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?”
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?
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.
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.
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