Enlightenment Now – Steven Pinker Book Summary

Enlightenment Now – Steven Pinker | Free Book Summary

Enlightenment Now – Steven Pinker

Enlightenment Now is a thoroughly researched vision of human progress.

An optimistic view of the world

Wealth has increased not just in the West but globally, while poverty and inequality have declined.

We still face issues like terrorism, artificial intelligence, and the environment, but we must approach them rationally.

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Contrary to what the news would have you believe, progress rather than misery is the human story of the twenty-first century.

Enlightenment has increased wealth while reducing poverty and inequality

Over 90% of the world’s population lived in extreme poverty just 200 years ago. That percentage is currently less than 10%. That’s because the world’s income tripled between 1820 and 1900. It tripled again 50 years later, and a third time by 1984. 

Even less wealthy and developed nations today, like El Salvador or Rwanda, double their income every 18 years. More affluent nations do so every 35 years.Free book, podcast summaries

The media favours negative stories

The media’s preference for negative stories makes the majority of people afraid. 

They never report on the 100,000 people who have managed to escape poverty, but they can go on and on about a terror attack. 

One of the most useful abilities you can possess is the ability to view the world logically.

Climate Change Is Real

Progress in human civilization will continue.  

We must reduce emissions 50% in the next 25 years if we want to keep global warming from rising above the 2 degree Celsius threshold. That’s a big ask, but the only things that will get us there are reason and optimism.

Life And Health

The average life expectancy has increased from less than 30 years in the middle of the eighteenth century to over 70 years today, and this increase is visible in all age groups and across all continents. Maternal and infant mortality have both significantly decreased.

Sanitation, sterilization, vaccination, antibiotics, and other scientific and medical advancements have significantly decreased the threat of infectious disease and collectively saved billions of lives.

Human Sustenance

Famine and hunger were common place throughout most of history. People today have access to more than 2,500 calories a day on average. In some of the world’s poorest areas, measures of stunted growth and undernutrition are declining, and famine-related deaths globally are also declining.

This accomplishment was greatly aided by technology, which included improved crop varieties, synthetic fertilizer, mechanized farming, and now genetic engineering.

Quality Of Life

Work hours have decreased from more than 60 hours per week in the United States and Western Europe in 1870 to around 40 hours today. 

Housework has decreased from 58 hours per week in 1900 to 15.5 hours per week in 2011, freeing everyone from drudge work, though due to who has historically performed housework, this is primarily a liberation for women.


Democracy (that is, democratic republics as opposed to authoritarian regimes) is sweeping the globe. After suffering setbacks from socialist regimes in the mid-twentieth century, it is on the mend, with Nazism defeated and Communism falling. In contrast to one percent in 1816, two-thirds of the world’s population now lives in “free or relatively free societies.”

The Rise Of Education

Children are staying in school longer and becoming more literate around the world. As more cultures decide to educate their daughters, women are closing the education gap with men. 

Even IQ scores are rising (the Flynn Effect), most likely as a result of increased access to education.

The world is getting better

People today are better off than they were before the Enlightenment, whether we’re talking about life and health, wealth, inequality, or sustenance.

The same is true for security and democracy, for equality of rights and education, and even for happiness.

In conclusion, the world really is getting better!

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