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Humanity has made today the happiest, healthiest, most productive time in human existence, despite the enormous problems humanity faces.

While my idea might seem naive, I believe it is a good place to start in talking about what is ultimately an absolutely necessary topic of conversation: whether we as a species have been successful in what I believe is at the very core of our existence: improving that existence for ourselves and those who will follow after us.

I believe there is a romanticization of the "simplicity", "purity" and "naturalness" of humanity years ago before any semblance of modern society, save language, have come to be. This state of nature, especially in contrast with what seems like a newly stressful, busy and impersonal existence, seems idyllic. A time when we were not bound by responsibility, but simply by one simple goal: survival. There was a great peanuts comic that argues my point more poignantly than I ever could. It features Linus staring at Snoopy, lieing on his house, telling him:

“I envy you, Snoopy…You don’t have to worry about anything!” Exasperated, Linus exclaims, “You don’t have to worry about the future of the world or about inflation or anything!” Perched on his dog house, Snoopy ponders for a moment and replies, “I wonder where my next meal is coming from.”

I do not intend to misstate my case, environmental catastrophe, widespread poverty and death from preventable causes, war, nuclear weaponry, inequity, and simple hate and intolerance present terrifying threats to what we have as a species created. However, despite these concerns, never in human existence has humanity lived such long, healthy, creative and productive lives.

Has our departure from "nature" made our society "unnatural"? Is that a bad thing? Are we indeed faced with more time to be creative, and has it lead to us being more "productive"? Does life, health and opportunity equate to a higher level of general happiness?

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    Apr 1 2011: life from the start was probably the happiest it will ever be, hunt, feed, live, love. the day we decided it was time to take out that tribe down by the river was the day it went downhill from there.
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      Apr 1 2011: That day probably existed before humans separated as a species from the other apes. Are you familiar with Jane Goodall's research on chimpanzee violence? She studied the chimps in the wild for many years and came to the conclusion that they were not violent between tribes. Then she returned after a period away only to find that she had been mistaken and that inter-tribal warfare was a factor in chimpanzee society.

      But maybe you were talking about back when we were single celled amoebae?
  • Apr 1 2011: "However, despite these concerns, never in human existence has humanity lived such long, healthy, creative and productive lives. "

    True, but I think we've also not been so dissatisfied, envious of others, uprooted and .... lost before.
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    Apr 1 2011: Happily ignorant is not a good thing in my opinion. With realizing how bad the ENTIRE world is doing I find it hard for myself to be happy. There are obese people dying from being too large, while there are those who die from lack of a meal. Imperialism, nationalism, and religion are the results of such ignorance in my opinion. The world separates itself on the ground in which connects the itself the most! The earth is the starting point yet we put ourselves in the heavens of thought. We decided 'self' is more important than 'everyone' our happiness should come first above all else. These are selfish ideals.


    Consider America's top one percent most wealthy families who own 40 percent of America's wealth. These people have their vast wealth because of an idea, not because of people, an ideology gave them more than the majority of the world has. This is shameful. We as a people of planet need to rethink our values. This is why Venus project is such a great concept, it is selfless, whether it would work or not is besides the point. the point is it is a look at an alternative way to run the world.

    I am a futurist so it is VERY hard for me to happy outside of moments. I see the world self-destructing if education (in every respect) is not corrected very soon. Creativity, inspiration, love, and sacrifice are what make change, not conforming to old ideologies. I have to live with the sins or carefree ignorance of my parents and their parents. While we allow a handful of people to own ten cars, four boats, and two jets we also allow "third world" countries to die of starvation. WE ARE ONE PEOPLE OF THE WORLD. If we educated in those terms things would change dramatically for the better.

    "Third world country" means a country that does not have a close system to capitalism. Cause 1 percent having 40 percent is a great system. Stop working in or around systems and just WORK.
    • Apr 1 2011: I don't think people who are happy are necessarily "happily ignorant". I am happy. I am most definitely not ignorant of problems and issues in the world. But the reality is that mankind has been striving to do what you and others of your generation want to do since the beginning of time. And (Mike and the Mechanics, here) every generation blames the one before. By all means go forth and do what you want to do -- eradicate poverty, fix the world. But arguing about it on TED Conversations won't make it happen. You're going to have to get out there and get your hands dirty building houses or injecting sick people or teaching sustainable agriculture to nomadic tribes.

      I agree with Hudson. Despite the world's problems, technology has brought huge benefits and a great deal of happiness to millions if not billions of people. That doesn't mean we sit on our laurels and say screw the third world, but it does mean that I for one don't share your immense pessimism about the world.