Like millions of people, I was carried to work today in a comfortable metal box by the controlled explosion of 60-million-year-old dinosaur juice. (You call that petrol).
I avoided unexpected traffic on my way thanks to flying machines orbiting the earth, which talked to a metal and glass supercomputer in my pocket smaller than a bar of soap. (You call that a phone).
My pocket supercomputer is – of course – wirelessly connected to the entirety of humanity’s knowledge. The entirety of humanity’s knowledge is – of course – free. And I can search all of it as fast as I can type.
None of this is even interesting to anyone anymore.
At work, I help make software, which is to say I am able to benefit the lives of people mostly by thinking and occasionally pressing some buttons on a surface. Somehow, I am paid for this.
At the supermarket I look for bananas, which have been transported five thousand miles for my convenience, yet remain fresh, tasty, and so cheap I don’t even notice their price (12 pence). I enjoy food without even considering the possibility that it might be diseased, or toxic, or fatal. I buy a plump, delicious chicken – the byproduct of a thousand years of careful breeding – and let machines scan my choices with beams of light and pay them with a thin piece of plastic. If I run out of money, there are whole industries competing to loan me some, for a price.
Best of all, I realize, I have my place amongst all of this wonder, and so do most people around me. My trip to the supermarket likely helped employ a hundred thousand people or more; from chefs to engineers, shelf stackers to logo designers. A few of those people are in their dream jobs, most less so, but together we’re all a lot more prosperous and opportune than when we built our own shacks and dug dry vegetables out of our gardens.
Is this world perfect? No. Many are exploited, and most are denied it entirely. I’ve walked through slums in Africa, India, and South America. I know I’m amongst the luckiest alive.
But once upon a time, I wouldn’t have been lucky either. If you look at the whole of human history, a trend becomes clear. Draw a graph of the rights of women, or income per person, or human lifespan over the past thousand years. Compare the life of a child today with one fifty years ago. Consider how likely it is, today, that a person living in a developed nation will be drafted into war, or die in childbirth.
There are blips in that graph, to be sure, but the world is getting better constantly, and it’s not about to stop anytime soon.
If you’re able to read this, you live in the most amazing time imaginable. And the funniest thing is, most of us never even notice.