‘The Better Angels of our Nature’ by Stephen Pinker

Imagine you live in an area in which the probability of lightening striking your house is the same on any given day.

If lightening strikes today, what day is it most likely to strike again? (Clue: the answer is not that it is equally likely on all days.) The answer to this, and many other questions, can be found in Stephen Pinker’s epic sweep of human history ‘The Better Angels of Our Nature’. Pinker’s central thesis is that over the course of time, humans have in fact become kinder, gentler and more peaceful. In short, increasingly we have turned our backs on violence. Mixing in such disparate ingredients as sociology, psychology, philosophy and statistics, Pinker cooks up a compelling and optimistic narrative of civilisation that eschews the conventional view of the 20th Century as the most violent in history, and of the times we live in as the most hazardous. This optimistic take on modern life is well worth a read, particularly given the nightly despair broadcast on our new channels.