Meetings No 24
Intro
Define Purpose
Long live the ‘both/and’ world in which purpose reigns.
Cover Story
Your Future is Now
Kevin Cottam on ancient wisdom meeting modern leadership.
Radar
2031 Vision, Brisbane
Encouraging visitors to stay longer and spend more.
Paths of Progress
The Biggest Challenge Is a Lack of Awareness About Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan embarks on its journey into the business events sector.
Psychological Meetings
Cognitive Dysfunction (Brain Fog)
Hans Gordon about when we humans allow a lot to go wrong.
Radar
IBTM World 2019: The Importance of Mentoring In the Events Industry
Always be generous with your knowledge.
Progress
Why We Refuse to See the Bright Side, Even Though We Should
Steven Pinker on the subject of irrational pessimism.
Intermission
White Blossom on Repeat
Flowering melancholy from Sweden.
Radar
Network to Share Its Expertise: Learn How Your City Can Become Future-Proof
The European Green Capital Network has launched its Future-proof Toolkit.
Sustainability
The Goal Is 300 Destinations by 2022
GDS-Index shares their audacious goal.
Sharma
Fear Is a Liar
We all need to fortify our hope.
Radar
Dublin Has the World’s First Carbon-­Neutral Convention Centre
One of Europe’s most environmentally friendly venues.
Artificial Intelligence
Human Compatible AI and the Problem of Control
Success would be the biggest event in human history, and perhaps the last event.
Kellerman
IBTM World Should Include Not Exclude
Don’t be sorry. Change the rules!
classifieds
news
the winner
The Convention Centre Dublin did it again
won the award for World’s Leading Meetings & Conference Centre
development
Singapore chosen as host city for the inaugural
IBTM Asia Pacific in 2020.

Convene challenges technology events
to set up In Baltic Region.
Town Square Park
Dubai mega project
to hit major milestone today Friday.
FIFA WORLD CUP 2022
Hamad International Airport
unveils expansion plan.
19-21 november
IBTM World 2019
announces brand new speaker showcase and final keynote double bill.
UNiversities means meetings
Abu Dhabi
launches worlds first university of artificial intelligence.
Hotel News
Scandic
to open central Helsinki’s largest conference hotel.
flight news
Flybe
to become Virgin Connect.
sustainability
Lapland Airports
receive international climate certification.
Links
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Why We Refuse to See the Bright Side, Even Though We Should

According to the latest data, people are living longer and becoming healthier, better fed, richer, smarter, safer, more connected – and, at the same time, ever gloomier about the state of the world. As the political scientist John Mueller once summed up the history of the West, “People seem simply to have taken the remarkable economic improvement in stride and have deftly found new concerns to get upset about.” How can we explain pessimism in a world of progress?

It’s not that people are naturally glum. On the contrary, they tend to see their lives through rosetinted glasses: they say they are happy, their schools are good, their neighborhoods are safe and that they are less likely than the average person to become the victim of an accident, a disease, a layoff or crime.

But when people are asked about their countries, they switch from Pollyanna to Eeyore: everyone else is miserable, they insist, and the world is going to hell in a handcart.

This disconnect originates in the nature of news. News is about what happens, not what doesn’t happen, so it features sudden and upsetting events like fires, plant closings, rampage shootings and shark attacks. Most positive developments are not camera-friendly, and they aren’t built in a day. You never see a headline about a country that is not at war, or a city that has not been attacked by terrorists – or the fact that since yesterday, 180,000 people have escaped extreme poverty.

The bad habits of media in turn bring out the worst in human cognition. Our intuitions about risk are driven not by statistics but by images and stories. People rank tornadoes (which kill dozens of Americans a year) as more dangerous than asthma (which kills thousands), presumably because tornadoes make for better television. It’s easy to see how this cognitive bias – stoked by the news policy “If it bleeds, it leads” – could make people conclude the worst about where the world is heading.

Irrational pessimism is also driven by a morbid interest in what can go wrong – and there are always more ways for things to go wrong than to go right. This creates a market for experts to remind us of things that can go wrong that we may have overlooked. Biblical prophets, oped pundits, social critics, dystopian filmmakers and tabloid psychics know they can achieve instant gravitas by warning of an imminent doomsday. Those who point out that the world is getting better – even hardheaded analysts who are just reading out the data – may be dismissed as starry-eyed naïfs.

Psychologists have identified other reasons we are nostalgic about the past and jaundiced about the present. Time heals most wounds: the negative coloring of bad experiences fades with the passing of years. Also, we are liable to confuse the heavier burdens of maturity with a world that has lost its innocence, and the inevitable decline in our faculties with a decline in the times. As the columnist Franklin Pierce Adams pointed out, “Nothing is more responsible for the good old days than a bad memory.”

The cure for these biases is numeracy: basing our sense of the world not on bleeding headlines or gory images but on measures of human flourishing such as longevity, literacy, prosperity and peace. Numbers, after all, aggregate the good and the bad, the things that happen and the things that don’t. A quantitative mind-set, despite its nerdy aura, is not just a smarter way to understand the world but the morally enlightened one. It treats every human life as equal, rather than privileging the people who are closest to us or most photogenic. And it holds out the hope that we might identify the causes of our problems and thereby implement the measures that are most likely to solve them.

Steven Pinker is a Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time and The Atlantic, and is the author of ten books. The excerpt is from his book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.”

stevenpinker.com/publications/enlightenment-now-case-reason-science-humanism-and-progress