your premise.
67:07
I don't think that the problem we have
67:09
is that politicians favor short term over long term.
67:16
There's a lot of bad policies being undertaken.
67:19
But for the most part, they're not
67:21
being undertaken because people know what they should be doing
67:25
in the long run but are choosing to do something
67:28
that is short sighted instead.
67:30
They're doing the wrong thing because they believe things,
67:32
or at least pretend to believe things,
67:34
that are simply not true.
67:42
You might think that the problem we have in coping with climate
67:45
change is that the costs of action occur now,
67:51
and the benefits are spread over many future generations
67:55
if only we could get to that point.
67:57
The problem we're having with climate change
67:59
is that a sufficiently powerful political blocking coalition
68:03
has decided that it isn't actually a problem,
68:07
that it's a conspiracy on the part of socialists
68:10
or something.
68:15
The problem is much harder.
68:17
And the problem is how to even get science, knowledge,
68:23
rational thinking into the room.
68:25
And we're not doing very well on that issue and quite
68:28
a few others.
68:30
AUDIENCE: Thank you both.
68:31
DANIEL D'AMICO: Next question.
68:32
AUDIENCE: Hi.
68:32
Thank you both for coming today.
68:34
To continue on the thread of climate change,
68:36
it seems to me that a lot of the material progress that's
68:41
occurred in the West and around the world
68:45
has been based upon extractive industries that overuse
68:51
and overexploit certain resources, natural resources
68:53
and human resources.
68:56
So I'm wondering, going into the future,
68:58
is there a way that we can continue
69:00
to progress in the ways you've both mentioned
69:04
without continuing those practices which
69:06
are causing climate change?
69:08
Is there a way that we can progress
69:10
in a way that is truly sustainable and equitable?
69:14
STEVEN PINKER: Yeah, there is a way,
69:16
although it doesn't mean that it will happen automatically.
69:23
But do the laws of physics allow for the resources
69:27
that we can exploit, that we know how to exploit,
69:29
and we have a reasonable chance of knowing
69:31
how to develop further afford the kind of lifestyle
69:35
that we've been enjoying that has underwritten this progress?
69:37
And you're certainly right that we would not
69:39
have enjoyed a lot of this progress
69:40
if we did not have the ability to capture
69:43
large amounts of energy.
69:44
And that's probably a common denominator
69:46
behind all increases in prosperity in the past,
69:50
that they are fueled, to some extent, by energy.
69:54
It is not irrevocable that the only way to gather energy
69:58
is by burning carbon.
69:59
And in fact, there's even been a transition
70:01
that has occurred in industrialized economies away
70:04
from the most carbon-intensive fuel source,
70:07
namely, wood and then coal, to petroleum, which is less carbon
70:12
intensive, to natural gas, which is still less carbon intensive,
70:16
to renewables and nuclear, which have
70:23
pretty close to zero emissions.
70:25
And just to give you a preview, I will argue in this op-ed,
70:28
and I did argue in Enlightenment Now-- so it's not a secret--
70:31
that there is no path that we know of to decarbonizing
70:35
the world economy while allowing for economic growth
70:38
in the developing world, in China and India
70:41
and Indonesia, that does not involve nuclear.
70:44
I think there's been a lot of irrational opposition
70:47
to nuclear.
70:50
Maybe I disagree with Paul.
70:51
I don't think it is just the climate
70:53
deniers on the right that are impediments to meeting
70:56
the climate challenge.
70:57
I think it's also technophobia against nuclear power, which
71:02
is carbon free, and opposition to certain policies that Paul
71:06
and I both agree on, such as carbon pricing, where
71:09
it's often the left who oppose carbon pricing as
71:12
much as the right.
71:14
So there are impediments on both sides.
71:16
But the general answer to your question
71:17
is, yes, energy will be necessary to continue
71:23
our material progress.
71:24
No, energy does not have to come from burning carbon.
71:27
PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah, there is not a tight relationship
71:32
between BTUs burned and real GDP.
71:37
There is some relationship.
71:39
There has been historically.
71:40
But it's one that just, in general,
71:42
is something on which there's a lot of room for choice.
71:46
There are all kinds of decisions that you
71:48
can make that are going to affect that relationship.
71:50
So the idea that economic progress
71:53
depends upon us consuming ever more energy
71:57
is actually not right.
71:59
Even in general, we could conceivably
72:01
have an economy that is richer in important ways which
72:03
actually uses less energy in total
72:05
and, of course, that the energy doesn't have
72:07
to come from burning fossil fuels,
72:10
certainly doesn't have to come from carbon.
72:12
And at the moment, as it happens,
72:15
we're at an inflection point on the technology, which
72:19
has turned enormously more favorable to the--
72:24
technology's our friend right now in fighting carbon change.
