Friday night topic: The golden age of… everything?

I’ve been thinking some lately about how our modern perspective warps our sense of scale about history. The simple fact of the matter is that there are many, many more of us alive right now that at any point in human history. Graphs like this one illustrate how the world population has mushroomed exponentially in modern times, but I don’t think we’ve entirely internalized that truth.

With billions of us on the planet, and with living standards being generally higher than in the past, one wonders about the true worth of our historical precedents on so many fronts. In the arts, humanities, sciences, business—any area of human endeavor, you name it—we are selecting our highest achievers from a much, much larger pool, even versus the size of that pool, say, 50 years ago, let alone further back. Sheer math suggests we likely have more exceptional individuals living among us now than might have existed cumulatively over long stretches of history.

Would today’s greatest athletes, for instance, completely destroy the storied heroes of our sports lore in a direct contest? Would Zack Greinke strike out Babe Ruth 95% of the time? Aren’t there hundreds of geniuses pursuing breakthroughs in narrow fields of the sciences now who are brighter and more capable than a Newton or a Tesla? Do we have tens or hundreds of Mozarts working in relative obscurity today?

Or has, perhaps, the current cultural cacophony and the leveling effect of industrialized civilization produced an environment less conducive to true greatness? Has modern technology granted survivability and even stature to less physically robust individuals, producing fewer naturally capable athletes?

Yeah, I can’t sell that last paragraph to myself. The math of it all seems overwhelming. But what do you think? Discuss.

Comments closed
    • mutarasector
    • 8 years ago

    “Or has, perhaps, the current cultural cacophony and the leveling effect of industrialized civilization produced an environment less conducive to true greatness?

    I can buy the first sentence of that last statement… but only to a limited degree. There does seem to be something of a ‘leveling effect’ when, on one hand, one looks at the disproportionate opportunity/means for true greatness when multinational corporate patent trolls suck up most of the atmosphere of innovation at the individual level, and make individual entrepreneurial effort more difficult (by an order of magnitude) and introducing a potential hazard of getting a leg blown off trying to traverse that minefield – unless one actually works for one the patent trolls, of course.

    As for modern technology granting survivability and even stature to less physically robust individuals, or producing fewer naturally capable athletes, this is also something of a rather real effect as well as it does indeed enable laziness/weakness in some individuals, but overall, I like to the think standard of living increase resulting from our technologically-tinted civilization does still empower considerably more people to explore, develop, utilize their abilities and assets in a search for greatness, as well.

    As for general ‘survivability’, industrialized civilization can be a mixed blessing/cursing in many respects, but I tend to think that which actually kills true greatness for many is more due to political/economic/financial factors than any technological aspects. Yes, our industrial civilization employs technological means to enslave and oppress, but Facebook and Twitter also balance this out somewhat by empowering individuals (at a collective level) that has proven to have significant effect as well. Until a totalitarian despot comes along and decides to sever a given country’s internet links, that is…

    • CBHvi7t
    • 8 years ago

    There is this widespread notion that we lag progress and that we have come to a halt.
    This is of cause a total misconception, technology is progressing faster than ever.
    Here is what is really going on:
    We are moving back socially, not technologically. The sense of missing progress comes from the fact that the living standard of the majority has come to a halt, that children do not exceed the education of their parents, that we still have all the old social and political problems that we have had for ever and have actually made several steps back in the last 50 years.
    More and more people can not keep up with the requirements of the employers and thus fall back in their income.
    For the future I see no change in that trend:
    [url<]http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2011/11/artificial-intelligence[/url<] discusses the trend that more and more lower qualified will end up without a job. Unless the dumb become very rich capitalists fast, I see no other chance for a job based income for them than massive and endless subsidies. Aside from the TV the major factors for the masses sticking up with the system were business due to 40h week employment, and the small but visible fruits of an effort done, promising more. Now that people loose the hope for their climbing the ladder due to merit, they get increasingly frustrated.

