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1,000 Bits of Good News You May Have Missed in 2023

Blog Post | Human Development

1,000 Bits of Good News You May Have Missed in 2023

A necessary balance to the torrent of negativity.

Reading the news can leave you depressed and misinformed. It’s partisan, shallow, and, above all, hopelessly negative. As Steven Pinker from Harvard University quipped, “The news is a nonrandom sample of the worst events happening on the planet on a given day.”

So, why does Human Progress feature so many news items? And why did I compile them in this giant list? Here are a few reasons:

  • Negative headlines get more clicks. Promoting positive stories provides a necessary balance to the torrent of negativity.
  • Statistics are vital to a proper understanding of the world, but many find anecdotes more compelling.
  • Many people acknowledge humanity’s progress compared to the past but remain unreasonably pessimistic about the present—not to mention the future. Positive news can help improve their state of mind.
  • We have agency to make the world better. It is appropriate to recognize and be grateful for those who do.

Below is a nonrandom sample (n = ~1000) of positive news we collected this year, separated by topic area. Please scroll, skim, and click. Or—to be even more enlightened—read this blog post and then look through our collection of long-term trends and datasets.

Agriculture

Aquaculture

Farming robots and drones

Food abundance

Genetic modification

Indoor farming

Lab-grown produce

Pollination

Other innovations

Conservation and Biodiversity

Big cats

Birds

Turtles

Whales

Other comebacks

Forests

Reefs

Rivers and lakes

Surveillance and discovery

Rewilding and conservation

De-extinction

Culture and tolerance

Gender equality

General wellbeing

LGBT

Treatment of animals

Energy and natural Resources

Fission

Fusion

Fossil fuels

Other energy

Recycling and resource efficiency

Resource abundance

Environment and pollution

Climate change

Disaster resilience

Air pollution

Water pollution

Growth and development

Education

Economic growth

Housing and urbanization

Labor and employment

Health

Cancer

Disability and assistive technology

Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Diabetes

Heart disease and stroke

Other non-communicable diseases

HIV/AIDS

Malaria

Other communicable diseases

Maternal care

Fertility and birth control

Mental health and addiction

Weight and nutrition

Longevity and mortality 

Surgery and emergency medicine

Measurement and imaging

Health systems

Other innovations

Freedom

    Technology 

    Artificial intelligence

    Communications

    Computing

    Construction and manufacturing

    Drones

    Robotics and automation

    Autonomous vehicles

    Transportation

    Other innovations

    Science

    AI in science

    Biology

    Chemistry and materials

      Physics

      Space

      Violence

      Crime

      War

      Blog Post | Air Transport

      Flying Abundance (And Safety) Has Increased Dramatically

      Get 10.8 flights from New York to London today for the time price of one in 1970 and be 80.4 times safer.

      Summary: Since the Wright brothers’ pioneering flight in 1903, the aviation industry has made remarkable strides in safety, affordability, and accessibility. Comparing flight prices from 1970 to today reveals a staggering 90.8 percent decrease in the time price of flying, with transcontinental flights now affordable for the average person. Additionally, advancements in aviation technology have made flying dramatically safer today than it was in 1970, and are likely to improve flying safety in the future.


      The Wright brothers launched the era of aviation on December 17, 1903, with a 12-second flight. Since then, aeronautical engineers and market innovators have made the experience safer, faster, and much more affordable.

      For example, in 1970 the price for a roundtrip ticket from New York to London was $550. Blue-collar workers at the time were earning around $3.93 an hour in compensation (wages and benefits). This suggests a time price of around 140 hours.

      Today, the ticket price has dropped to around $467. Blue-collar workers are now earning closer to $36.15 an hour, putting the time price at 12.9 hours. The time price has fallen by 90.8 percent: for the time required to earn the money to buy one flight in 1970, you can get 10.8 flights today.

      Flying abundance has increased by 980 percent, compounding at an annual rate of 4.5 percent over the last 54 years. During this same period the global population increased by 4.3 billion (117 percent), from 3.7 billion to more than 8 billion. Every 1 percentage point increase in population corresponded to an 8.4 percentage point increase in flying abundance.

      Now transcontinental flights are affordable for almost everyone. Free-market entrepreneurial capitalism isn’t about making more luxuries for the wealthy, it’s about making luxuries affordable for the average person.

      While it is true that the 1970s flights may have had roomier cabins and better dining, flying today is dramatically safer. The Aviation Safety Network tracks airline accident data. Revenue passenger kilometer (RPK) is a standard metric used in aviation. Using this data, Javier Mediavilla plotted the ratio of fatalities per trillion RPK from 1970 to 2019 using five-year averages. The ratio decreased by 98.76 percent, from 3,218 to 40, during this 49-year range. Flying is more than 80.4 times safer today than in 1970, and safety has been improving at a compound rate of around 9.37 percent a year.

      Considering both the time price and safety, flying has become 868 times more abundant since 1970 (10.8 x 80.4 = 868). If there had been no innovation in flying since 1970,  New York to London airfare would be around $5,059 today. Only the rich could afford transatlantic flights in 1970.

      The 3,442-mile flight takes around seven hours. The supersonic Concorde could fly it in less than three. While there are no commercial supersonic flights available today, Boom Supersonic, a private company based in Colorado, aims to bring them back to US airlines by 2029. Perhaps spending half as much time on flights will allow people to use their most valuable resource for other value-creating activities.

      This article was published at Gale Winds on 3/26/2024.

      Wall Street Journal | Air Transport

      How the World’s Biggest Plane Would Supersize Wind Energy

      “Mark Lundstrom, an MIT-trained rocket scientist and Rhodes scholar, has spent more than seven years with an engineering team designing the WindRunner, a gargantuan cargo plane. If completed, it will be the largest plane by length and cargo volume.

      The plane’s purpose is to carry wind turbine blades the length of football fields. The blades, among the world’s longest, are currently used only for offshore projects because of transportation limitations onshore. Opening vast swaths of land to the largest turbines could transform wind energy, which has seen a slowdown in new U.S. onshore projects and price turmoil for offshore projects.

      The result would be land-based wind power installations with a blade tip reaching about 300 feet higher than the current average.”

      From Wall Street Journal.

      The Verge | Air Transport

      Boom’s First Test Flight Could Signal Return of Supersonic Travel

      “Aviation startup Boom Supersonic took a major step today toward its goal of returning commercial supersonic aviation to the skies, after the company’s prototype aircraft, the XB-1, left the ground for the first time this week. The short, subsonic flight over the Mojave Desert came years later than expected, but it shows that Boom is at least still making progress.”

      From The Verge.

      Bloomberg | Air Transport

      Two Airplanes Lugging Cargo Together Is Texas Startup’s Bet

      “On an abandoned Air Force field near Lubbock peppered with prairie-dog holes, the startup Aerolane is testing a business plan to pull cargo gliders with small freighter planes. The concept from former executives at Amazon.com Inc. and BNSF Railway Co. is that carriers could double capacity by towing a second engineless aircraft.

      The potential savings — as much as 65% less fuel burn when the gliders are purpose-built for aerodynamics — are huge for a $135 billion air-freight industry that doesn’t blink at investing in new aircraft engines to reduce fuel use by 15% and that quickly adopted winglets to boost efficiency just 5%.”

      From Bloomberg.