Sunday, February 18, 2018

Highly Linkable - How Are *We* Doing?

This links post is comprised of several items I believe are linked together in theme or subject matter. See what you think...

First Don Boudreaux points to a great website and corresponding TED talk by Anna Rosling Rönnlund. The project is a photographic-based exploration of how people compare. The within-country and among-country comparisons highlight what wealth and poverty look like. Notice the similarities, notice the differences, and notice on what factors these things do and do not seem to correlate.

Steven Pinker makes a strong case that The Enlightenment Is Working--"Don’t listen to the gloom-sayers. The world has improved by every measure of human flourishing over the past two centuries, and the progress continues." Let's suppose you conducted a survey every year for the past two centuries asking people simply, "Are you better off today than last year?" My guess would be the average and very typical response would be hard to distinguish from 'basically no improvement'. YET, the improvement over that time span for all of humanity (not just the average but for EVERY cohort) is dramatic and undeniable (once you look at the evidence). Why might this paradoxical result occur?...

Part II of Russ Robert's The Numbers Game is an examination of economic progress which suggests answers to the prior question above. The subtle yet very dramatic, counter-intuitive lesson, Simpson's Paradox, is awesome. To be sure, Simpson's Paradox would not answer my hypothetical, but it relates to how we misperceive small but compounding change and growth. Also, don't miss the first installment of Russ's video series.

But wait, aren't there too many people (or soon will be) for all this good news to continue? Steven Landsburg explores this issue in this video. He starts where everyone should start but often does not by asking "How would we know?" I believe he makes a very strong case that the answer is 'NO' we don't have and will not have "too many" people.

Tyler Cowen pointed to a couple of posts by Katja Grace who ponders 'Why did everything take so long?' The first and second both cover how and why progress is so difficult.