Opinion | Why Humans Aren’t the Worst (Despite, Well, Everything Happening in the World)

The historian Rutger Bregman makes a case for the “collective brilliance” of humanity.

Produced by ‘Sway’

In 2019, when Rutger Bregman published his book “Humankind: A Hopeful History” and made a case for the decency of human nature, the world had yet to experience a deadly pandemic. But what does the historian think of humanity now, amid protests against coronavirus lockdowns as well as the climate crisis and the rampant spread of misinformation?

“What I see is a world where billions of people radically adjusted their lifestyle to stop the virus from spreading further,” he says.

[You can listen to this episode of “Sway” on Apple, Spotify, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.]

In this conversation, Kara Swisher invites Bregman to make a case for taking our capacity for goodness more seriously, even in anxious and uncertain times. But she stress-tests the theory, using examples that range from atrocities like the Holocaust to widespread apathy about the climate crisis. And they discuss what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook got wrong about human behavior, his case for societies’ moving toward a 15-hour workweek and why he decided to publish a clip of Tucker Carlson blowing up at him.

This episode contains strong language.

(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)

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“Sway” is produced by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick, Daphne Chen, Caitlin O’Keefe, Elisa Gutierrez and Wyatt Orme, and edited by Nayeema Raza, Blakeney Schick and Alison Bruzek; fact-checking by Kate Sinclair; music and sound design by Isaac Jones; mixing by Carole Sabouraud and Sonia Herrero; audience strategy by Shannon Busta. Special thanks to Kristin Lin and Mahima Chablani.

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