December 29, 2019

"In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever."

"The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases. Every single day in recent years, another 325,000 people got their first access to electricity. Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time. And some 650,000 went online for the first time, every single day. Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27 percent of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4 percent."

From "This Has Been the Best Year Ever/For humanity over all, life just keeps getting better" by Nicholas Kristof (in the NYT).

I trust he's right about all facts he's setting out, and great! Of course. But let me carp about "The bad things that you fret about are true." He doesn't know what I — and the other "you"s who read him — fret about. I was just fretting the other day about the possibility that our consciousness is an illusion that coalesces anew each time we wake up after a night's sleep.

60 comments:

Curious George said...

American citizens who have Trump as their President - 100%

Ambrose said...

Odd, Mr K wrote two columns a week all year about how bad things were under Trump.

Rusty said...

Capitalism is a wonderful thing. What has the average life expectancy become in Cuba and Venezuela?

tcrosse said...

He doesn't know what I — and the other "you"s who read him — fret about.

His job is to tell you what to fret about, unless you're a denier.

Narayanan said...

With Trump's impeachment under her smock Hillary can also join humanity's best year festival.

tcrosse said...

Does human history describe a long arc? Or is its motion Brownian?

wild chicken said...

That morning consciousness thing is Buddhism isn't it? I just read that here or somewhere else..

Gahrie said...

First of all, it is now accepted knowledge that modern humans first appeared 300,000 years ago. That being said, the rest of the statement is true. The standard of living of people around the world has been rising dramatically ever since the USSR fell. 80% of the population of South Africa use cell phones...there are a billion cell phones in use in India. I thought the Left insisted that there would be 200-300 million starving people in India today, and they opposed every single measure that has improved those lives.

rhhardin said...

the possibility that our consciousness is an illusion that coalesces anew each time we wake up after a night's sleep

An illusion to who?

Unknown said...

"I trust he's right about all facts he's setting out, and great!"

I used to think that way. The AGW hoax changed my thinking. Now I trust that every one of those figures was quoted from a source Kristoff has no way of verifying. In most cases, that source will have an agenda, sometimes overt and sometimes hidden, often one or more of each, and the "facts" they publish will support that agenda.

And people like Kristoff choose their sources for their agendas, not their scrupulous regard for truth.

Ann Althouse said...

"That morning consciousness thing is Buddhism isn't it? I just read that here or somewhere else."

It came up in something I read recently. Not sure.

Something else I've thought of is how do you know when you wake up into a day that you are living it in chronological order? What if you're days are like a pack of cards that's been shuffled, and you could be doing your days all out of order, but with merely the illusion of remembering the past (and only the past)?

Angle-Dyne, Servant of Ugliness said...

"Every single day in recent years, another 325,000 people got their first access to electricity. Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time."

Those poor people getting access to the basic comforts of civilization are obviously in need of a good haranguing on the subject of global warming. The gaia-raping bastards.

Bob Boyd said...

Did Kristof plagiarize Matt Ridley here?

wildswan said...

"the possibility that our consciousness is an illusion that coalesces anew each time we wake up after a night's sleep"

But why does it coalesce the same way - or would you say that it creates the illusion that you took and posted a series of sunrise photos? Because, FYI, I have that same illusion. Yet of course, the digital world is illusion-based. Do I exist, really? How would you know? Finally, the sun also rises and yet, as your pictures show, that, too, in Wisconsin, may be illusion. Yikes.

Mary Beth (the commenter) said...

I was just fretting the other day about the possibility that our consciousness is an illusion that coalesces anew each time we wake up after a night's sleep

What result can come from worrying about this? If you figure out it's true, what can you do to change it?

Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time.

Is that seriously 200,000 more per day? That's amazing.

Mark said...

A lot of good things from a strictly utilitarian point of view. Of course, for the you-know-whos, that all counts for nothing because the Essence of All Evil is still president and not in prison.

Bob Boyd said...

you could be doing your days all out of order

Wow, Bob. You've gained weight.

No, I've actually lost 25 pounds. Today is from before.

Oh. Well congratulations then. Losing weight is tough.

Thanks.

WK said...

But don't be fooled by the radio
The TV or the magazines
They'll show you photographs of how your life should be
But they're just someone else's fantasies
So if you think your life is complete confusion
'Cause you never win the game
Just remember that it's a grand illusion
And deep inside we're all the same
We're all the same
- Styx ‘Grand Illusion’

cubanbob said...

The GDP per person worldwide is the highest ever. That is the good news.

Mary Beth (the commenter) said...

