Steven Pinker on the future under Trump

An interview, conducted by Phil Torres, of Pinker: The United States Is Not an Apocalyptic Wasteland, Explains Steven Pinker.

Pinker is well-known for his book The Better Angels of Our Nature (2011) arguing (with copious references to sources of evidence) that violence has greatly declined over human history, despite the panic greeted in current everyday life to every report of current crimes and attacks.

Sample question and response:

Trump’s presidential campaign was successful in part because of the “alt-right” movement. At the heart of this movement is a rejection of globalism, which has fueled opposition to diversity, multiculturalism, and immigration. Do you think such opposition is in the end a losing cause? Is globalization inevitable?

Yes, globalization is inevitable, for a number of reasons. Many of our severest problems are inherently global, particularly climate, epidemics, migrants, and terrorism. Pretending they don’t exist is not tenable, at least not forever, and they can be solved only through international cooperation.

Also, globalization has massive benefits—more affordable goods, larger markets for exports, a huge reduction in global poverty—which also can’t be denied indefinitely. While globalization doesn’t benefit everyone equally—it has increased unemployment in domestic lower-skilled occupations—most of those job losses would have happened anyway because of automation, and have to be addressed, globalization or no.

Third, with the internet and inexpensive travel, there will be no stopping the flow of people and ideas. This is particularly true among younger people, who partake of a global youth culture, and as we saw in the UK following Brexit, resent their elders’ attempts to restrict their opportunities.


As for collective moral progress, I see it as pushed and pulled by two sides of human nature. Dragging us back are atavistic mindsets like zero-sum thinking, authoritarianism, tribalism, dominance, and vengeance, which operate pretty much by default. Pulling us forward are the better angels of our nature like empathy, self-control, and reason, which are energized by the Enlightenment institutions of democracy, science, education, open economies, and a global community.

This push and pull echoes E.O. Wilson’s depiction of human nature as a conflict between group values and individual values.

The interview ends:

…if the world continues to get richer, better educated, and more connected—all steady trends—it will also tend to get more liberal and cosmopolitan. As you are forced to deal with other people who are not like yourself, you are automatically driven to universal values like reason, science, and human flourishing, and away from parochial ones like “My holy books are true” or “Make American great again.”

(via David Brin on Fb)

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