Active Thinking Topic 52 -  Everything is Better Than It Used to Be - Right?

Saturday 4 March 2022, 1:30 to 3:30 pm

Any replies to the organizer -

Venue: 44 Waymouth St, Adelaide CBD, South Australia

Talking Points

1. What are you aware of becoming generally better for most people during your lifetime? Worse? What was driving these changes?

2. How about your own life experiences? On an upward curve?

3. Is life more dangerous than it used to be? Elections are often run on slogans like 'Law & Order'. That slogan gets instant votes. Australia's murder rate hasn't changed much since 1980, but the murder rate in USA has dropped by 59%. In 1980 Australia had a murder rate of 10.9 per million, and USA 100.2 per million. By 2014 Australia had a murder rate of 10.38 per million, and USA 42.01 per million. Australia had 5% more reported rapes than USA in 2014 at 289.05 per million. The rape figures might have been influenced by increased reporting of that crime. (  )

4. The United States, with every natural resource, enough for everyone, is almost in a state of civil war, if the media it to be believed. Japan (for example) with few natural resources is the world's 3rd biggest economy and people live long, fairly harmonious lives (at least in public). What is going on?

5. What would a balanced life mean to you? Would it satisfy you? Balance is not sexy unless you are on a skateboard. The daily news is not about balanced lives or balanced countries where "nothing happens". We enjoy vicarious disasters (happening to other people somewhere) and crave a little excitement, but not too much.

6. Money is the main measure of the respect you will get in Australia. Agree or disagree? If that's true, what imbalances does it create?

7. How has life become better or worse in the last 100 years for a) women, b) men, c) children ? What is your evidence?

8. Medical science is still in its infancy, but from a very low base medical knowledge has increased dramatically, even in the last 50 years. People are also living longer. However, the general levels of obesity have exploded. Which people are actually living a better life from a health point of view, and which are not? Why?

9. If you could be reincarnated into a different era (past or future) what century would you choose? What do you know, or what can you imagine, about life in that era?

10. In every era, religions and ideologies have been proposed, imposed, opposed or accepted by huge numbers of people. As a human phenomenon, what have these systems of belief objectively achieved in improving or degrading general behaviour and welfare?

Extra Reading

Ross Gittins (August 10, 2022) "We’ve got more than we’ve ever had, but are we better off?" The Age @  [Quote: "In Australia, output of goods and services per person – a simple measure of prosperity – is about seven times higher than it was 120 years ago at Federation. This means people today have access to an array of goods and services that were unimaginable in the past. For every 10,000 newborn babies in 1901, more than 1000 died before their first birthday; today it’s just three. For those who survived childbirth, life expectancy was about 60 years, compared with more than 80 today. During their 60 years, the average Australian worked much longer hours than today, with little paid leave. The 48-hour week wasn’t introduced until 1916 and paid annual leave didn’t become the norm until 1935. Workplaces were far more dangerous. Most people died before becoming eligible for the age pension (introduced in 1909) and the average wage bought far fewer goods and services, with a steak costing 5 per cent of the weekly wage. Homes were more crowded – about five people per home, which were much smaller. We had outside toilets until the 1950s and washing machines and dishwashers didn’t become common until at least the 1970s. ... the cost of a double bed, mattress, blanket and pillows has fallen from 185 hours of work in 1901 to 18 hours today. The cost of a loaf of bread has fallen from 18 minutes to four minutes. More recently, the cost of a new car has fallen from 17 months in 1990 to five. The cost of a smartphone has fallen from 60 hours in 2010 to 16"]. [Thor, comment: There are a lot of useful reader comments on this article, some of them disagreeing with the writer]

Nation Master (2014) "Crime Stats: compare key data on Australia & United States". Nation Master @  [Quote: Australia has a murder rate of 10.38 per million (25% of USA) Vs USA 42.01. Rape rate: in Australia: 289.05 per million (5% more than USA). USA has 6 times more guns per head (88.8 per 100 people) than Australia (15 per 100)].
=> In 1980 Australia had a murder rate of 10.9 per million, and USA 100.2 per million.

Steven Pinker (22 May 2018) "Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers". TED Talks @  [ 18 minutes. 1,385,700 views ] [Thor, comment: highly recommended video] [Quote: "Was 2017 really the "worst year ever," as some would have us believe? In his analysis of recent data on homicide, war, poverty, pollution and more, psychologist Steven Pinker finds that we're doing better now in every one of them when compared with 30 years ago. But progress isn't inevitable, and it doesn't mean everything gets better for everyone all the time, Pinker says. Instead, progress is problem-solving, and we should look at things like climate change and nuclear war as problems to be solved, not apocalypses in waiting. "We will never have a perfect world, and it would be dangerous to seek one," he says. "But there's no limit to the betterments we can attain if we continue to apply knowledge to enhance human flourishing." ]

Academy of Ideas (3 August 2021) "MASS PSYCHOSIS - How an Entire Population Becomes MENTALLY ILL". Youtube @  [22 minutes. 5,843,520 views]

Thor May (2015) "The Unexpected Power of Stupidity." The Passionate Skeptic website @  [Quote: "Stupidity turns out to be complicated. Stupidity in its many guises does more damage on a daily basis than generations of clever ideas have ever been able to cope with. Human stupidity ranges all the way from planetary destruction to self mutilation by vengeful individuals cutting off their own nose to spite their face. Given the scale of stupidity’s ravages, it is a matter of wonder that it attracts so little systematic public research under its own name."]


Everything is Better Than It Used to Be - Right? (c) Thor May 2023

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