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The best 10-Year Challenge yet belongs to humanity

We’ve come a long way in the past decade.

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Earth From One Million Miles
Earth as seen from a distance of 1 million miles.
NASA via Getty Images
Kelsey Piper is a senior writer at Future Perfect, Vox’s effective altruism-inspired section on the world’s biggest challenges. She explores wide-ranging topics like climate change, artificial intelligence, vaccine development, and factory farms, and also writes the Future Perfect newsletter.

There’s a new trend on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter — posting pictures of yourself in 2009 and in 2019, to show the world how far you’ve come or how well you’ve aged or how much your life has stayed the same.

Some people love it, some people are sick of it. But if you think your friends aged unreasonably well, take a look at this:

Graphic by Johan Norberg

That’s the 10-Year Challenge for humanity, which has seen drastic drops in extreme poverty, child mortality, and youth illiteracy, and a rise in life expectancy. That’s right, despite all the gloomy headlines, in a lot of ways the world has been getting better and better. For all the ups and downs in our individual lives, humanity as a whole has made tremendous strides on some of our most pressing problems.

This graphic is by Johan Norberg, senior fellow at the Cato Institute and author of several books about economics and globalization, most recently Progress: Ten Reasons to Look Forward to the Future.

You can check out these and other metrics of human progress at the World Bank’s great site for visualization of key economic indicators; here are the statistics Norberg uses for life expectancy, youth literacy, and child mortality.

The historical statistics for extreme poverty can be found here, and the 2018 estimate (which is still an approximation, as the data isn’t yet in) can be found here.

Of course, it’d be an oversimplification to say that everything in the world is getting better. We still have a long way to go in the fight against global poverty. We don’t know yet how we’ll tackle many of the key challenges of the 21st century. But it’s important to sometimes take a step back and look at how far we’ve come — that’s why the 10-Year Challenge is so popular. And we really have come a long way.

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