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Man Proves World Slowly Improving
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Man Proves World Slowly Improving

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Man Proves World Slowly Improving

Man Proves World Slowly Improving
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Despite how terrible things may seem, one man's formula shows it's all getting better.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Rachel, this Christmas morning and depending on whether you're naughty or nice - you're always nice…

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

I know.

STEWART: …you may have something special under your tree or stuffed in your stocking or maybe you got a big fat lump of call-waiting for you. So how can you tell someone is naughty or nice? Isn't this all subjective? Not necessarily. There's someone who likes to add up all those naughties and niceties committed through the year and he spoke with NPR science correspondent Robert Krulwich.

ROBERT KRULWICH: First off, you should know this about Kevin.

Mr. KEVIN KELLY (Founding Editor, Wired Magazine): I have always been temperamentally very happy and optimistic.

KRULWICH: The founding editor of Wired magazine, the former editor of the Whole Earth Catalog, Kevin Kelly likes to sort things, so Santa sorts children into naughty and nice. Kevin sorts everything what he sees into what very roughly you might call good news and bad news.

Mr. KELLY: The way my (unintelligible) goes is that when you turn on the TV which, by the way, I don't recommend doing. I see, you know, we haven't had a TV…

KRULWICH: You're one of those NPR I don't have a TV TiVo…

Mr. KELLY: I don't. We haven't have it for 30 years. Our kids grew up without TV…

KRULWICH: But when he turns it on, he sees what all of us see.

Unidentified Woman #1: A deadly day in Beirut after a bombing attack killed…

Unidentified Woman #2: Panic in Algeria…

KRULWICH: Lots of horrible things happening in lots and lots of places…

Unidentified Woman #3: After a bomb rocked the capital…

Unidentified Woman #4: The (unintelligible) index is expected to rise.

Mr. KELLY: It seemed to us that the world is filled if not overwhelmed by this.

KRULWICH: So many cruelties, big ones, small ones, so many acts of meanness, and selfishness…

Mr. KELLY: My gosh, this is a living hell. But it's actually not.

KRULWICH: Because there is another side to this ledger. There are also, remember, acts of kindness, a little moments where somebody makes someone else smile or invent some medicine or builds a hospital or writes a song or holds a hand. And if add up those moments, the good moments and you stack them up against the bad moments, Kevin Kelly has a notion, or maybe it's a prayer.

Mr. KELLY: When I look at those two sides, I think, I think, there is a very slight advantage to the good.

KRULWICH: Why? Why would do believe that?

Mr. KELLY: I believe it because of the transformation that I have seen in my own lifetime with my own eyes of what happened, you know, things like antibiotics and health advancements which definitely has increased how long people live, education. I believe it because of what I've seen in Asia.

KRULWICH: So many people now with more choices and more money and more food and more access to medicine and learning and travel, which creates more opportunities from among other things. For kindness, that's what he thinks.

Mr. KELLY: That we can do good, and the good of the world is slightly greater than the bad of the world but not by much. And it doesn't need to be very much. So that when we look at the world, it looked, it may look like it's serve (unintelligible) that the problems overwhelm the remedies but in fact, you know, even if the good is only one-tenth of a percent better, I'm optimistic.

KRULWICH: Because this works, he thinks like interest at the bank.

Mr. KELLY: So you know, the power of compound interest is unbelievably powerful. One of the most powerfully forces in universe. And that if you have only a tenth of a percent differential that your compounding every day, that's unstoppable. That is beautiful, that is grand and that will topple everything. And I think even one-tenth of a percent difference in the good of the world over the bad will over centuries mean that the good will prevail.

KRULWICH: Now, people will still fall ill, of course, and have accidents and get cheated and get hurt…

Mr. KELLY: Yes, there's still 49 percent bad stuff happening.

KRULWICH: But deep down in the fabric of things, Kevin thinks there's a built-in prejudice, a tilt that over time, will produce a little more joy and a little more happiness and a little more peace. And if you don't believe it, well, Kevin does, and any way, it's Christmas.

MARTIN: I'm with Kevin.

STEWART: Me, too.

MARTIN: That was NPR's Robert Krulwich reporting. It's a nice story.

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