But the Potentiality Gap of our species is enormous.
While writing the book Philosophy of Life Instinct, I wondered where our species had reached its best state. This story explores this topic.
So let’s see in turn the dimensions of the question, the data, and the result.
The Question and Its Dimensions
What do we mean by civilisation and civilised? Fear not, we won’t bore ourselves with quoting a dictionary. We will think about this independently, in the light of the Life Instinct.
If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand why its premise and considerations throw up the factors below as the most influential on our ability to be enlightened, rational, peaceful, tolerant, friendly, charitable, ethical, open, and progressive. Of course, these aspects overlap, but the combined gist is what we understand as civilisation.
- Education — necessary for maximum use of our most advanced brain region, the Prefrontal Cortex, which makes us better morally, ethically, emotionally, and intellectually.
- Democracy — the form of government that allows us to best express our individual and collective capabilities.
- Intellectual Vitality— a measure of how well we use our advanced brains to create better lives.
- Atheism and Irreligiosity — how far we have come in leaving behind divisive crutches.
- Equality — how much we have reduced bigotry and selfishness.
- Human Freedom — freedom of expression, association, economic activity, learning, migration, religion, culture, etc. In other words, how much we allow the exercise of our free will, a positive trait intrinsic to higher intelligence.
- Social Care, Cohesion, and Security — going beyond ‘survival of the fittest’ to assist and cooperate; and security is necessary for the best use of our brains, bodies, and emotions.
- Equivalent per capita income —because poverty is not good.
- Artistic and Cultural Vitality — the freedom to imagine, create, and enjoy are integral to the evolution of the mind.
- International Cooperation — how we are connecting widely and leaving behind insularity and jingoism.
- Care for the environment and other species — a great sign of the best in us, besides its necessity for self-interest.
Each factor influences the others to some degree, but when we take them together, they answer the question,
“In which place on Earth is humanity closest to its best possible self?”
I could have looked at the question of civilisation by race, religion, linguistic groups, personal wealth, education level, or geography. I found too much diversity of the eleven factors in the first four, and the fifth too narrow. The most reasonable dimension was geography, so it came down to looking at civilisation by country.
I then collected the sources of information below for an objective evaluation. It’s fascinating if you are interested in such things. You can either go through them or skip to the next section for the findings and come back here later for leisurely exploration.
(While collecting the information, I disregarded the history of the countries, whether glorious or shameful, as we expect both deterioration and reform with time and are concerned with the current state.)
Most Educated Countries 2022
One of the most telling (and important) measures of a nation’s development is its education system. In developed…worldpopulationreview.com
Democracy Index – Wikipedia
The Democracy Index is an index compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the research division of the…en.wikipedia.org
3. Intellectual Vitality
Global Finance Magazine — Most Technologically Advanced Countries In The World 2020
Nations compete for capital, investment, knowledge, and innovation: who is number 1? In the 20 th century, Russia was…www.gfmag.comThese are the world’s “most creative” countries
What makes one country more “creative” than another? A new study (pdf) compiled by the Martin Prosperity Institute…qz.comRanking of the 20 countries with most patent grants | Statista
In 2020, China had the most patent grants worldwide with 530,127 patents granted to resident and non-resident companies…www.statista.com
4. Atheism and Irreligiosity
Most Atheist Countries 2022
Arguably the opposite of religion, atheism is a disbelief in the existence of God or any other divine being. The term…worldpopulationreview.comImportance of religion by country – Wikipedia
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia Jump to navigation Jump to search This article charts a list of countries by…en.wikipedia.org
Inequality – Income inequality – OECD Data
Income is defined as household disposable income in a particular year. It consists of earnings, self-employment and…data.oecd.orgGender Inequality Index – Wikipedia
The Gender Inequality Index ( GII) is an index for measurement of gender disparity that was introduced in the 2010…en.wikipedia.orgLeast Racist Countries 2022
Racism is the belief that a particular race is inferior or superior to another and that a person’s biological…worldpopulationreview.com
6. Human Freedom
Freest Countries 2022
Freedom is one of the most important factors influencing a person’s everyday quality of life. In addition to making it…worldpopulationreview.com
7. Social Care, Cohesion, and Security
List of countries by social welfare spending – Wikipedia
This is a list of countries by spending on social welfare . Countries with the highest levels of spending are more…en.wikipedia.orgBest Countries for Pensions and Retirement
The quality of pension systems available to workers varies greatly across the globe. The Netherlands has the best…www.investopedia.comWhich are the world’s most co-operatively minded countries? – Co-operative News
Which is the most co-operative country in the world? According to a new index, Brazil takes the crown – with Norway…www.thenews.coopCrime Index by Country 2022
8. Per capita income adjusted for Purchasing Power Parity
List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita – Wikipedia
This article is a list of the countries of the world by gross domestic product (at purchasing power parity) per capita…en.wikipedia.org
9. Artistic and Cultural Vitality
The Most Culturally Influential Countries in the World
Countries that command cultural influence are often synonymous with fine food, fashion and easy living. They are…www.usnews.comThe Global Creativity Index 2015 | Martin Prosperity Institute
This report presents the 2015 edition of the Global Creativity Index, or GCI. The GCI is a broad-based measure for…www-2.rotman.utoronto.ca
10. International Cooperation
How 14 Countries View International Cooperation as UN Turns 75
This analysis focuses on cross-national views of multilateral principles, views of the United Nations, characteristics…www.pewresearch.org10 Countries Most Connected to the Rest of the World
The nations seen to make the most impact on the global stage are in North America, Europe and Asia.www.usnews.com
11. Care for the environment and other species
Environmental Performance Index – Wikipedia
The Environmental Performance Index ( EPI) is a method of quantifying and numerically marking the environmental…en.wikipedia.org
And the Answer Is….
I copied out the list of the top 20 countries from each source above into an Excel sheet and counted the total appearances of each country, giving equal weightage to the factors. (You can download the file from here.)
Some countries that are at the top in many of our civilisational parameters are Japan, Australia, Austria, Switzerland, Netherlands, Belgium, Finland, Canada, UK, Germany, and Norway.
But one country was present the maximum times in the top lists. And it gave us the answer, drumroll please:
“Humanity is at present most civilised in Sweden!”
I suppose I wasn’t surprised by the answer, and you may not be either, as Sweden comes up as the best in many respects in the media, literature, and conversations. But its high score across so many diverse aspects was unexpected. It is something worth investigating.
As for the finding itself, if you have misgivings about the method or analysis, we can improve it. But asking the question is essential for it keeps our eyes on the goal — to be as good as possible as a species and fulfil our promise.
The large number of countries we have (195) and the wide variation between them in progress indicators struck me most in exploring this. It is especially true when comparing the bottom twenty with the top twenty. We can call it the Potentiality Gap of our species. When we look at it with detachment and objectivity, it is evident that barely 10% of humanity is anywhere near the excellent condition it can attain.
We may not all want to migrate to Sweden, as many factors decide where we live. Nor would it be sensible on most counts. But we can and must make ourselves and our part of the world get nearer the best possible state. If all 195 countries get within a few points of each other in a century, our species will have achieved something genuinely worthwhile.
Meanwhile, Sweden, the most civilised country in the world, can try to keep its lead while helping others catch up and surpass it. Piquant.