April 18, 2016 at 4:19 pm #46408
April 18, 2016
Humanity Isnt Yet Prepared for the Age of Abundance
Dear TransTech Reader,
Despite important scientific and philosophical progress in the brief Hellenic period of ancient Athens, it was the emergence of the Enlightenment in 1700s Europe that finally liberated science to improve the human lot. Human progress has accelerated exponentially since then, and with it, affluence and health. Unfortunately, few people seem to understand how fortunate we are to be alive today. So Im always happy when someone puts things in perspective.
Billionaires lived worse a hundred years ago than most Americans today
Economist Carol Boyd Leon recently wrote an article titled The life of American workers in 1915 for the Monthly Labor Review using data from the US Bureau of Labor. It is a fascinating analysis of how America has changed in a single century.
The overview prompted significant follow-up coverage. The most useful analysis, I think, came from economist and author Donald Joseph Boudreaux. The title of his article Most Ordinary Americans in 2016 Are Richer Than Was John D. Rockefeller in 1916 tells the whole story.
Rockefeller was Americas first billionaire back when a billion dollars was serious money. His quality of life, however, was clearly inferior to most Americans today. The standard of living the richest people enjoyed just a hundred years ago didnt measure up to ours.
Perhaps the best example provided by Boudreaux is the death of President Calvins Coolidges sixteen-year-old son in 1924. Tragically, the young man died from a staph-infected blister he developed on a toe while playing on the White House tennis court. Today antibiotics routinely cure such infections, and despite periodic sensational headlines in the media, new drugs will soon end the fear of the worst antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Travel and communication were also difficult and time-consuming a hundred years agoeven for the wealthy. Telephones were still luxury items, with only one primitive phone per ten people in the United States. Radio technology, along with access to recorded music and professional entertainment, didnt penetrate America until the Great Depression. Food was not just bland for almost everybody; it was expensive.
More than 40% percent of American family budgets went to food a hundred years ago. Today, we spend less than 10% on average, despite having access to chicken tikka masala, fettucine Alfredo, and Cantonese sweet and sour in practically every American town.
The ever-improving quality of life should make us an optimistic species.
Not so much
Predictions about future life have always been split into two general categories. On one side are the techno-optimists who believe that science and technology will continue to improve the human lot delivering longer lives and abundance. On the other side are the pessimists, in particular the Malthusians. They believe that human activity will lead inevitably to scarcity and a return to the primitive.
Statistically, the techno-optimists have won the argument so far. The worlds standard of living has improved for centuries but soared in just the last few decades. Most humans on our planet have emerged from extreme poverty and continue to make economic, health, and educational progress at a dramatic rate.
Almost nobody, however, is aware of it and polls show that media professionals are even less aware of this transformation than the general population.
Abundance brings new problems we dont know how to deal with
We have reached the tipping point in the West where our lives are increasingly characterized by abundance rather than scarcity. Until very recently, most humans have struggled to obtain the basic necessities. Its no longer the case, and the most obvious sign is in the realm of basic nutrition.
The Lancet medical journal published an article in April that reviews trends regarding the global body mass index (BMI). Simply put, the paper documents the fact that world is getting fat. That led to a series of articles in major media, such as Obesity Is Now a Bigger Global Problem Than Hunger. Bloombergs rather amusing take on this trend was the article The World May Have Too Much Food.
Heres a chart from the article:
Diagram shows arrows bottom left diagonal up to upper right corner rise in abundance.
So what should we learn from this? First of all, we should recognize that intellectual elites seem particularly susceptible to apocalyptic thinking. While they worried about famine, scientists, engineers, and business people ushered the world into a new world of abundance.
Does this mean our problems are over? Not at all. When we should have been preparing for abundance, governments were obsessed with scarcity. Now, abundance is creating an entirely new set of problems.
The rapid increase in worldwide obesity has enormous implications, including a quadrupling in adult diabetes since 1980, but it is only one aspect of abundance. Despite these problems, life spans continue to increase. So we are going to see more and more people who are older suffering from heart disease, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimers, and the other diseases that go up with BMI.
These conditions tended to kill people much earlier before the arrival of modern biotechnology. Today government budgets creak under the strain of increasingly older populations. For most Western governments, transfer payments to the aged are already the single largest budgetary component. The situation, however, will get even worse.
In the past, each generation tended to be significantly larger than the preceding generation, which made it easier to pay its forebears debts. That is no longer the case. Every subsequent generation from now on will be smaller than the one before it.
This is what abundance looks likelonger lives and cheaper consumer goods, including food. So we will have more and more obesity and its related diseases.