    • ronch
    • 8 years ago

    Although this age has brought about many new challenges both to humanity and his/her environment (like the ones mentioned in the article), I feel privileged to be living in this era. It’s very evident that human achievement has never been this tremendous at any other point in history and we enjoy benefits and possibilities that most of our ancestors probably never even dreamed of. 8-core processors, air travel, instant communication, cures for all sorts of diseases that otherwise would have the ability to wipe out entire populations, etc. There will always be problems inherent in any form of society, and indeed every other age has had its share of problems, but we’ve achieved so much in so little time that many of those achievements are taken for granted. Yes, this is the Golden Age. We’re living as the gods of Olympus probably would have if they existed.

    If you want to look at the dark side of this age, however, Odizzide has already posted it earlier. I do agree with him/her fully, and it’s very sad to see so many things wrong with our world today. My post, however, merely tries to be optimistic and appreciative of what good humanity has done.

    • LaChupacabra
    • 8 years ago

    I can’t believe noone has posted this yet. It’s Louis CK talking about how everything is amazing and nobody is happy.

    [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8r1CZTLk-Gk[/url<]

    • trackerben
    • 8 years ago

    The great American political innovation of the 21st century is that the electorate no longer needs to vote in a government which will provide them largesse from present and future treasury. The voters only need one which will continue safeguarding the global ponzi scheme which the global financial system evolved into after the Dollar transformed into a fiat instrument.

    This scheme is naturally driven by foreign populations seeking higher returns and safe havens for their pensions and savings. They are as responsible for recycling export earnings into cheap monies for lending to the US Government, as American consumers and industries are for derivatively borrowing from them for financing those imports and a bit of other things like housing, education, and healthcare. Remove the workings of the US Treasury from the middle of all this, and literally everything falls apart. Since releveraging things back into the good old days is no longer possible, monetary restructuring and bailouts are in place as stop-gaps to continue incentivizing foreign financiers to source low-interest funds via US banks guaranteed by that same USG – that they may in turn continue buying sovereign debt of yet that same USG.

    The retreat of the Treasury to an inflationary growth (and debt) strategy abetted by the Federal Reserve leads to greater economic uncertainty which banks can only mitigate by weighting lending more to the public sector and foreign sovereigns, who can at least police taxes to pay off debts. The private sector and especially small businesses are crowded out of the capital markets because they cannot offer the same certainties of repayment. Which may explain why the largest US multinationals like Apple retain huge near-cash balances, against the coming days when even corporate behemoths can no longer compete for the cheapest global money with the Feds.

    The entire scheme evolved to be so conflicted in so many interests as to be absurd. Most people can only guess at the enormity of the situation, but many suspect whatever is running now must stop one day. They are sooner right than they know.

    The golden age in all except the District of Columbia (the only major metropolitan area growing larger and wealthier year-on-year) is over, in the sense that the flows of foreign lendings which propped up asset values while overall productivity stagnated are now questionable, i.e. Euro crisis. Foreigners still trust US financial firms to safeguard their savings, they just don’t trust that the returns of the past are sustainable with all asset categories bubbling. It’s a good thing there is still nowhere else safer for foreigners to invest at global scale.

    Managing debt-spending downwards is beyond difficult because a modern bureaucratic and labor aristocracy, dependent on an expansionary federal government for their prosperity, has captured the leadership of half the Capital elites. Meanwhile the rest accomodate the Big Coporates who are comfortably in status quo with their tax and investment incentives delivering record earnings. Reform in that elite city is impossible without political revolution.

    And so the era of easy credit and high spending closes as we see the return of the same-old, age-old, bitter times of yore where only the truly innovative, hard-working, and spirited have any hope of achieving great wealth. The blessings of the Reagan-Clinton-Bush years were great while they lasted.

    • Jambe
    • 8 years ago

    It’s true to some extent that it’s harder to stand out as the crowd grows, but I think it’s more interesting to simply ponder the scope and quality of the knowledge and tools we already have.

    Take physics, for instance. The gulf between our pre-Newtonian (or pre-Galilean) knowledge of gravity (and all it entails) is vast. Relativity, by comparison, was a small (albeit more granular) correction of Newtonian physics, and the esoteria of quantum and subparticle physics suggest yet-finer phenomenon at work.

    The same is true in other fields; evolution was first posited on a wide macro-scale evinced by relatively few supporting theories and observations, and as time passed, more and more granular theories and observations made our understanding of the wider phenomenon much more detailed (and by consequence, more esoteric to a lay audience). Just as the average person doesn’t spend much time pondering and discussing the nature of quantum gravity, the average person isn’t too concerned with the particulars of genetic hitchhiking.

