The Human Project

The Human Project: An Optimistic Worldview

The Jolly Pilgrim sets out an optimistic worldview. It argues that the state of humanity is far better than is generally assumed, and that the critical issues we currently face represent a limited window in history, while we figure out how to run a civilisation on a planet.

Our future is bright, open-ended and holds out the possibility of an ever more interesting world. But because we’re so busy being jealous, scheming apes, we neglect to look down upon ourselves as a bunch of jealous, scheming apes having a collective experience – an experience which is extraordinary and unprecedented: a baby civilisation on an antique world.

Yet rather than seeing things in this way, people compare the real world to a hypothetical world, which only exists in their heads – then find the state of humanity wanting, based on that comparison.


A Longer Term View: Some Numbers

  • Globally, life expectancy is the highest it has ever been, having risen from 20-30 years in prehistory, to 67 years in 2010
  • The global homicide rate is now by far the lowest it’s been since humans evolved.
  • Global fertility has plummeted from 4.47 in 1970 to 2.55 today. The size of the global population is projected to be in decline by 2100.
  • Infant mortality has plummeted from historical levels of 20% to 5.7% in 2003.
  • Average daily calorie intake per person worldwide increased by 24% between 1961 and 2002. Chronic undernourishment in the developing world decreased from 37% in 1971 to 17% in 2002.
  • Global literacy has risen from less than half the human population in 1970 to over three quarters of it today.
  • Globally, average wealth has risen from $450 per year in 1000 CE to over £9,000 in 2010 CE – it continues to rise even in these difficult economic times. The average human is ten times richer today than in 1800 AD

Click here for more details (with sources) and a free PDF download.


Everything we have is a gift, bestowed by our ancestors and Mother Nature. In my view, we should see through the sea of alarmist media around us and embrace that more optimistic and long-term view of the human project. I think if we did, we’d find life more meaningful and the struggles of the present day less frightening, and humanity would collectively be better empowered to meet the challenges of the twenty-first century.


I found myself lying awake in the middle of the night with a sense of calm spreading over me: 
released from some of the confusions our myopic perspective traps us into ….
- William Sutton, author of The Worms of Euston Square


Next: What I’m Trying to Achieve >


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