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IS MODERN LIFE BETTER?

People living in the twenty-first century generally have a better quality of life than people who lived in previous centuries. To what extent do you agree or disagree with this statement?

It is reasonable to argue that humanity’s quality of life has improved dramatically over the past few centuries. Advances in science, technology, medicine, and society have fundamentally enhanced how we live. However, “better” is multi-dimensional. While some facets like health and convenience have surely progressed, arguments around happiness, meaning, and social connection are more complex.

On the positive side, we are living demonstrably longer lives, with global life expectancy up over 30 years since the early 1900s. Medicine has conquered countless diseases through vaccines, antibiotics, and improved public health. Technology enables global communication and access to humanity’s collective knowledge at our fingertips. Standards of living have risen substantially, with less hunger, homelessness, and poverty rates in developed nations. By nearly every physical metric, things are better.

Yet, difficult counterarguments exist. Rates of depression and mental health issues are rising despite physical gains. Opioid addiction and suicides plague recent decades. Loneliness afflicts citizens of connected cities. And existential anxiety festers as religion declines. Perhaps we’ve traded contentment and community for material comfort? Or are even our psychological troubles better diagnosed and treated today?

In the end, there’s strong evidence of betterment materially and physically. But the verdict is split regarding fulfillment. If “quality” includes purpose and peace of mind, the 21st century offers no guarantees. But considering child mortality, infections, nutrition, electricity access, and other tangible realities, “better” seems clear overall, even as new pitfalls emerge. We cannot defy the toll of aging and death, but we have objectively enhanced how we live in the interim.

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