This is one of my favorite videos. I re-watch it every so often, and sometimes head over to GapMinder myself to play with the visualizations. You’ve probably seen it, but watch it again and really let the gravity of what’s happening in the world sink in.
In 1880, the average American was the envy of the world. When we think about that period we certainly wouldn’t want to trade our iPhones and airplanes and go back, but neither are we horrified by how awful life in America was at the time.
Yet consider that today the poorest people in the world are better off than the average American in 1880, who lived to be 39 and made about $4,276. By 2000 there was not a country in the world with a life expectancy below 44. A very poor country like Angola, with a life expectancy of 48 and average inflation-adjusted income of $5,056, is better off than the US just a handful of generations ago.
The more recent growth in China and India is the greatest reduction in poverty in world history, bringing nearly a billion people out of extreme poverty in the last twenty years.
This is truly awe-inspiring stuff, and easy to go unappreciated if you follow the stories most news outlets choose to focus on. The unimaginable, transformative power of entrepreneurial activity, investment, technological progress, and freer, broader markets is something hard to really comprehend. In fact, if you go back earlier in human history than the video above, the story is even more shocking.
Imagine what the next hundred years could bring if the freedom and innovation of the past few hundred years continues to expand? Nothing you can imagine is too far-fetched. Let’s go out and do it.