    I suppose you could be a glass-half-full sourpuss about it and bemoan the fact that knowledge in most fields is already quite robust and has plateaued significantly, but I think it’s a good thing. The consequence may be that revolutionary breakthroughs are fewer and further between, but it means I have a good chance at living eighty or ninety years instead of thirty, that I have instant access to an international database of knowledge and entertainment the variety and implications of which I’ll never be able to grok, that I can travel easily around most of the planet, etc…

    Also, the niche-ification of arts, athletics, etc is a net positive in my mind. Pop music and television and movies and sports is there if I want it, but if I want something comparatively “weirder” that better suits a taste I have spent some time refining… yay for me!

    I mean, your own site, Scott, supports my point. Very few people (proportionally speaking) care about the specifics of computer hardware enough to even glance through a site like this… but I can’t get enough of it.

    • spigzone
    • 8 years ago

    We live in the Radioactive Age.

    The amount of nuclear fuel in operating cores and storage pools has grown to gargantuan proportions.

    2012 is just around the corner and nearly every ‘Not If But When’ apocalyptic possibility from a Canary Island landslide to a supervolcanic eruption to an large asteroid/comet hit to a massive CME that directly impacts the earth includes an underlying subtext of several dozen to a hundred or more nuclear facilities, their operational cores and storage pools, going into full meltdown, blanketing the earth with a radioactive cloud of particles that will poison the air, water and soil for hundreds of years.

      • yogibbear
      • 8 years ago

      Risk = Consequence x Likelihood.

      Likelihood of these scenarios is something like 1 x 10 ^ – 12 yrs

      Consequence is ridiculous. No one would argue against that, but they do design the plants with the understanding of preventing against low probability, high consequence scenarios if the risk ranking is high enough. Hence, the typically 4 or 5 different backup systems with dedicated power/utilities from multiple off-site locations you see at almost any nuclear facility. If Fukishima had acted on even 1 or 2 of the things picked up in multiple audits over the years, nothing close to what happened would have been able to happen and it would have been a golden example of the progress that has been made in the nuclear industry. Unfortunately they did not elect to spend capital on completing audit actions and the rest is history. However using the example of an older nuclear facility to damn them all is rather fitting of a well thought out and constructive comment.

      P.S. Thorium reactors. Get on board. Probably the only decent looking baseload generation that will cover the gap between fossil fuels and the eventual transition to nuclear fusion and/or whatever future energy sources we discover. Though I think we’ve still got a long way to go before we have to worry about peak oil. (At least 50-100 yrs which means that the forecast is almost rubbish as I’ve never seen a forecast for more than 10 yrs be close to the truth. But if you want energy diversification then 20% solar, 15% wind, and the rest nuclear/fossil fuels is do-able for most countries)

        • CBHvi7t
        • 8 years ago

        LOL: Harrisburg, Tschernobyl, Fukushima just those that come to mind right away.
        [quote<]Likelihood of these scenarios is something like 1 x 10 ^ - 12 yrs[/quote<] What a crazy coincidence the last 50 years have been! more than 15 melted cores. The fact is: shit happens.

          • spigzone
          • 8 years ago

          And shit is going to happen more often and harder as more and more early generation reactors like Fukushima’s are extended far past their original engineered lifespan.

          Fukushima is still happening/getting worse. A re-criticality/fission event that puts a massive radioactive cloud into the atmosphere is verry possible. If that drifts over Tokyo the city will have to be evacuated.

          That would be a wake up call to the rest of the world that couldn’t be dampened or propagandized away.

        • Voldenuit
        • 8 years ago

        Germany and India both have working thorium reactors (repurposed from existing uranium reactors). India is building a purely thorium (although uranium has to be used to start the reaction) reactor. Some of the Scandinavian countries are also considering thorium as an energy source due to plentiful deposits.

        Historically, though, India has had a horrible track record when it comes to nuclear safety and environmental protection. There are whole villages in India whose populations suffer from radiation poisoning and birth defects as a result of poor oversight on reactor operations and waste management. I hope that things have gotten much better since then (India’s Karakapur was rated as the best of its class a few years ago), but if even highly developed nations like Japan experience lapses in oversight, proliferating nuclear reactors in developing nations will likely result in some mishaps down the road.

