The World Has Gotten Better

Discussion in 'Opinions, Beliefs, & Points of View' started by Zurkhardo, Dec 17, 2010.

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  1. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    At least generally speaking, that is. This interesting video, from the BBC, sums it up quite nicely. It's only 4 minutes and it conveys the point in a pretty interesting way.

    Hans Rosling's 200 Countries, 200 Years, 4 Minutes

    I've long argued, often against great skepticism, that despite all our misanthropy and cynicism about the current state of the human condition, most people live better nowadays than their ancestors ever have.

    Furthermore, despite the significant number of us that remain in abject poverty and oppression, a larger percentage of humanity is living relatively well off than at any point in human history. Best of all, current trends suggest that the progression will continue, albeit not in all parts of the world and not without subsequent problems (such as environmental degradation, resource scarcity, and so on). There are still a lot of concerning and unprecedented issues facing the human race (and the planet as a whole for that matter) and that should never be downplayed. But neither should our undeniable progress as a species.
  2. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    It's relative to the observer and all depends on one's perspective of what exactly is "better".

    And with that said, I disagree.
  3. Issaccs

    Issaccs Well-Known Member

    How so?
    The modern world really is quite wonderful.
  4. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    ^ To you it is. To you.
  5. johnnysays

    johnnysays Well-Known Member

    Excellent video. Thanks!

    I wonder if people will still have scandinavian accents in 1000 years.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2010
  6. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    Well, the world is "better" when one considers that more people are living longer, healthier, and freer lives than at any point in history, and that proportionately more of them are doing so than ever before.

    Granted, one can get into the deeper philosophical questions as to whether wealth or longevity really mean all that. But generally speaking, living longer and having more money does tend to lead to a more fulfilling life. Even grappling with psychological or social problems is less difficult with more money and greater health than it would be without these things.

    In any case, what do you feel makes the current world worse off than a previous time period?
  7. Mortal Moon

    Mortal Moon Well-Known Member

    In general, I think most people today lead better lives than most of their ancestors, by a number of measures. But so what? Don't let's fool ourselves that this means the world is a good place, or one worth preserving.
  8. johnnysays

    johnnysays Well-Known Member

    IMHO, watching arnold terminate people in The Terminater makes this world worth preserving.

    So I disagree.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2010
  9. Mortal Moon

    Mortal Moon Well-Known Member

    I'm afraid I don't understand what you mean at all. What does The Terminator have to do with the question of whether or not the world is worth preserving?

    If I recall that movie correctly (and admittedly, it's been a long time since I've watched it), it paints a pretty bleak and horrifying vision of the future. What do you think we have to look forward to?
  10. Axiom

    Axiom Account Closed

    ^^ I believe it's sarcasm

    The world is a better place for humanity. We defiantly are learning and understanding alot more about life, and are slowly and surely starting to associate our "god" like right to exist and live, to other lifeforms and systems in existence.

    Though, with all our achievements, we are learning how to do new things en-mass, which technically can be more destructive than previous years.

    yadda yadda Better in this case is a pat on the back which is confusing because of all the directions the world is going. I think now and for the next 100 years or so, or until we find new life or harness space travel, we are at the point where as a society or species we could go from good to bad and be able to rational justify either or any direction. That's not progress in my eyes, just ability/awareness development.
  11. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    Jon and Blake make a good point: the world remains mired with a lot of problems, both old and new. Our new found success, as Blake pointed out, is also creating problems in some areas even while it finds solutions in others.

    The point I'm making, and that this video is trying to get across, is that despite all that, we have indeed made a significant amount of progress in terms of increasing the quality of life for a considerably larger amount of people. Ultimately, the point is to take a balanced approach - while we face many daunting challenges and continue to suffer from a plethora of social, economic, environmental, and political problems, we have indeed come farther regardless than at any time before.
  12. johnnysays

    johnnysays Well-Known Member

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  13. Prinnctopher's Belt

    Prinnctopher's Belt Antiquities Friend SF Supporter

    Again, I bring the question of what exactly is defined as "better" when a majority of the world still lives in poverty under governments and elitists that have monopolized resources for themselves. Again, it depends on the source in which the perspective of what exactly is defined as "better" emanates. Whereas, many many years before this monopolization of resources from the masses, -- and the perceived overpopulation of the planet and the rape of nature -- men owned their own livelihoods, they owned and made their own homes and goods, and had truly valuable goods to hand down to their descendants. There is little to no ownership among the masses now, and as opposed to the past, the majority of everything in the world belongs to some <10% of the world's population.

    Yeah I'm sure for fat and overindulged Americans and Europeans they certainly do see everything as "better" -- yeah, for them. If practically slaving until the death just to own a home and still have to live like sardines in a can like most people in the world do (what with all the elitists having raped them of their right to their own resources). What's "better" is really in the eye of the beholder, and just because people are living longer, though sicker and more deprived, lives does not strike me as being a "better" world.