72:28
Nuclear-- I'm all for it.
72:30
Nuclear is going to be part of the solution.
72:32
But the idea used to be that that was
72:35
the only plausible alternative.
72:38
But now, renewables have made so much progress.
72:41
I mean, we actually are in the situation where, I guess,
72:46
last year the Energy Secretary floated a proposal that
72:50
was basically going to force renewable energy to subsidize
72:52
coal burning, right?
72:54
The economics have flipped so totally that coal-powered
73:00
electricity generation--
73:02
the market wants it to die.
73:04
And it's going to be political favoritism that keeps it alive.
73:10
If we could reach agreement that we need to do this,
73:16
that we need to decarbonize, then the technology
73:19
is pretty much already there.
73:21
And there would be some economic cost,
73:23
but the economic cost looks far lower
73:25
than it did a few years ago.
73:28
And yes, I mean, when Germany shuts down its nuclear plants
73:32
and starts burning coal again, that's really bad.
73:38
That's dumb.
73:39
But that's not the core of the problem.
73:41
The core of the problem is actually just convincing people
73:44
that, look, this may not be what you want to hear,
73:47
but this is real, and it's critical.
73:50
DANIEL D'AMICO: Next question.
73:52
AUDIENCE: First of all, thank you for asking my question,
73:54
so I'll ask something else.
73:58
I used to be very favorable of carbon pricing
74:00
as well, until the riots in France started happening.
74:04
So I'm not necessarily convinced that artificially raising
74:09
the price of a good and service we still depend on
74:13
will prevent people from using it.
74:15
How do we find the right balance of disincentivizing
74:19
fossil fuels without making it so that people in poverty
74:23
can't afford a good and service that we still depend on?
74:29
STEVEN PINKER: You're the economist.
74:30
PAUL KRUGMAN: So look, I'm for carbon pricing.
74:33
And we're going to have to eventually do it.
74:35
I mean, there are a lot of things--
74:38
there are micro versions of that that happen all the time.
74:45
The New York State legislature just
74:47
approved congestion pricing for lower Manhattan.
74:51
Will that hurt some people?
74:53
Yeah.
74:54
Or will some of those people be people who are actually
74:57
not doing that well?
74:58
Yeah, but it's insane.
75:01
When somebody takes a car into lower Manhattan,
75:05
they're imposing enormous costs on everybody else.
75:09
But there is this economics--
75:16
I think some of my colleagues call it
75:18
101ism, people who've read their econ 101 textbook
75:22
and think that that gives all the answers.
75:25
And econ 101 says that the solution to pollution, solution
75:29
to negative externalities is to put a price on the pollutant.
75:34
And that is certainly a way, and it's
75:37
going to be part of the solution.
75:39
But it's not the only thing to do.
75:40
It's not the only way.
75:42
And I'm basically for everything.
75:47
This technological progress in renewable energy
75:50
did not happen entirely just out of the blue.
75:55
A lot of it has to do with investments
75:56
that were made under the Obama stimulus plan, which
76:00
provided crucial skills.
76:01
So investment in new technologies, encouragement--
76:05
there's a lot of things you can do that go beyond.
76:09
And so carbon pricing is going to be part of the solution,
76:13
eventually.
76:15
It doesn't have to be the centerpiece.
76:18
You do certainly need to think about who you're affecting.
76:23
I mean, the [FRENCH] thing in France
76:26
is not just that Macron imposed carbon pricing,
76:30
but he simultaneously imposed carbon pricing
76:32
and also jiggered the tax system in ways
76:35
that favored higher income-- he managed to do a totally
76:39
anti-populist program there.
76:42
I don't know who he was listening to.
76:45
But if you're going to do it, it has
76:47
to come with a bunch of sweeteners.
76:48
And that's the way to do it.
76:51
DANIEL D'AMICO: Next question.
76:53
AUDIENCE: OK, thank you both for coming.
76:56
My question is, what can we as individuals
76:58
do to promote progress, to make sure progress happens?
77:02
Is the most we can do promote values of science, rationality,
77:07
and humanism?
77:09
And if so, how do we fight their opposites,
77:11
the values of ignorance, populism,
77:14
and segregated societies?
77:16
Thank you.
77:18
STEVEN PINKER: Well, indeed, it does
77:21
involve promoting the values that
77:24
have led to the progress so far and, in particular,
77:27
having a mindset of prioritizing human well-being
77:32
as the ultimate good as opposed to national
77:35
or religious or racial glory.
77:38
It involves science in the best sense
77:40
of trying to explain things and letting the world tell you
77:43
whether your explanations are right or wrong,
77:46
refining reason, and not falling into traps of illusions
77:50
and biases and fallacies, which we know,
77:52
from cognitive psychology, we're prone to when
77:55
left to our own devices.
