The McCarthys are not the only family who can give thanks for the marvels of modernity this holiday season. Contrary to popular perception, most people’s lives have improved over the last year. Human progress, and the political and economic freedoms that enable it, is making our lives longer, healthier and more comfortable than ever before.
Let’s take a trip around the world. This year, Japanese scientists grew human liver tissue inside a mouse and Australian researchers used stem cells to grow a kidney in a lab. These innovations will eventually cut waiting times for transplants and get around the problem of immune rejection. Similarly, British scientists used stem cells to repair a dog’s broken spine, bringing the medical profession a step closer to fixing spinal injuries in humans. Other medical advances — from improved understanding of the workings of the HIV virus and causes of depression, to advances in cardiology and human bionics — are too numerous to mention.
Progress was not restricted to medicine. Google has launched balloons that can bring the Internet to people in the remotest places on earth, while so‐called “cloud schools” are gearing up to remotely teach millions of children in the developing world.
In 2013, for the first time, there were more Indians with mobile phones than Americans, and mobile‐phone penetration in Africa crossed the 50% threshold. Never before has it been easier for an Indian woman to call for help or to organize a protest against sexual abuse and harassment. Never before has an African fisherman had such easy access to weather information, or a more convenient way to send money to his mother.