        Anyway, the main obstacle to thorium reactors right now is economic – they are more expensive to start up than a uranium plant. Long term, they perform better economically, and thorium reserves are (relatively) plentiful compared to uranium, so I agree that Th is one of the more promising energy sources in the near future. It is still worthwhile to pursue a portfolio approach to energy generation, however, to reduce the probability of single points of failure (eg, in the supply chain), and because the technologies developed for alternative energy sources have multiple applications.

          • CBHvi7t
          • 8 years ago

          Germany has no Thorium reactors and is shutting down all nuclear power plants.
          To start the reactor you need weapon grade uranium, something the US does not want anyone else to use.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            You need U-235 to start a thorium reactor, but I don’t think it needs to be weapons grade. Lots of current plants use enriched uranium (in the 12-20% range of U-235 proportion). Weapons grade uranium is typically 80% or more, though you can make a bomb with lower enrichment that that.

            India did tests on Thorium using PHWR reactors, which normally run on unenriched fuel, though I’m not knowledgeable about the specifics of their runs. However, it should be noted that using thorium as a fuel is less weaponizable than uranium in the long run, assuming that the true goal is a fission bomb and not just a dirty bomb*.

            * Dirty bombs are probably the more likely threat today, as they would be extremely attractive to terrorist groups that wish to spread fear instead of actually wiping out military targets. From that perspective, thorium is not great, as its wastes tend to have higher radioactivity than uranium plants.

            • CBHvi7t
            • 8 years ago

            If you mix the Thorium with the Uranium you need highly enriched Uranium to end up with a concentration of U-235 sufficient to start the reactor.
            I don’t know if there are ways to start with fresh normal Pu+U elements and then increase the Th contend of the core. In any way you need a neutron surplus to get it going.

        • A_Pickle
        • 8 years ago

        [quote=”yogibbear”<]P.S. Thorium reactors.[/quote<] +1 This guy knows what's up. Molten salt thorium reactors sidestep every argument against nuclear power. In my mind, these [i<]are[/i<] the silver bullet power source.

        • mcnabney
        • 8 years ago

        You are dead wrong about Peak Oil. We have already had it. Global production peaked about three years ago and commercially accessible petroleum is being depleted faster than new reserves are found. Don’t get me wrong, oil will still be pumped in a hundred years, but it is going into decline NOW because most of the easy oil is gone.

          • spigzone
          • 8 years ago

          I’ve started to call it Declining Oil instead of Peak Oil.

          Even without a planetary scale disaster event unfolding planetwide catastrophes have been set in motion due solely to human activty.

          The next twenty years will see, at a minimum, wars and famine breaking out on a massive scale. That much is already built in and is unavoidable. The question is how much worse it will get.

      • Anonymous Coward
      • 8 years ago

      I can’t decide if you’re insane or sarcastic.

        • spigzone
        • 8 years ago

        Very sane and somewhat sarcastic.

        What part of my post do you consider ‘insane’?

    • trackerben
    • 8 years ago

    Individual category-best achievements are greatly exemplar and inspiring to me. But at global scale this continual hurdling of personal bests should be evaluated in a brighter light. That is, by how such personal bars of excellence and honor are emblematic of the civilizations which raise the collective bar in human potentialities.

    Greatness in a nation is found in how and why its civilization stays true to the foundational precepts of the original country, AND how true that original country was to the ideas and ways of the Enlightenment. This virtuous historical phenomena of western history is best explained by its inception in the root of all presumed modernity, Hellenic civilization’s incorporation of the irredentist rationalism and faith of Judeo-Christianity.

    To the extent a civilization keeps to this way of life and thinking, it retains greatness. To the extent that emergent peoples acquire it, they acquire greatness. To the extent that a great nation establishes rule of law, property rights, defense of the commons, and limits in the public domain on individual freedom, it develops great minds and bodies. It has been observed that there are now more oppressed Christians pursuing reformation in China, India, Brazil, and in the Asian tigers than freely remain in all of secularizing Europe. And by now it’s obvious how demoralizing the post-Christian era is to Europe’s diminishing and troubled peoples. If not for sizeable populations of Judeo-Christians in North America, East Asia would now be the center of this civilizational nexus in terms of numbers.