What if you're days are like a pack of cards that's been shuffled, and you could be doing your days all out of order, but with merely the illusion of remembering the past (and only the past)?

Then we'd have more "psychics" who happen to remember a past that is still future to us. With a big population, it seems there would be a decent chance of random mutations that can remember their past that we think is the future. Unlike "psychics" that have made predictions in our reality, they would be able to be as detailed about it as we are when we recall a major past event.

William said...

Smart people used to write that the Congress of Vienna was a failure in that it was reactionary and did nothing to limit aristocratic privilege. Still, Europe got one hundred years of peace after that treaty. The nineteenth century was humanity's great leap forward. Peace works. It's hard to reach your full potential for happiness in the midst of explosive ordinance. This yearning for equality is in many ways mostly a wish to apply explosive ordinance on the well to do and seldom ends well.....Anyway, it does seem that since the demise of the Soviet Union the material betterment of humanity seems to be increasing and accelerating even as the rich get richer. I like to stab rich people as much as the next Democrat but, as a means to fulfillment and material progress, it doesn't seem to work.

Gahrie said...

Something else I've thought of is how do you know when you wake up into a day that you are living it in chronological order? What if you're days are like a pack of cards that's been shuffled, and you could be doing your days all out of order, but with merely the illusion of remembering the past (and only the past)?

Hey man...what if the entire universe was just an atom on the fingernail of a giant person?

Ralph L said...

Your kid may survive this year, but in a dozen, he's going to drown unless you head for the hills.

rcocean said...

What a crazy statement! Do we get to vote on that? Yeah, maybe it was the greatest year ever for Americans, but what about the rest of the world? And are people more happy because they have more things? I doubt it.

traditionalguy said...

The prayer leader in Sunday School today prayed about the terrible things that have been happening in the country. I noted back that 2019 was a wonderful year and wanted another year like it. What she had meant was the terrible stress of awakening to truth hidden by the mass fake news narrative opiates that we have enjoyed for so long. They are are falling one by one at an accelerating pace.

Meade said...

"Your kid may survive this year, but in a dozen, he's going to drown unless you head for the hills."

And in a dozen years , if he hasn't headed for the hills, he'll only have 12 more years before he's going to drown. Again.

rcocean said...

My 401K has skyrocketed, but what if I get divorced? What if my child get ill or I get ill? Were my grandparents much less happy than me, even though they'd didn't own a car or surf the internet or have cable TV?

I doubt it. Its nice to be rich, its better then being poor, but our happiness is based on a lot of non-material things, that don't go up or down with the GNP.

Michael K said...

We know what Kristoff frets about.

rcocean said...

Trump has attacked globalism, and yet we're richer then ever. Looks like Global Captialism wasn't making us rich, it was holding us back. Jonah Goldberg must be sad.

Lucid-Ideas said...

@Rusty

I never understood this hatred people have for 'capitalism'. It's nothing more than human nature. People like owning things. People like being able to invest the fruits of their labor into something that will not just be fruitful, but provide something of a bonus or dividend. This is not immoral. When my ancestors were chopping down trees to grow wheat they didn't think "oh, this is wrong, i shouldn't live by bread alone, and starving sounds like a great weight-loss program."

People want to be able to own things and receive something back for their hard work, and other people should respect their property like I would want them to respect mine.

I think they call that the golden rule...or something.

robother said...

I am here to validate your fears, Ann. And Kristoff is here to validate everyone of his readers' fears. Because, what are we without our fretting? We fret, therefore we are.

Metalman said...

and the WORST year in recorded human history 536AD
not 1349 when the black death killed half the European population
not 1918 when the Spanish flu killed 100 million people world wide

536AD makes them all good in retrospect
https://www.popularmechanics.com/science/environment/a25241744/worst-year-to-be-alive/

Bob Boyd said...

Remember Billy Pilgrim and Montana Wildhack in the zoo on Tralfamador?

Michael K said...

Looks like Global Captialism wasn't making us rich, it was holding us back. Jonah Goldberg must be sad.

It was making people like Bloomberg rich. That's why they are funding Democrats. I suspect drug cartels are funding Democrats, too. You reward what makes you rich.

Sebastian said...

"The bad things that you fret about are true."

So true. I fret about progs impeding our progress.

John henry said...

I don't know about his specific numbers but they are certainly in the ballpark based on a lot of other reading I've done.

The Woodley is getting rapidly better offbeat so many material and non material warts.

John Henry

John henry said...

William said...

Smart people used to write that the Congress of Vienna was a failure in that it was reactionary and did nothing to limit aristocratic privilege. Still, Europe got one hundred years of peace after that treaty. 