We know that most people wont adopt the life-style changes needed to significantly reduce obesity. The human race has never before experienced affluence of the sort that is common in the West and spreading throughout the rest of the world.
The instinctive drive to consume excess calories in times of plenty worked well for our ancestors who experienced periodic cycles of feast and famine. However, that drive causes diseases and huge medical bills in the modern world of permanent feast. As a result, medical solutions for obesity and obesity-related diseases are the only answer for most people.
Why hasnt science delivered solutions?
Why hasnt abundance come to health care?
Well, actually, it has. Ive written about some of the revolutionary biotechnologies waiting in the wings. They include DNA vaccines, stem cell therapies, and anti-aging therapeutics. The problem is that medical science is not keeping up with other areas of the economy. The primary reason is that the same people who told us that overpopulation and resource depletion were going to be the big problems have control over biotech innovation.
Healthcare innovation is unique because it has to get through politicians, regulatory agencies, and bureaucrats. The regulatory process adds decades of delay and trillions of dollars to the cost of new biotechnologies.
The justification for this system is safety. We are told that more people would die if doctors and patients were free to try therapies that havent been approved by the government. The widespread fear of less regulated health care, however, isnt data supported.
In fact, many medical economists believe that tight regulatory control is killing more people than it saves while raising costs significantly. What we have is artificially created healthcare scarcity in an era of growing abundance.
There are solutions for obesity and the diseases it causes. Ive written about many. Eventually, these revolutionary therapies will be made available, but every day that passes without them causes unnecessary suffering, death, and budgetary strains. The authorities who believe health freedom will create a medical apocalypse were also wrong about overpopulation, resource depletion, dietary fats, vitamin D, and even contact lens prescriptions. Medica l abundance is the only solution to medical conditions caused by long lives and abundance.
(If youd like to see the big picture, watch these two videos by the brilliant and entertaining Swedish statistician and professor of international health at the Karolinska Institute: How Not to Be Ignorant About the World | Hans and Ola Rosling and How To End Poverty in 15 years.)
Heres what we should learn from this
Until very recently, intellectual elites were predicting global famine due to overpopulation and resource depletion while heaping scorn and mockery on those who said they were wrong. They, however, were wrong.
Demographers tell us that world population is still growing but only because people are sticking around longer. Fertility rates have peaked and are now falling below replacement levels. Birthrates are catastrophically low in many Western countries, and global population is already on track to decline.
The fact that the authorities were so wrong proves that the human condition can improve despite the failures of the elite political and intellectual classes. As economist Joseph Schumpeter pointed out, innovators and entrepreneurs are the two groups that actually wield science and technology to improve human life. As the rest of the world attains the level of prosperity needed to contribute to Western technological progress, they will continue to do that at an even faster rate.
This is great news for lots of reasons, but it will create unprecedented levels of obesity and age-related medical problems. These are the problems of abundance… and the only solution is more abundance in the form of liberated biotechnology.
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© Copyright 2016 Mauldin EconomicsApril 24, 2016 at 6:14 am #46409
In product development, an end user (sometimes end-user)[a] is a person who ultimately uses or is intended to ultimately use a product. The end user stands in contrast to users who support or maintain the product, such as sysops, system administrators, database administrators, or technicians. End users typically do not possess the technical understanding or skill of the product designers, a fact that it is easy for designers to forget or overlook, leading to features with which the customer is dissatisfied. In information technology, end users are not customers in the usual sensethey are typically employees of the customer.
Scarcity (also called paucity) is the fundamental economic problem of having seemingly unlimited human wants in a world of limited resources. It states that society has insufficient productive resources to fulfill all human wants and needs.
HANDY is a 4-variable thought-experiment model for interaction of humans and nature.
The focus is on predicting long-term behavior rather than short-term forecasting.
Carrying Capacity is developed as a practical measure for forecasting collapses.
A sustainable steady state is shown to be possible in different types of societies.
But over-exploitation of either Labor or Nature results in a societal collapse.
A Pure Land can be attained only by purifying the mind. Even when we have attained outer Pure Dakini Land through a firm realization of generation stage we shall still appear to others as an ordinary, impure being. Ordinary people can-not recognize that another person is in a Pure Land because they cannot perceive that persons Pure Land and cannot share their experience of it. Someone once asked Milarepa in which Pure Land he had attained enlightenment and Milarepa pointed to his cave. The questioner could see only a cold, empty cave, but for Milarepa that cave was a Pure Land.
Yes, but isn’t it so that for multiple reasons this age of abundance won’t last for very long with this kind of self-indulgent and ignorant humanity?
…billionaires lived worse a hundred years ago than most Americans today…
This is all very much about values.
For a real ascetic living in a cave might be the highest immediately accessible heaven.