    I believe humanity has already reached its peak long ago, and is now just on a short path to disaster. The only thing I see in Hans' chart is that people are living longer, with the majority of the world's people still in abject poverty and widespread misery for a longer period of time.

    I reckon it is 'better' when lifespan is pretty much the only standard.

    Eugenics, lack of wisdom, corruption of social cohesion, decreased independent thought, decreasing natural resources, etc. Not only that, but generations just being born are projected to have shorter lifespans than those before them, and will be poorer, as the minute number of people who are rich become richer.

    I mean really, Hans' standard for humanity moving toward a peak begins in the 19th century AD, and the per capita income isn't even controlled for decreased value of currency (the fact that there was more purchasing power using less currency, and I don't think it's a sign of significant improvement), if there were no time period previously in which conditions were more favorable for the majority of populations around the world. I don't think it's a very reliable way of measuring, especially because it uses the preferred pathways of progress as it's defined in the victorious and ever-colonizing West.

    Add: I don't know how it can legitimately be said that the world is even generally "better" when the status of the majority of the world has not improved.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2010
  14. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    Yes, and my point is it's a far smaller majority than at any point before. This is objective fact, not a matter of perspective. If someone is poor, but less so than before, than objectively speaking their position is said to be better.

    Anyway, there have always been elitists monopolizing resources, be they emperors, monarchs, dukes, nobles, and or robber barons. The difference is that, comparatively speaking, societies are either far freer and more prosperous, and that there are more democracies today than at any point in human history. Even people living in un-free societies - such as in China - can at least afford to eat and live comfortably. From a practical point of view, if I could only choose between being poor under an authoritarian government and being a bit wealthier in that same state, the answer is obvious.

    None of this was true for most the world's population. Slavery and serfdom, though they still exist in great numbers, were far more ubiquitous throughout human history, and poverty rates for the average country, up until the industrial era, were anywhere from 70% to 90%. In the present day, you still find countries like this, but not as many.

    And are you really suggesting that ownership was at some point higher in the past than today? Most people for much of history never really owned much in the first place, and the very ideals of private property and individual rights didn't even exist until just a couple of centuries ago. The increased consumption of goods throughout the developing world wouldn't be occurring if people weren't purchasing them in the first place.

    No, I'd wager the hundreds of millions of Africans, Asians, and South Americans that have been lifted out of poverty since the 1990s would also see everything as better. They own more goods, and can feed themselves and their families better. The problem is that you're oversimplifying things - plenty of people are slaving, but it's fewer people than at any point before. That is the only point I am making, and it is an objective one were someone to do a comparative analysis of history.

    The chart took into account average income per person too. The fact is, when a person has a good amount of money and is living longer and healthier, they tend to be much happier and more fulfilled than someone without either. And on what basis are you claiming that things will get worse? I'm genuinely wondering.

    All the things you've listed, minus the last one, have either always existed in some form or another or were actually worse then than now. And people aren't projected to have shorter lifespans at all. Lifespans have been increasing every year.

    Do you really think people were wiser and more intellectually independent in the past, when public education was scarce to non-existent, and knowledge was limited to the elites? Rates of intelligence have been increasing for decades, and numerous parts of the world have risen from mass illiteracy to being scientific leaders. More people can go on a computer, turn on a television, or head to a local library to get access to more knowledge.

    Eugenics has actually fallen out of favor, and reached it's peak decades ago during WWII and the decades before. Whatever form of it exists today - racism, discrimination, genocide - has been around as long as humans have. The differences is that we're comparatively smarter now, and are exchanging many more ideas and values that have bridged the differences.

    Social cohesion has never really existed in the first place. Most societies had long lacked institutions that serve the public good (such as police, postal services, public education). Families were brutally patriarchal, and marriages were largely property contracts. Larger numbers of people were united only under rulers or religious authorities, as opposed to the notions of a social contract. If anything, at least the world is more globalized and democratic, when neither values existed at all.

    Yes, but inflation is a natural process that is partly the result of higher demands, which in turn is a sign that more people are able to buying things. Furthermore, productivity has increased enough to make those goods cheaper. Remember how things like salt, sugar, or tea were affordable only to the wealthy, or how cars, televisions, and most electronics were once seen as mere novelties? Most of the commodities we see as a given today were once un-affordable luxuries, and the same is occurring in many developing nations.

    And there were no previous time periods in which conditions were favorable. At what point in our history were people freer, wealthier, and more prosperous than today?

    It uses the preferred pathway of progress that has been working for countries across the world, from Brazil to China. Whatever that pathway is, or wherever is has emerged from, it's been the most successful so far. It's not perfect, nor is sure to remain dominant, but there have never been any alternatives that have worked better.

    Simple: for most of history, 90% of the world lived short, impoverished lives. Today, about 30% to 40% do, and the number has been decreasing annually for decades. At one point, democracies never even existed. Today, however few there may be relative to oppressive states (and however flawed some of those democracies are), they actually exist in the first place.

