Ray Kurzweil, futurist and computer scientist, has recently suggested that our world is not getting any worse, our information about the world is just getting better. Ostensibly, his statement holds some truth. As events unfold around the globe, one can watch in near real-time on reddit live feeds, twitter or other social media outlets. The instant and, what appears to be constant, information does yield a picture of world in turmoil. But, is Kurzweil correct? Are we simply living in a safer time, yet with better information?
Terrorism is Up in the European Union
Using a dataset of all terrorism attacks and deaths in the European Union (EU), the following analysis shows that terrorism in the EU is markedly up over the entire dataset, 1969-2016. Over the previous 2 decades the rise in terrorism is particularly noteworthy. The terrorism attack rate in 2016 is 4 times higher than the rate in 2015 and 5 times higher than any other year from the previous 2 decades.
While most of the attacks in the 70s and 80s were motivated by nationalistic and separatist ideologies, the bulk of the recent terror attacks were motivated by Islam. In fact, Islam was the motivation for 100% of the terror attacks in the EU over the last 3 years. In 2014-2016, each terror attack, and thus all injuries and deaths, were motivated by Islamic terrorists.
Deaths in EU are Up
When the terrorism data are normalized by week, which allows us to compare 2016 to previous years, we see that not only are attacks up, but so too are deaths. The attack and death rate data from 2015 and 2016 are also statistically significant and different from the previous 2 decades, 0.00078 and 0.0069 p-values respectively.