Gallup regularly polls Americans about their “confidence in institutions.”
Last summer it found that just 16% of Americans had either “a great deal” or “quite a lot of confidence” in newspapers.
For TV news, the results were even worse. Only 11% of Americans trust it.
It’s not hard to see why…
The job of journalists is to collect and present relevant facts and good evidence.
But the days of simply reporting “who, what, when, where and how” are long gone.
It’s all editorial now.
Journalists deliver not just the news but their personal interpretations, moral judgments and political opinions on virtually every issue.
And, as the Gallup numbers show, they’ve lost a lot of trust in the process.
Yet Americans are still powerfully influenced by the media.
After all, most of us know almost next to nothing about the war in Ukraine… or global warming… or the shenanigans in Washington, except as they are presented to us by journalists.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned in my column last Friday, there is a negativity bias that pervades virtually every subject.
Good news is given short shrift or not reported at all. (Studies show that 90% of news stories have a negative slant.)
As Max Roser at Our World in Data points out, news sources could have run the headline “Number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday” every day for the past 25 years.
But the media never ran that headline because it was never deemed newsworthy.
As a result, 1.25 billion people escaped extreme poverty, and no one noticed.
There are several other positive trends in today’s world that most investors don’t realize.
- Human life spans have never been longer.
- Infant mortality has never been lower.
- Standards of living have never been higher.
- Educational attainment has never been greater.
- Violent crime – despite what you see in the media – is in a long-term cycle of decline.
- Air and water pollution have been declining for decades.
- U.S. household income and net worth hit record levels last year.
- Novel drugs and medical devices are extending and improving our lives.
- New technologies are making our communications faster, our transportation safer, and our working and recreational lives easier.
- The number of democracies around the world is increasing…
- And so is global prosperity.
This is not just good knowledge to have about the state of the world.
It leads to an attitude adjustment, a realization that maybe life isn’t just “one damn thing after another.”
Better still, many of these positive long-term trends are not just continuing but accelerating.
Author and futurist Steven Diamandis forecasts several exciting developments that lie just ahead:
- Global abundance is increasing as the middle-class rises around the world.
- The deployment of 5G and satellite networks will connect trillions of new devices, bringing low-cost connectivity to everyone.
- New biotech solutions are expected to add 10 years to the span of human health over the next decade.
- All-time highs in international capital flows are increasing global prosperity.
- Augmented reality and 5G networks will transform education, retailing and entertainment.
- Low-cost microscopic sensors and the deployment of high-bandwidth networks will make every device “intelligent.”
- Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning will build new ventures at a fraction of the current cost.
- AI will become entrenched in everyday business operations, serving as cognitive collaborators to employees.
- AI-enabled software will anticipate your needs, monitor your health and help problem solve.
- Advances in solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric and nuclear grids will drive cheap, abundant, ubiquitous renewable energy.
- The convergence of machine learning, ubiquitous sensors, low-cost genomic sequencing and robotics will detect risk, prevent disasters and lower insurance costs.
- Autonomous vehicles will decrease transportation costs and transform urban planning. (Kids and elderly parents will never drive.)
- On-demand production and delivery will allow products to be obtained within hours around the nation.
- Global imaging satellites, drones and a worldwide sensor matrix will allow consumers and businesses to know “anything, anytime, anywhere.”
- AI will disrupt advertising by customizing and automatizing your wants and needs.
- Cellular agriculture will create the most ethical, nutritious and environmentally sustainable protein production system ever devised.
- High-bandwidth brain-computer interfaces will come online for public use, supplementing baseline cognitive abilities, including memory and even intelligence.
- Lightweight, high-resolution virtual reality headsets will transform shopping and particularly real estate sales.
- Breakthroughs in material science, enabled by AI, will drive tremendous reductions in waste and environmental contamination.
- CRISPR and gene therapies will cure a range of infectious diseases. In addition, gene-editing techniques will treat and ultimately cure hundreds of inheritable genetic maladies.
Not every Diamandis forecast will come to pass. Not soon, anyway.
But it would be a mistake to sell short the physician, engineer and entrepreneur who Fortune magazine named one of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders.”
I view Diamandis as an antidote to the relentless negativity of mainstream and social media.
Other good sources include The Progress Paradox by Gregg Easterbrook, The Rational Optimist by Matt Ridley, Enlightenment Now by Steven Pinker and Superabundance by Marian Tupy.
This knowledge pays big dividends from an investment standpoint.
After all, why risk your hard-earned money in the stock market if – as hundreds of millions of Americans believe – the country is on the wrong track, the economy is rigged, the American Dream is dead and the world is going to hell in a handbasket?
We face plenty of serious problems today. Just as we have in the past and always will in the future.
But that doesn’t mean that things aren’t getting better for most people in most places in most ways.
From an investment standpoint, it pays to be a rational optimist.
(A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.)
As I pointed out in a previous column, every investor needs an edge. They need to know something important that most other investors don’t understand.
That thing, for me, is This is, by far, the single best time in all human history to be alive.
How can you know this is true?
As Pinker writes…
It requires only the convictions that life is better than death, health is better than sickness, abundance is better than want, freedom is better than coercion, happiness is better than suffering, and knowledge is better than superstition and ignorance.