Thursday, November 03, 2016

Glad to be living now

First, read the following:
If you had to choose a moment in time to be born, any time in human history, and you didn't know ahead of time what nationality you were or what gender or what your economic status might be, what time would you choose? Paleolithic? Neolithic? Ancient Greece or Rome? Medieval times? Elizabethan England? Colonial America? The 1950s?
Think about it.

Think again.

Remember, that in this thought experiment "you didn't know ahead of time what nationality you were or what gender or what your economic status might be."

Yes?

So, which moment in time would you choose?

My answer is no different from the one the questioner asked: I would choose today.

What if I were one of the struggling plebes and not a rich dude in Rome? Or a serf? Or a slave? Or ...
 “We are fortunate to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history,” he opined, adding that “it's been decades since the last war between major powers. More people live in democracies. We're wealthier and healthier and better educated, with a global economy that has lifted up more than a billion people from extreme poverty.”
I agree with him.  This is the best of times all over the world.  It is phenomenal.  Of course, you would never come away with such a feeling if you were to listen to Adolf Trump.

"why the doom and gloom heaped on us by politicians and pundits"?

Micheal Shermer, from whose column in the Scientific American I excerpted those quotes, gives a few explanations.  To me those explanations are rather immaterial.  I am amazed at how much we can't seem to think about the big story of the phenomenal success on various fronts that we humans have achieved over the past two hundred years.  Our inability to situate an unfortunate event against a an appropriate measure over time blows my mind.

BTW, the questioner who posed that thought experiment?  Our philosopher-in-chief. Thanks, Obama!

2 comments:

Ramesh said...

At most points in history, the answer would be the same - The present was far better than the past however rose tinted the glasses may be.

The political formula the world over is the same - how bad the current times are and how only the candidate can make it all somehow magically good. The electorate buys this claptrap time and time again.

Sriram Khé said...

Remember Adolf Trump's "I alone can fix it" strongman speech at the convention where his dark message was all about how awful the future will be? Tens of millions of my fellow citizens have warmly embraced this "claptrap" ...

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