- May 2022
[Bruno Giussani, co-curator of TED] gave the example of Steven Pinker‘s popular TED talk on the decline of violence over the course of history, based on his book The Better Angels of Our Nature. Pinker is a respected professor of psychology at Harvard, and few would accuse him of pulling his punches or yielding to thought leadership’s temptations. Yet his talk became a cult favorite among hedge funders, Silicon Valley types, and other winners. It did so not only because it was interesting and fresh and well argued, but also because it contained a justification for keeping the social order largely as is. Pinker’s actual point was narrow, focused, and valid: Interpersonal violence as a mode of human problem-solving was in a long free fall. But for many who heard the talk, it offered a socially acceptable way to tell people seething over the inequities of the age to drop their complaining. ‘It has become an ideology of: The world today may be complex and complicated and confusing in many ways, but the reality is that if you take the long-term perspective you will realize how good we have it,’ Giussani said. The ideology, he said, told people, ‘You’re being unrealistic, and you’re not looking at things in the right way. And if you think that you have problems, then, you know, your problems don’t really matter compared to the past’s, and your problems are really not problems, because things are getting better.’Giussani had heard rich men do this kind of thing so often that he had invented a verb for the act: They were ‘Pinkering’ — using the long-run direction of human history to minimize, to delegitimize the concerns of those without power. There was also economic Pinkering, which ‘is to tell people the global economy has been great because five hundred million Chinese have gone from poverty to the middle class. And, of course, that’s true,’ Giussani said. ‘But if you tell that to the guy who has been fired from a factory in Manchester because his job was taken to China, he may have a different reaction. But we don’t care about the guy in Manchester. So there are many facets to this kind of ideology that have been used to justify the current situation.’ —Winners Take All, pp. 126-127
An early example of the verbification of Steven Pinker's name. Here it indicates the view of predominantly privileged men to argue that because the direction of history has been so positive, that those without power shouldn't complain.
I've also heard it used to generally mean a preponderance of evidence on a topic, as seen in Pinker's book The Better Angels of Our Nature, but still not necessarily convincingly prove one's thesis.