77:56
So it does involve prioritizing education and elevating
78:01
the quality of discourse in the public sphere,
78:03
including newspapers and, for that matter, barroom debates.
78:08
It also, I think, involves the allocation
78:10
of brainpower to constructive uses.
78:14
And I'll say this at a fellow ivy school,
78:17
is that I'm often disappointed to see so many smart people go
78:23
into finance, not that I don't think we
78:26
should have a financial sector.
78:27
We obviously need one.
78:28
[APPLAUSE]
78:33
I think it's OK for some smart people to be in finance.
78:35
But I'm disappointed in seeing these really smart students
78:38
figuring out how to make some very, very, very
78:41
rich people still a little even richer as opposed to figuring
78:47
out ways of carbon capture and storage,
78:50
treatment of Alzheimer's disease,
78:52
treatment of diabetes and obesity, in the political realm
78:56
figuring out how do you actually implement a policy of carbon
79:00
pricing with the right kind of rebates
79:02
so people won't put on yellow vests
79:03
and burn cars on the Champs-Elysees.
79:08
So it's not just scientific.
79:09
It's also policy.
79:10
But [INAUDIBLE] of higher education, I
79:12
would like to see some incentives that
79:15
allocate brainpower to where the brainpower can
79:18
be put to best use.
79:21
PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah, also, vote.
79:25
Organize.
79:25
[APPLAUSE]
79:28
Demonstrate.
79:29
Write letters, and not just to politicians.
79:37
When media organizations do bothsidesism on issues
79:44
where, in fact, there is truth and falsity,
79:48
people should write in and complain.
79:53
My experience in the media world--
79:58
still weird to think of myself as part of it--
80:02
is that you'd be amazed at how thin-skinned
80:06
a lot of journalists are, how they
80:10
are intimidated by criticism.
80:15
I'm a rhinoceros at this point.
80:16
[INAUDIBLE]
80:19
And all too often, that pressure comes only from one side,
80:25
because there are organized groups.
80:28
But you can be the other side.
80:30
You can be the one that chastises
80:32
both politicians and journalists,
80:34
public figures of any kind for not taking
80:37
the side of truth and progress.
80:39
DANIEL D'AMICO: Next question.
80:40
AUDIENCE: Hi.
80:41
Thank you both for speaking today.
80:43
So today, there's more people in the world
80:44
than ever before, and that number is only increasing.
80:48
And this relates to a lot of things like food production,
80:50
waste creation, population density, health care costs,
80:53
and so on and so forth.
80:55
I was wondering if you had any thoughts on how the growing
80:58
population could benefit or hinder future progress.
81:03
STEVEN PINKER: Well, depending on the projection
81:07
that you look at--
81:08
the projection that I've seen that takes
81:10
into account the effects of education on fertility,
81:15
namely, people with more education have fewer babies,
81:18
and women's empowerment--
81:20
when women are more empowered, they
81:23
have their first baby later, their last baby sooner--
81:27
and the effect of urbanization-- people who live in cities have
81:29
fewer kids--
81:31
not only will population probably peak around 2070,
81:36
but we are beginning to see, in richer countries--
81:39
and that's starting to spread to poorer countries--
81:41
what could become population collapses.
81:44
There's a book called Empty Planet
81:45
by Ibbitson and Bricker, which presents,
81:50
I think, some plausible demographic data
81:52
that the problem that we may face
81:56
is not overpopulation, which was the nightmare of the 1970s,
82:01
but rather something closer to what's happening in Japan,
82:04
where you've got lots and lots of old people being supported
82:07
by a very small number of working younger people.
82:10
Now, we don't know that for sure.
82:11
Again, we can't extrapolate with certainty.
82:15
But the combination of the peaking population--
82:18
and as Paul mentioned before, it's not a constant that every
82:22
human being used the same amount of energy as being used today--
82:26
with dematerialization, the fact that we
82:29
have apps that we used to have gadgets doing,
82:32
the fact that there can be huge increases in efficiency,
82:36
getting the stuff that people want with fewer resources,
82:40
could mean that the Population Bomb, as it was called in 1968,
82:46
will be diffused.
82:48
PAUL KRUGMAN: Yeah, basically, I agree.
82:51
The sheer population itself is not
82:54
the reason to be scared about the future of the planet.
82:59
And in fact, stagnating or falling working-age populations
83:04
brings problems of its own.
83:07
A lot of the trouble in Japan is that the number
83:11
of working-age Japanese is declining more than 1% a year.
83:14
China working-age population appears to have peaked.
83:18
Europe working-age population appears to have peaked.
83:22
And those bring problems of their own.
83:25
So no, I mean, the population sounds like it
83:29
should be a central issue.
83:33
Yeah, we're not in a Malthusian world in the old sense.
