Small Advantages Add Up

I read an article the other day that was proof of how researchers can gather information and assess the causes of how things change. I am not sure of the outcomes and I doubt the implied point. It appears in the headline and it it’s subtitle, so it’s probably the work of an editor and not the author.

Nonetheless, be careful what you come to believe.

The article is Here.   How equality slipped away 

The subheading  “For 97 per cent of human history, all people had about the same power and access to goods. How did inequality ratchet up?”

You see the point and the problem.

The article is quite good and makes several useful points.

I think there are reasonable questions though.

Problem 1. The 97% referred above is the 290,000 years prior to the 10,000 most recent. I doubt you would have guessed that. Misleading?

Problem 2. There are many causes and sorting the most prolific is not easy. How did they decide?

Problem 3, Over 10,000 years, any continuing advantage produces staggering differences. Why ignore that?

The small advantage over long periods.

In the beginning everyone is about equal because there are few people, few resources, and little reason to change. Let’s suppose each person works to live a total of 2500 hours per year. Could be more or less and the point won’t change.

Suppose a few work a little more. Maybe at research and development of weapons, or metallurgy. They work at this for 7.5 hours per year. 0.003% more than the norm. In 10,000 years how far ahead are they?

10.2 trillion times better off.

Quite a big advantage. Even at 2.5 hours per year, it is 22,000 times better.

Your life works that way too.

Ten thousand years is a little off the normal playing field, but the point remains. Small advantages continuously applied provide large benefits.

If you learn one new thing a day for 40 years you will gain almost 15,000 factoids. I am willing to believe at least one of them would prove spectacularly useful. Steve Jobs claimed that taking a calligraphy course helped him see the need for more fonts in a computer. That made Apple the choice of the publishing and graphic arts industry.

Today I learned that a bald eagle’s feathers weigh twice as much as its bones. I’m not clear on how that will advance my life, but you never know.


I help people have more retirement income and larger, more liquid estates.

Call in Canada 705-927-4770, or email don@moneyfyi.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: