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Building Fluency: Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know

These materials are based on a book called “Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know” by Bailey and Tupy. As the name suggests, the book looks at ten different ways that the world is evolving. I have taken a summary of some of the parts of the book as a source of reading material - this type of lesson is always really good for thinking about new topics and questions and feeds into a lot of opportunity for further studying and discussion.


Before starting to look at the ten different trends, I would like you to think about a question from a Poll that was conducted by YouGov in 2016 -


"All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse,

or neither getting better nor worse?"


  1. Firstly, what would you answer to the question?

  2. Secondly, what percentage of people do you think answered, "things are getting better"?

*The results are found at the end of this post.


Now, think about the following questions prior to reading the text below.

  1. Are there more people in the world than 100 years ago? how will this change in the future?

  2. Has the world become safer in the last 100 years and will this trend continue?

  3. Are we running out of natural resources?

  4. Is the world more democratic nowadays?

  5. How have leading causes of deaths worldwide changed over time?


___________

*the text*



  • TREND 1 THE GREAT ENRICHMENT

“Since 1820, the size of the world’s economy has grown more than a hundredfold. Over the past 200 years, the world population grew somewhat less than eightfold.”


  • TREND 2 THE END OF POVERTY

“as late as 1820, nearly 84 percent of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty (roughly on less than $1.90 per day per person).”

“Maintaining the current rate of poverty reduction would result in less than 5 percent of the world’s population living in destitution in 2030. ”


  • TREND 3 ARE WE RUNNING OUT OF RESOURCES?

“Adjusted for inflation, however, 43 commodities declined in price, 2 remained equally valuable, and only 5 commodities increased in price. On average, the real price of 50 commodities fell by 36.3 percent.

Between 1980 and 2017, the inflation-adjusted global hourly income per person also grew by 80.1 percent. Therefore, for the amount of work required, commodities became 64.7 percent cheaper. ”


  • TREND 4 PEAK POPULATION

“World population will likely peak at 9.8 billion people at around 2080 and fall to 9.5 billion by 2100”

“Other global trends—such as steeply falling child mortality rates, increased urbanization, rising incomes, and the spread of political and economic freedom—all strongly correlate with families’ choosing to have fewer children. ”


  • TREND 5 THE END OF FAMINE

“Since 1961, the global average population weighted food supply per person per day rose from 2,196 calories to 2,962 calories in 2017.”


  • TREND 6 MORE LAND FOR NATURE

“The global tree canopy increased by 2.24 million square kilometres (865,000 square miles) between 1982 and 2016”

“Expanding woodlands suggests that humanity has begun the process of withdrawing from the natural world, which, in turn, will provide greater scope for other species to rebound and thrive.”


  • TREND 7 PLANET CITY

“According to the United Nations, the share of humanity living in cities rose from 751 million (29 percent) in 1950 to 4.2 billion (55 percent) in 2018”


  • TREND 8 DEMOCRACY ON THE MARCH

“The Centre for Systemic Peace evaluates the characteristics of a political regime in each country on a scale from -10, which denotes a tyranny like North Korea, to 10, which denotes a politically free society like Norway.


The percentage of countries that scored 7 and above, thus qualifying as full-fledged democracies, rose from 31 percent in 1989 to 49 percent in 2017”


  • TREND 9 THE LONG PEACE

“The incidence of armed conflict in the world ha[s] actually decreased substantially in the past few decades, although spiking up in 2014–2015. Interstate war (that is, war between states) has become a rare event.”


  • TREND 10 A SAFER WORLD

“The chance of a person dying in a natural catastrophe—earthquake, flood, drought, storm, wildfire, landslide, or epidemic—has declined by nearly 99 percent since the 1920s and 1930s”


*end of text*

___________



The results of the Poll and possible explanation

  • A meagre 11% of people responded with “things are getting better”. In the US, it was even worse at only 6%.


I have no idea where the following bit of text came from, but the author put forwards a few reasons for why many individuals feel things are getting worse:

  1. There’s an asymmetry between positive and negative experiences. Negative events impact us more than positive events. The authors suggest that the media often think along the lines of, “News is bad news; steady progress is not news.” Because many of us follow the news – and the news tends to dwell on negative events – we often think that the world is far worse than what it actually is. In 1973, Kahneman and Tversky identified a cognitive bias they called the “availability bias”. Therefore, we have a tendency to think that the examples that come readily to mind are much more representative than what is actually the case. Because of this, the authors suggest that focusing on the news creates a bias towards being overly pessimistic about progress.

  2. It has been suggested that humans’ over-emphasis on negative trends may be due to evolutionary psychology, “A Stone Age man hears a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a lion? If he assumes it’s the wind and the rustling turns out to be a lion, then he’s not an ancestor. We are the descendants of the worried folks who tended to assume that all rustles in the grass were dangerous predators and not the wind.” Humans developed to be cautious, instinctively focusing on potential negative events. Despite this, “the upshot is that we are again often misled into thinking that the world is worse than it is.”

  3. Thirdly, we underestimate the progress (of humanity) because as we make progress, our attention is captured by newer problems, rather than the progress we have made so far. Daniel Gilbert and his colleagues suggest, “When problems become rare, we count more things as problems. Our studies suggest that when the world gets better, we become harsher critics of it, and this can cause us to mistakenly conclude that it hasn’t actually gotten better at all. Progress, it seems, tends to mask itself”.


__________


You've started to think about the topic and build your vocabulary - to really build on developing your spoken fluency then this needs to be done through active usage of the language - contact me on joel.white.english@gmail.com to discuss how we can put together a series of personalised lessons to develop your fluency on the topics that are most relevant to yourself!


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