Is the World Becoming a Better or a Worse Place?A Data-Driven Analysis

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Sustainability, 2020, 12 (1)
Issue Date:
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Is the World becoming a better or a worse place to live? In this paper, we propose a tool that can help to answer the question by combining a number of global indicators belonging to multiple categories. The proliferation of statistical data about various aspects of the World performance may suggest that it should be “easy” to evaluate the overall success of human enterprise on this planet. Moreover, it also points out the intrinsic importance in the selection of indicators. However, people have different values, biases, and preferences about the importance of various indicators, making it almost impossible to find an objective answer to this question. To address the variety and the heterogeneity of available indicators and world views, we present the analysis of global World performance as a multi-criteria decision problem, making sure that the assessment method remains as transparent as possible. By dynamically selecting a set of indicators of interest, defining the weights that we attach to various indicators and specifying the desired trends associated with each indicator, we make the assessment adaptive to individual values. We also try to deal with the inherent bias that may exist in the set of indicators that are chosen. As a study case, from various data sets that are openly available online, we have selected several that are most relevant and easy to interpret in the context of the question in the title of the paper. We demonstrate how the choice of personal preferences, or weights, can strongly change the result. Our method also provides analysis of the weights space, showing how results for particular value sets compare to the average and extreme (optimistic and pessimistic) combinations of weights that may be chosen by users.
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