In an age of increasingly pessimistic and bleak world views, Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now, couldn’t come at a better time. It’s a sort of balm from the recent surge in authoritarian populism and the general hopelessness that stems from it. Through the lens of Pinker’s optimistic philosophy, Enlightenment Now expands on his seminal book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and creates a cohesive overview of the liberal Enlightenment values that are currently under attack from both extremes of the political spectrum. While he paints a rose-colored picture of humanity right now, he also explains the media biases that cause most people to feel much worse about human progress than they ought to feel.
These days, there is little that occurs without leaving some type of electronic trail. Cameras appear in buildings and on street corners, catching every move of passersby, and emails, text messages and other forms of electronic communication carry critical messages, and in some cases, details about wrongdoings, threats and crimes.
Most Americans enjoy a sense of safety and privacy when communicating via their home computers and personal cellphones, but what happens when the information contained in such communications has the capacity to cause harm to the general public? Should tech companies have to help law enforcement execute search warrants to access customer data as a matter of public safety and national security, or would doing so infringe upon the very freedoms upon which this nation is based?