83:38
We might have a different kind of Malthusian crisis involving
83:43
environment and resources, but it's not really
83:45
about the sheer number of people.
83:47
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
83:50
DANIEL D'AMICO: Next question.
83:52
AUDIENCE: Hi.
83:53
As everyone else before me said, thank you
83:55
for your presentations.
83:56
I actually have a question for Dr. Pinker
83:58
on your slide about white hostility towards blacks.
84:02
The data you used talked about, I think,
84:06
whether people were still for discrimination or not,
84:08
like segregation.
84:09
And I think that data is a little bit outdated
84:12
in the forms of racism that are present today,
84:15
which are not as overt.
84:16
And I think that discrimination still exists,
84:19
and we can see that in empirical data, like in wealth and health
84:23
there is huge disparities.
84:25
So I was just wondering how you feel about the idea
84:29
that, in some ways, racial issues have
84:32
made a lot of progress, but in other metrics
84:35
they've actually lagged.
84:37
STEVEN PINKER: Yeah, a couple of things--
84:38
in terms of attitudes, every measure,
84:42
both explicit and implicit, shows that racial prejudice
84:46
is in decline.
84:47
I think I mentioned my colleague, Mahzarin Banaji,
84:49
and Tessa Charlesworth have shown that even
84:51
with the subtle instrument called the Implicit Association
84:55
Test, where you get associations between, say, negative concepts
85:00
and African-American and positive and white, that that
85:05
has been in decline.
85:07
And that is not just people saying what they
85:09
know a pollster wants to hear.
85:11
I did my own crude measure in Enlightenment Now,
85:14
with the help of Seth Stephens-Davidowitz,
85:16
looking at the proportion of search
85:19
for racist jokes on Google.
85:22
People, in the privacy of their offices or keyboards,
85:25
will search for all kinds of racist material.
85:27
And if you look at the percentage
85:29
of search for racist jokes, it's gone way down.
85:38
Despite the appearance that we get,
85:39
now that the internet and social media
85:41
make it easier for racists to find each other
85:44
and to express ideas that used to be taboo,
85:49
we have an illusion that racism is going up,
85:51
whereas in fact, by every measure, it's going down.
85:54
Now, in terms of racial progress,
85:56
here, too, one has to distinguish the statement,
86:02
there are no racial problems, with the statement
86:04
that the problems are not as severe as they used to be.
86:07
So it can both be true that there
86:10
has been progress in the well-being of African-Americans
86:13
and that we are nowhere near where we want to be.
86:16
Namely, it used to be worse.
86:18
So if you look at, say, the major measures
86:21
of human well-being, in every one of them,
86:23
there's been spectacular racial progress.
86:25
In terms of longevity, for example, a hundred years
86:28
ago there was an 18-year gap between whites and blacks.
86:31
Now, there's a three-year gap.
86:33
Now, ideally, there should be no gap.
86:34
But still, 18 to 3 is a big change.
86:37
In terms of poverty, a century ago the poverty rate
86:39
for African-Americans was greater than 50%.
86:42
Now, it's less than 25%.
86:44
Again, that's too high.
86:45
But 25% is better than 50%.
86:48
And in terms of literacy--
86:50
the turn of the 20th century, 40% of African-Americans
86:53
were illiterate.
86:54
Now, it's basically a zero.
86:57
And in terms of happiness, which you
86:58
could say is the ultimate measure of progress,
87:02
the happiness of African-Americans
87:03
has been increasing for 50 years.
87:06
Happiness of white Americans has been pretty stagnant,
87:09
in fact, a little bit of a decline.
87:11
So it is both true that we've made fantastic progress
87:15
and that problems remain.
87:16
AUDIENCE: Thank you.
87:17
PAUL KRUGMAN: I just had an addendum.
87:20
So we still have substantial racism,
87:25
substantial racial discrimination, almost
87:29
certainly a lot less than we used to.
87:33
At the same time, we have rising income inequality.
87:39
And so if you have a society which tends to relegate people,
87:43
nonwhites, to lower-status jobs, lower-status occupations,
87:48
and even if the extent to which they
87:51
are pushed into those positions is less
87:53
than it used to be but the gap between those lower-status
87:57
occupations and jobs and the better jobs has been growing,
88:02
you can have a situation in which the income
88:04
gap can go either way.
88:05
So I think that's overwhelming.
88:08
We are far less racist.
88:10
Actually, look at polling data.
88:12
You've done more of this.
88:13
But looking at polling data from the early 1980s, which I still
88:17
remember pretty well, it's inconceivable
88:20
how blatantly racist we were as a society.
88:24
And yet, because we are also a vastly more unequal society
88:27
than we were, in some ways racial disparities
88:29
have failed to narrow.
88:31
DANIEL D'AMICO: Thank you.
88:32
Unfortunately--