How enlightened and happy for example is Elon Musk?
I mean when you think quite rich guy who works very hard.
Ps. Sorry for my broken English.April 24, 2016 at 8:59 am #46411
Nevertheless, in most advanced countries, the following will be pretty generally applicable.
1. Abolition of property in land and application of all rents of land to public purposes.
2. A heavy progressive or graduated income tax.
3. Abolition of all rights of inheritance.
4. Confiscation of the property of all emigrants and rebels.
5. Centralisation of credit in the hands of the state, by means of a national bank with State capital and an exclusive monopoly.
6. Centralisation of the means of communication and transport in the hands of the State.
7. Extension of factories and instruments of production owned by the State; the bringing into cultivation of waste-lands, and the improvement of the soil generally in accordance with a common plan.
8. Equal liability of all to work. Establishment of industrial armies, especially for agriculture.
9. Combination of agriculture with manufacturing industries; gradual abolition of all the distinction between town and country by a more equable distribution of the populace over the country.
10. Free education for all children in public schools. Abolition of childrens factory labour in its present form. Combination of education with industrial production, &c, &c.
Initially, the Heyerdahls found life on Fatu Hiva to be idyllic, what with the abundance of fruit trees and readily available unpolluted river water. The charm soon wore off, however, as they had to face the reality of elephantiasis-bearing mosquitos, as well as other unfamiliar tropical diseases. Eventually, also, Thor and Liv found it impossible to live among the local people and ended up sheltering in a cave, anxious to get home.
The book begins with Heyerdahl’s optimistic idea that paradise could still be found. By the end of the book, Heyerdahl bitterly concludes:
There is nothing for modern man to return to. Our wonderful time in the wilderness had given us a taste of what man had abandoned and what mankind was still trying to get even further away from…. Progress today can be defined as man’s ability to complicate simplicity…. Nothing in all the procedure that modern man, helped by all his modern middlemen, goes through before he earns money to buy a fish or a potato will ever be as simple as pulling it out of the water or soil. Without the farmer and the fisherman, modern society would collapse, with all its shops and pipes and wires. The farmers and the fishermen represent the nobility of modern society; they share their crumbs with the rest of us, who run about with papers and screwdrivers attempting to build a better world without a blueprint.
Sorry, but this not to meant to be any serious review of this book.
I read Thor Heyerdahl’s Fatu Hiva few months ago and it’s somehow quite interesting.
Especially if one is familiar with primitive survival (but not necessarily tropical), it’s funny how naive this Norwegian couple have been with their expectations.
Above description is misguided in that sense that they actually had several camps where they lived with the islanders.
Problems started with them because of their (islanders) idleness and alcoholism.
When they moved to the second camp, their mistake was their own laziness.
They had there older man living together with his young stepdaughter; instead actively learning all their special survival skills they behaved like stupid tourists who expect to be served endlessly without compensation.
And then the hell came back when these bullying drunkard islanders took over also this Edenic small camp.
But what comes to abundance they never very actively tried to learn survival skills from this old man who seemingly for months, mostly alone, served them fruits, fishes, pig meat etc.
Also they seemingly never made any serious scientific study (Heyerdahl some kind of naturalist, wife economist; both with university background).
Ps. Sorry for my broken English.August 25, 2016 at 10:22 am #46413
Nah, Milarepa was simply pointing to his cave where he lived in Nepal drinking nettle tea for many years.
One symptom of not-understanding is to make everything grandiose:
“Milarepa was pointing to the Magic Kingdom Pure Land !!!” (somebody imagines)
Nah, he was just point to his cave.
As for mankind’s incredible amazing “progress”, the truth is there has never been any progress. Humanity is in almost exactly the same state as in the “beginning”, although the music is louder and the clothes differently coloured.
And in fact the entire universe we are in seems designed this way so there is no progress because to progress means to leave.
You can imagine in 20,000 years on Earth they will have space planes and celebrities with can-you-imagine-how-much-plastic-surgery, and people will be talking about how great everything is with progress. And in fact there will simply be just as much war, stupidity, lying, ill health and more stupidity than ever before.
It is only when you understand that there has never been any progress that you have the right kind of breakdown !!!August 25, 2016 at 10:28 am #46415
One of the lesser known gifts of Milarepa was his penetrating foresight into the future American Legal Culture as demonstrated by this poem:
“If you do not acquire contentment in yourselves,
Heaped-up accumulations will only enrich others.
If you do not obtain the light of Inner Peace,
Mere external ease and pleasure will become a source of pain.
If you do not suppress the Demon of Ambition,
Desire for fame will lead to ruin and to lawsuits”
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