Saturday, May 31, 2014

Make this a better place ... for you and for me

Perhaps I am also a version of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  Aren't we all to some extent that way, in terms of how we display one personality in some contexts and a different personality when among a different set of people?

I am Mr. Hide, when I am on campus and in the context of faculty, and behave like Justice Clarence Thomas at a typical Supreme Court hearing--a silent presence, thanks to the union bosses telling their people (which is, for all I know, everybody except me) not to listen to me.  When with students, I--the Dr. Khé--am an animated, energetic, pun-loving pain-in-the-ass instructor, which is the real me.

Thus, there is a fair chance that the students know more about me and my penchant for discussions than do my peers.  Especially given that some of the students read, and even follow, my blog ;)

Discussions I love, and the internet has made possible discussions and debates that I would otherwise never be able to have.  With people halfway around the world, especially with this guy who, thankfully, does not leave me alone.

Towards the end of an email exchange with a fellow contemplator, where we disagreed a lot--after all, argumentative Indians we are--I wrote:
If the world looks awful now, I would contend that it has never been any better than this.  No way were the conditions in the past any close to how awesome the conditions now are. Can we do better?  I am convinced that we can, and we should try to do better.
My favorite example in talking about such a trend is a simple, yet a profound, measure--life expectancy at birth.  In that same email thread, I noted:
Even the poor live much longer lives than the 35-year lifespan that humans were typically restricted to, on an average, up until a couple of centuries ago.
In such a framework, of course, I find plenty of company.
The doubling of human life expectancy is one of the most remarkable achievements of the past century. Consider, Lomborg writes, that “the twentieth century saw life expectancy rise by about 3 months for every calendar year.” The average child in 1900 could expect to live to just 32 years old; now that same child should make it to 70.
The family stories in the old country are full of tragedies of lives cut short.  A grandfather whose death made my grandmother an 18-year old widow and the mother of two kids--one (my father) was a 40-day old newborn.  Uncles and aunts dying from tuberculosis. Children dead from mysterious illnesses.  One can easily imagine, therefore, the torture that the matriarch went through as she continued to live while people dear to her died one after another.

There simply has never been a better time than now.  And a lot more peaceful a world now:
children live in a world with fewer armed conflicts, netting what the authors call a “peace dividend.” Globalization and trade liberalization have surely contributed to this more peaceful world (on aggregate). An interdependent global economy makes war costly.
There simply has never been a better time than now.
Lomborg’s main message? Ignore those pining for the “good old days.” Thanks to the immense gains of the past century, there has never been a better time to be alive.
The "good old days" were mostly nothing but bad old days--paleofantasies those are.

Enough said. Stop reading this and go do your part to make this world an even better place, especially for the generations to come.


Ramesh said...

Absolutely true. It has never been as good before. If only we did not leave a mountain of debt for our children, it would be true about the following generation too.

Holy Cow. Your students read your blog ????????

Hey you lot - Prof Khé is the wisest, smartest, shrewdest, kindest, coolest Prof in the world. OKAY ?

By the way, with a title like that, how come Diana Ross didn't feature ??

Sriram Khé said...

Even the debt is not a big deal, as long as the economy can continue to flourish while servicing those debts. (The PIIGS serve as a good role model on how not to pile up those debts, right?)

What do you mean about Diana Ross? It is the King of Pop's song!!! They looked alike (bizarre as it seemed) and maybe that is why you are confused ... muahahaha ;)

Ramesh said...

Eeks. King of Pop, my foot. The "original" classic is this one.

Ramesh said...

Double Eeks. That was not the link I wanted. Here it is - the original classic.

Sriram Khé said...

Ok, now I see why you have the Diana Ross reference--to the theme of the title.
I used, almost verbatim, the words from Michael Jackson's "Heal the world":
Make It A Better Place
For You And For Me

Damn, why do you and I have to be such proof-positive for the argumentative Indian! ;)

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