    However horrible the state of the world may still be, it is better in the sense that it is far less horrible.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 18, 2010
  15. Zurkhardo

    Zurkhardo Well-Known Member

    Sorry if my response is long winded. I didn't realize how long it was.
  16. johnnysays

    johnnysays Well-Known Member

    On a serious note...

    This doesn't mean people can't complain about things in the world. The world has pretty much always got better. You would think that the greeks would have moved on to steam power and other technologies but they collapsed. Progress isn't always linear, but then again sometimes it's more subtle. Perhaps it was a government problem or a geographic problem or a cultural problem. Some people say it collapsed from the inside out. It overextended. But I think we can't say for sure what caused the failure of the greek empire to progress. I think even from that point on to the 21st century there was a steady progression even through the dark ages. It's just subtle. In any case, 500 years from now I believe people will sit in their space age rooms and ponder how on earth (!) humans ever survived the 20th or 21st century. I mean, it was so awful in 2010 and people lived on average only 67 years! They were tough!

    But you never know. This global society could fail just like the greek empire did. It looks so strong, but maybe it has a distant relation to the Titanic? And for a thousand years we could be rearranging and learning the lessons our forefathers didn't. And if that were the case god willing we would recover so maybe this time I speak of will be 1500 years from now? You never know! But one thing is sure: people will have it better at some point in the future and no doubt will think we had it hard in 2010 and will wonder how we coped!

    You don't think our grandfathers asked the same questions or thought the same things? Of course they did! In their own language they did. They thought things like: Geez, they sure had it hard 300 years ago, I'm glad we got our futuristic 18th century technology. I don't doubt for a single moment that my grandfathers didn't ask or think these things. They too wasted time doing this. And that in 500 or 1000 or 10000 years similar questions will be asked, albeit by a much smarter and more capable version of myself!

    And I know because my grandpa told me. My great grandpa said the same thing and...

    And I know that just like them I'll grow to hate some technologies. Why? Because I'll get stuck in a particular frame of mind. Maybe it'll be a technology that imprints memories or skills into peoples brains? So when I meet the excited youngster I'll tell him: In my time we actually had to learn things. Hands on. It could be exciting or boring, depending on the person or what we were learning. We couldn't plug in and have it encoded in our mind. It was a much more active and social experience than today. It's kind of scary where it's going. Treating people like software. Not good. And as sure as the sun will rise, the youngster will grin and think I'm the dumbest guy that ever walked the earth! I'm not sure what it will be that gets my blood going, but it WILL be something.

    Well, assuming I live that long. I have my doubts I'll even be around in 3 years.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2010
  17. Hache

    Hache Well-Known Member

    I live in a region where 80 years ago the people marched 300 miles to London because the shipyards closed down, everyone lost their jobs and the state handout wasn't enough for men to feed their families so they begged for jobs. They marched with nothing because that is what they had, nothing, people took them in and fed them on their way down. When they got their the government ignored them. Like parts of the USA, my english region did not recover until the second world war.

    Now today I look around, the slums of my city were destroyed in the 60s, there is free health service and much improved benefits, infact children are paid to go to school in england if their parents do not have a large combined income.

    Even in poverty (around 15%?) todays England has it made.

    Lets not forget rights. 150 years ago women had one place and one place only, the home. 200 years ago children sweeped chimneys, slaved away in workhouses, thrown down mines, in fact once that ended for the first 50+ years of mass education children were beaten in school.

    Throughout the 1800s the working class brit was treat like dirt compared to those in poverty today. Many slaved away endlessly all day in factorys and mines. Sadly this has now been passed on to many asian countries, slave labour and exploitation goes on but I have no doubt that eventually those countries will catch up. Many have changed a lot in the last 10 years, especially after the findings of the actions of those like Nike.

    Is slave labour better than living off the fat of the land as they did before european conquest? Probably not. Is this exploitation better for them now than without? Well in places like Cambodia if you do not work in a factory 18 hours a day you starve to death. In some places such as India where rights may be more developed there is a booming wealth for some.
  18. johnnysays

    johnnysays Well-Known Member

    My great grandfather came here at the turn of the century. He went from one coast to the other looking for work for a couple years before he finally settled down. He liked farming and mining work because it was stable I think. Something like that. But he went for periods of time without a penny in his pocket. Then he'd find work and work everyday from sunup to sundown for a month or two before moving on to the next 'adventure'. Back then the country saw him a lot like we see illegal immigrants. He barely could speak english. Finnish was his native language. There was racism towards him early on. He was even chased by police because they thought he was someone else and he couldn't defend himself by speaking english and he didn't want to become someones fall guy. It's strange how things don't change much. But all in all, when he finally settled down, he much preferred the routine to what he had before.

    He lived in Ironwood Mich in 1902:

    Lots of unemployment listed here:

    My opinion about slave labour is that company heads moved overseas and kept the profits. That's why the top executives over the past 20 years have seen their income skyrocket over average people. They're filling their pockets with the sweat of others.

    This has always happened. If no one is there to stop it, they'll just keep doing it. Nothing new.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 19, 2010
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