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Video from source, audio, download
Not quite a transcript (I think it's an essay based on the talk)


I watched this a while back, but the profound influence it's had on the way I think about the whole world has crept up on me. This 20 minute video is Steven Pinker giving a talk at the 2007 TED conference. His thesis is that these are the most peaceful times humanity has ever known, that the overwhelming trend in human history is for violence to go downwards, and that this is true whether you measure on a scale of decades, centuries, or millenia, and whether or not you include warfare.

Of course if you extend the timescale to include evolutionary time it's even more true - the murder rate among our closest cousins, chimpanzees and bonobos, makes South Central LA look like a sleepy hamlet (cf this or this). So I'm trying to be less surprised when people are occasionally a little thoughtless, or selfish, or mean, and a little more astonished that we don't kill each other daily...
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Станислав Евграфович Петров
Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov
Saviour of Humanity
born 1939


Chances are, none of us would be alive if it weren't for the bold action - or inaction - of this former Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Strategic Rocket Forces who single-handedly averted global thermonuclear armageddon twenty-five years ago today.


If you're having a drink tonight, please raise a glass to the man, and wonder what might have been if he hadn't been called in at the last minute to take over another's shift...

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