The Internet is helping us move towards a more educated, prosperous, healthy and wealthy world.
Imagine for a moment a terrible virus was unleashed on the world that caused babies to die at birth. Imagine that this virus had been raging for 12 months and that during this period every baby in the world died at birth. Now imagine that one morning a baby is born and doesn't die immediately. That would be news, wouldn't it?
So many people I meet today are pessimistic. I was talking to a bunch of Irish teenagers and they told me that all their friends are really pessimistic. And yet, despite the recent downturn, Ireland has never been more prosperous.
"The life expectancy of Irish people has seen a rapid and unprecedented increase in the past 10 years, according to a new Department of Health report," states irishhealth.com. How does the Irish media respond to such stories? Either by ignoring them or accentuating the negative with headlines like: "Population over 65 to double in 30 years?."
If there's one thing I've learned in working with websites since 1994 it is: do NOT trust your instincts. Human instincts are incredibly poorly equipped to deal with a modern, complex world.
We may have a financial crisis in Europe today but it is not even remotely comparable to crises that have hit Europe down through the centuries. Globally, the world has never been more peaceful or prosperous.
Most people I tell this to think I'm mad. "Violence has been in decline over long stretches of history, and today we are probably living in the most peaceful moment of our species' time on earth," Steven Pinker writes in The History of Violence.
But look at Iraq, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria. True, but look at the global reaction to Syria, for example. Today, it is much less acceptable for the Syrian government to kill innocent civilians. 40 years ago they would have killed 10 times more people and nobody would have known or cared.
In his new book, "Too Big to Know," David Weinberger writes about how the Internet is the most amazing source of knowledge and collective intelligence the world has ever known. It would not be the first time the availability of recorded knowledge drove progress. The printing press was a truly revolutionary object.
I certainly feel very lucky to be alive today. There has never been a better time to educate yourself. We are not nearly as dependent on 'experts'. In fact, what we are finding out now is that many experts are not that expert at all. That is not to say that we do not need genuine experts but even those must collaborate today with others in order to address our ever complex world.
"In sixteenth-century Paris, a popular form of entertainment was cat-burning, in which a cat was hoisted in a sling on a stage and slowly lowered into a fire," Steven Pinker writes. The crowds absolutely loved it.
Irrational exuberance is certainly not good but pathological pessimism solves nothing. We should learn from our mistakes and feel lucky to be alive during this greatest period in human history.