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Updated: January 3, 2023 @ 3:57 am

As we begin 2023, we should take a few moments to reflect on the last 12 months, particularly since they were far better than most of us would have predicted a year ago.
If that statement seems outlandish, remember that we all have an instinctive cognitive bias for bad news. Being constantly alert to threats in order to stay alive is one of the evolutionary traits our species developed to ensure we survive. For much of our history that meant hyper-vigilance with regard to predators, shelter, warmth and access to food. In the modern world it manifests itself in our proclivity for seeking out bad news more often than good.
Social media, conspiracy theorists and even traditional media tend to take advantage of our bias by feeding us endless amounts of ominous information because it generates revenue, and the result is a never-ending stream of alerts on our smart phones proclaiming catastrophes of all kinds that leave us inordinately worried, anxious and even depressed. That is not to say the dangers are all wholly invented. They are not. But it is to say that we consume more than our fair share of gloom and doom and we need to be more deliberate about seeking out fact-based good news on a regular basis for the good of our personal mental health and our collective social well-being.
To demonstrate why this matters, take a few minutes and write down five national events or trends that you consider among the most important in 2022. Leave out personal challenges or triumphs. Just focus on experiences we all shared collectively and finish your list before reading any further. I’ll wait …
All finished? Super. Now decide whether you think 2022 was generally positive or negative, and whether it foreshadows a better or a worse 2023. Again, I’ll wait …
OK, now compare what you remember with the following list of major events and trends I’ve chosen from 2022:
1. Murders are down nationally more than 50% over 2021. Gun deaths, injuries and mass shootings decreased as well.
2. The U.S. Congress proved surprisingly effective. It passed a $1.7 trillion budget that forestalled a government shutdown and provided $858 billion for defense and military aid to Ukraine. It passed new laws making it easier to save for retirement; passed the Respect for Marriage Act; revised the Electoral Count Act of 1887 to clarify the role of the vice president in certifying elections and make it harder for members of Congress to challenge the results in specific states; provided more money for law enforcement, including $770 million in federal grants for local police departments and $324 million for hiring more police officers; banned TikTok on all U.S. government electronic devices to reduce the national security risks posed by China’s intelligence services; allocated millions for aid to veterans poisoned by toxic burn pits; provided millions of dollars for drugs and therapeutics to fight pandemics; increased the amount of vaccines in the Strategic National Stockpile; provided billions of dollars to support semi-conductor manufacturing in the U.S.; passed the Water Resources Development Act to support clean water supplies and water conservation; and provided billions to support clean energy initiatives that could reduce carbon emissions in the U.S. by 40 percent over the long term.
3. Researchers produced astonishing new artificial intelligence software, including image generating applications like Stable Diffusion and large language generating programs like DALL-2 and ChatGPT that may revolutionize how we produce artistic works within our lifetimes.
4. Yale researchers restored circulation and cellular activity in the vital organs of pigs one hour after death, and scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel used stem cells to grow mice embryos without sperm, an egg, or a womb. The long-range medical implications are astonishing.
5. Oxford University scientists developed a new malaria vaccine that is up to 80 percent effective. It could eventually save hundreds of thousands of lives annually.
6. University of Pennsylvania scientists developed an influenza vaccine using mRNA technology that produced an immune response against all known subtypes of the flu in animals. That too, could eventually save untold thousands of lives.
7. NASA’s James Webb telescope began producing images of distant galaxies that are 13 billion years old. It could potentially help us fully understand the origins of the universe.
8. Scientists have tested a new immunotherapy for rectal cancer that eliminated all traces of cancer in 14 out of 14 test subjects at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
9. Quaise Energy made advances in affordable geothermal energy production, and NuScale Power is testing small nuclear reactors that could power individual communities. Both projects could foreshadow an accelerating decline in the use of fossil fuels.
10. Scientists at Grail developed the Galleri multi-cancer early detection blood test, which screens for more than 50 types of cancer with a simple blood draw. The test is extremely expensive, but the potential for early cancer detection is unprecedented.
11. NASA’s Artemis program launched an un-occupied Orion capsule on a successful 25-day mission to test systems prior to sending humans back to the moon in 2025.
12. NASA also successfully changed the orbit of an asteroid as part of the DART (Double Asteroid Redirection Test) program. The test showcased an effective means of planetary defense from an asteroid strike.
13. The free world took major steps away from authoritarianism. 2020 election deniers lost en masse in the US midterm elections, far right French candidate Marine LePen and president Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil were defeated, protesters in Iran and China fought for civil liberty, and the people of Ukraine, assisted by the United States and NATO, reminded us all that liberty and freedom are worth fighting and dying for.
And my list could go on and on. None of us see all the good news that is out there, and we will not all agree on what news constitutes progress. But if you are surprised at all by what is on my list, I hope you will see it as a sign of hope. Make a conscious effort in 2023 to look for hope and balance it against the news that concerns you. Imagine how much more balanced and optimistic we might be if we can do that. It’s worth trying, for you and for those around you.
Here’s wishing each and every one of you a healthy, prosperous, and hopeful 2023. Happy New Year!
Lance Janda holds a PhD in History from the University of Oklahoma and has more than 30 years of experience in higher education. He is the author of “Stronger Than Custom: West Point and the Admission of Women”, among other works.
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