If you were able to accurately evaluate life today against life one hundred years ago, one thousand years ago, or even 10 thousand years ago, would we be able to determine which is better?
Humans have a tendency to overvalue what they know. We find it easy to believe that our country is the best. Or that our mother’s cooking can’t be beat. The neighborhood we grew up in was better than any other.
Similarly, we may believe that life today is better than the way people lived in centuries past. But is that actually true?
It is certainly true that our mastery of travel makes just about every corner of the globe is accessible. I can pack a bag, catch a flight, and be halfway around the world within 24 hours. (Assuming, of course, no travel restrictions.)
A trip to an average grocery store yields a remarkable variety of produce, and an almost dizzying array of processed food. The internet makes access to information nearly ubiquitous, and allows us to communicate with people without thought to geographical limitations. Lifespans are longer, literacy rates are higher, some previously deadly diseases have been all but eliminated.
However, each of these things have downsides. Easy travel is at the expense of burning fossil fuels, which is contributing to climate change. The same can be said about produce that travels thousands of miles to those well-stocked grocery stores. And all that processed food has brought about a crisis in obesity.
While communication is easier with the internet, social media apps are making us more polarized and as such we hear each other less. What good is a longer lifespan if we use those extra hours sitting in traffic jams and overall leading more stressed lifestyles?
Are the negatives worth the positives? Is life today better than in the past?