February 18, 2019
One of the things I love about my job is the variety of incredibly smart people I get to deal with. I recently got to spend some time with John Streur, CEO of a $15 billion D.C. based asset manager who was in town to address our local finance society. John started his presentation with a quick survey to see how we felt the world is doing. “Getting worse” garnered the most votes.
John then rolled through a series of long-term charts on various metrics associated with progress. In the 1800’s 94% of the global population was living in extreme poverty – that number is now down to 10%. Today, 85% of the global population is literate vs. only 12% in the 1800’s; 96% of children now survive past their 5th birthday vs. only 57% in the 1800’s; and more than half the world’s population currently lives under some form of democracy vs. less than 5% in the 1800’s. The list goes on.
Much of this data was from “Our World in Data”, a collaborative research effort between the University of Oxford and the Global Change Data Lab (the former Brits here at NHCO inform me the University of Oxford is a reliable source). If you are interested in such things, it’s well worth a visit to their website at OurWorldInData.org.
It’s not all good news, of course. We are facing some incredible challenges. Climate change and the threat of nuclear destruction come to mind. So, is the world getting better or worse? After looking at some data I would have to say better – dramatically better in fact.
While we might seem to be teetering or even slipping backwards, it is important to see the underlying issues as challenges to be overcome. Smart, hardworking, incentivized men and women can achieve amazing, almost unimaginable things. There are a lot of people diligently working to build a better mouse trap. That creative spark, that drive to build something better, create something that will change the world forever, that’s the goose that lays the golden egg. We need to take good care of that goose. We need to make sure she’s healthy, comfortable, and encouraged to continue her productive enterprise.
If all of this sounds Pollyannaish, I would invite you to turn off your television and attend a local entrepreneurial event like ATDC at Georgia Tech, or the MIT Enterprise Forum. Feel the energy. See the faces that come here from around the corner and from all over the world. See how vibrant, how smart, how determined these young people are to create something new and better. Chances are you’ll go home feeling upbeat about the direction we’re headed. Each of us has a role to play in how these things unfold. Our challenge each day is to find a way to leave the world a slightly better place than we found it that morning. I’m in. Are you on board?