Sure, if we ignore the Franco - Prussian war, Crimea war, Balkan wars and others.

John Henry

Josephbleau said...

"Something else I've thought of is how do you know when you wake up into a day that you are living it in chronological order? What if you're days are like a pack of cards that's been shuffled, and you could be doing your days all out of order, but with merely the illusion of remembering the past (and only the past)?"

The gears turn unseen inside the box and I live the dream. Dreamed mutual funds yielded 21% YTD 2019. The poor must not be good at dreaming.

Jeff said...

Something else I've thought of is how do you know when you wake up into a day that you are living it in chronological order? What if you're days are like a pack of cards that's been shuffled, and you could be doing your days all out of order, but with merely the illusion of remembering the past (and only the past)?

And like, dude, what if I'm the only real person and I'm just imagining all of you and this blog? Like, far out, man!

Fernandistein said...

Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time.

In only 100 years all 7.8 billion people will have piped water!

Fernandistein said...

Yes, I ignored the people who already have water - how many of are there?

Fernandistein said...

I'd like to build the world water pipes
And furnish it with love
Grow apple trees and honey bees
And snow white turtle doves

I'd like to teach the world to produce electricity
In perfect harmony
I'd like to hold it in my arms
And keep it electric company

I'd like to see the world live a long time
All standing pills in hand
And hear them echo through the hills
For peace through out the land
(That's the song I hear)

bagoh20 said...

I know one thing that is worse - our education system. Our young people are less educated than before despite having spent an incredibly increased amount of money on it.

Fernandistein said...

I was just fretting the other day about the possibility that our consciousness is an illusion that coalesces anew each time we wake up after a night's sleep.

I worry about the fact that a feeling or sense of unreality is associated with anxiety.

ALP said...

The better your physical situation is (health/housing/food) the more time you have to fret.

Fernandistein said...

"What has the average life expectancy become in Cuba [=79, same as the US] and Venezuela[=72]?"

TerriW said...

The reality-shuffling dream reminds me of the movie Dark City, which was pretty good.

TJM said...

Globalism made the Clintoons, the Obozos and the Buydens rich

Darrell said...

In the long arc of history, humanity's best year occurs under President Donald Trump.

You're welcome.

Seeing Red said...

The world is getting richer. That’s why more countries can pay their UN fair share.

bagoh20 said...

With a few exceptions, isn't the current year always the best in history?

Clark said...

I sometimes like to imagine finding myself among people who think that life begins when you get up in the morning and ends when you go to sleep. (They have complicated theories about naps.) It is hard to convince them that there is good reason to think that consciousness extends beyond a night's sleep. Just because you want something to be true doesn't make it true, they are wont to say.

Seeing Red said...

Less than 100 years ago, Texas was still getting electricity.

We’ve come a very long way in a very short time.

If we can crack fission or fusion, there’s no limit.

narciso said...

a 100 years ago, we were in the midst of the 'war to end all war' and the flu pandemic, I was reminded in a video about 'wonderful life' that mr. gower's son, was one of those 20 million categories,

narciso said...

casualties, ah nick Kristof, who enabled both the hatfill and part of the plame matter, by serving as Wilson's mouthpiece,

stevew said...

Where's the fun in talking about good news? We're all a lot happier when we are, or think we are, miserable.

Josephbleau said...

Those Americans who only live to 79 years are not our kind of people, dear.

tommyesq said...

What a crazy statement! Do we get to vote on that? Yeah, maybe it was the greatest year ever for Americans, but what about the rest of the world? And are people more happy because they have more things? I doubt it.

Not sure finally gaining access to clean, piped water and electricity is exactly the same as "having more things," and I am pretty solid that those receiving these benefits are quite happy about it.

William said...

There are shithole epochs. It's much worse to be stuck in a shithole epoch than in a shithole country. WWI and WWII were very hard to avoid, especially if you lived in Leningrad, Warsaw, or Dresden. You could do everything right and have every privilege on earth and still die a squalid death.... The era I have lived through was pretty good. There were riots, rising crime, inflation, etc., but it all got sorted out in the end and, even at its worst, it was never as bad as WWII. Despite my many deficits, I've had a pretty good life without half trying......I'll be very sorry to leave this life now that television has improved so much.

Rusty said...

Fernandistein said...
"What has the average life expectancy become in Cuba [=79, same as the US] and Venezuela[=72]?"
That would mean that those countries are efficient at keeping their populations healthy. I don't think that is at all accurate. They do not make efficient use of their resources.