The market is tanking, we're treading water in expensive wars, unemployment is high, people are eating garbage, school is failing us, our government is dysfunctional, pollution is rampant, kids are hooked on drugs, and our prisons are packed. Many things are going horribly wrong with this world, and I'd even say that some metrics we might judge ourselves by are at an all-time low.
If you focus on these things, and by that I mean "watch the news", you might reminisce about a better time. You might think of the booming markets of the 1980s, the relatively peaceful 2000s, or even the pollution-free 1500s. You could yearn for the fifties when kids listened to their parents, ate their vegetables, and could count on a solid career right out of college.
But that's just one side of the coin, and a one-sided coin isn't worth much of anything.
We have technology that would have passed for magic during our great-grandparents' lifetimes. Life expectancy is near an all time high. For a nominal fee, I can talk to someone on the other side of the globe in real-time.
For the same amount of money the average American makes in just a few days, it's possible to travel in a few hours a distance that previously would have taken weeks. And you don't have to worry about getting cholera on the way anymore.
Unlimited knowledge about our world, our past, and ourselves is available for free. More people than ever have access to it. As a group, humanity knows more about our world than any generation ever has.
It's unrealistic to expect that every single category of life will continuously be at an all-time high. That's just not how things work. Some areas will lag, or even falter. Others will shoot ahead, but we'll adapt so quickly we don't even notice (how impressed are you that you have color screens on things?). Like so many things in life, our appreciation of what we have is left squarely in our own hands. The world is a horrible place if we only focus on the bad. If we focus on the positive, it's nothing short of heavenly. And if we take a balanced and objective view, it's still spectacular.
We have problems, but they offer us the opportunity to struggle for progress, which is perhaps the most satisfying human experience. Like every other "impossible" problem we've solved, we'll conquer most of what seems so horrible today. Along with that will come deterioration in other areas, but overall the tide rises with time.
We are unbelievably lucky, even though we lose sight of this fact sometimes. The only better time than now is the future, so let's be thankful for this amazing world we have, and be justifiably optimistic about what's coming next.