A more peaceful society? The Better Angels of Our Nature. A London Lecture

Steven Pinker

It is funny what you will find whilst surfing.  The other day I discovered the RSA located not far from Charing Cross, on John Adams St, London.  A place for debate, future thinking and solutions to the problems and complexities of our times.  They host free lectures by leading thinkers and innovators. I love a story that goes with anything to, apparently the RSA (Royal Society of Arts) was founded in 1754 in Rawthmell’s Coffee House in Covent Garden, as, interestingly, so many institutions were .  Insurance and banking transactions took place in them, intellectuals, scientist and many a famous London author gathered wrote and swapped ideas in them.  The convergence of like-minded people and a bit of caffeine equalled innovation and action.

Scrolling down the listed events a lecture hooked my interest by a Canadian-American author and Harvard man Steven Pinker.  He was coming along to speak about the ideas behind his latest book.  The Better Angels of Our Nature – The Decline of Violence in Our History and Its Cause.  Lengthy title and a HUGE volume but one which he and the RSA Chief Exec Mathew Taylor assured as needed every single syntax to validate his point.

http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Better_Angels_of_Our_Nature:_The_Decline_of_Violence_in_History_and_Its_Causes&action=edit&redlink=1

Chief Exec Mathew Taylor & Steven Pinker

Mr Pinker’s lecture was quite timely. Listening to him in the lecture room, following his graphs and statistics, I felt like I’d hit the ‘zoom out’ button on a Google map. After months of gloom in our political word, slathered even thicker than chocolate spread, by the British media, I was beginning to succumb to the ‘woe is us’ theory.  It was getting me down.  But Steven had obviously been asking different questions and arriving at surprising answers.  Answers that, once he’d fed them to us, were actually quite obvious.  The world, as a whole, is getting a more peaceful place to live.  They’ve even named it ‘The Long Peace’.  Incredible.  All of the graphs of civil wars, world wars, race hate, slavery, cannibalism, murders were on a pleasing downward trend.  Some not even raising a pixel’s height to be noticable.  Obviously, some of those stopped completely.

Mr Pinker was fascinating, at times witty, and quite charismatic.  I walked back down the grand staircase and out onto the street feeling quite perky and just a little bit more intellectual than when I entered (probably due to breathing air with so many learned people for an hour rather than any upscaling of my brain).  I feel like I’ve tapped into an up swell of something good.  Something positive. I just wish I could have found it years ago. My inner geekette was a late bloomer.  Anyway, I know know and my next lecture is booked.  I can hardly wait.

If you are interested in new ideas and ’21st century enlightenment’ (the RSA tagline).  Click through and take a look www.thersa.org  To discover more about Steven Pinker http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steven_Pinker or  www.stevenpinker.com

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