    Americans are generally of the belief this central place of faith in the world is their turf, their due. But many are uncertain due to recent well-known mistakes of national and state governments. Most are in denial that it was not just their political machines who borrowed to spend. It was each and everyone who availed of the huge wave of easy credit which foreign lenders so nicely enabled for the past two decades, several $Trillions and still rising. That historically unprecedented wave of foreign investment made it easy for the average worker in most industries to finance a household and secure a pension on his/her mediocre output. This is evidenced by overall stagnation in real productivity vs. a parallel massive rise in household, credit, and student loan debt over the past decade.

    Not to mention Federal debt-spending binges.

    • rsaeire
    • 8 years ago

    I have to say that this discussion is very informative and that the opinions, ideas and suggestions from a lot of people are definitely food for thought.

    I find that, as a society, we invariably gravitate towards what is popular or fashionable and, with the ever increasing amount of people connected to the Internet, we are more susceptible to being brainwashed by the agendas of those in positions of power and end up becoming collectivistic rather than individualistic.

    Advertising has become synonymous with all types of entertainment; you just need to look at the ad-supported Kindle for a prime example. As such, we are more susceptible to subconscious influence that ever before, which ensures we are on a downward slope that ends in us becoming more sheep-like than ever before. Granted, society has followed mass opinion in the past, you only need to look at religion for clear evidence of that, but with the proliferation of over-night celebrities and the pursuit of fame, we are becoming more and more narcissistic and enamoured with celebrity culture than ever before that I cannot help but feel ashamed of what a lot of society are becoming and have already become.

    Bringing this into the world of technology, Apple have taken advantage of this greatly, with their iDevices becoming some of the best selling in their respective categories, even though the majority of users would find it hard to pinpoint the justification for their purchases other than stating “well, they’re cool” or “everyone had one so they must be good”. I have come to this realisation by asking a lot of my friends and work colleagues about their Apple purchases, mainly iPhones, and these have been the overwhelming responses. Granted, a small subset of Apple owners in the grand scheme of things; however, this appears to be the common outcome when others ask the same, or similar questions, in countries all around the world.

    While some of us may think we live in a Golden age, I can’t help thinking that we’re plummeting further to oblivion for all the reasons, and more, that have already been mentioned by others so far. Yes, we’re more of a consumer society than before and, in those terms, it could be agreed that we are in Golden age but overall, I find that a lot less thought is given to what will happen to our planet down the line and more to do with how much money can be made in the here and now and in the immediate future.

    • yogibbear
    • 8 years ago

    Wah wah wah. Innovators will move on and walk over your dead bodies faster than you can say….*gulp*

    • ludi
    • 8 years ago

    I don’t know if this qualifies as “golden age” material or not, but the other day I was idly tinkering with Google Earth on my Android phone, and it occurred to me that what I was doing would have scared the Department of Defense utterly spitless as recently as 20 years ago.

    I also find it fascinating that I can load Google Earth on a PC and browse all of Manhattan Island, as well as surrounding NYC boroughs, in three dimensions with full texturing. They even have the cranes mapped out at the Ground Zero reconstruction site. Many other cities haven’t gotten quite that much attention yet, but even so, there are quite a few outline models already set up for major buildings.

    We take this kind of stuff for granted, but this sort of thing lived only in the upper half of science fiction within living memory for many of us here.

    • DeadOfKnight
    • 8 years ago

    I’ve thought about this at great length in the past. My answer is no.

    We may have grown smarter as far as the information available to us, but we’re certainly neither wiser nor more creative. If anything we tend to think inside the box more now because we grow up not having to solve many problems as most of our lives are already automated for us. As far as athleticism, overall the human race has again become a lot weaker because we no longer have to use our hands and feet to do everything. In either case we’re talking about outliers, people that break away from the norm. With greater numbers, statistically we will have a greater number of outliers, but now they are outliers of a culture that has become dependent upon its creations.

    They would have to be significantly greater outliers today than back then. If anything we might have just as many Newtons and Ruths, not more, and it’s significantly harder to gain recognition for them in such a crowded environment. This is not to say that we don’t have more people born today with the potential for greatness, but it is not fostered as well. Today’s society is also very shallow and it’s even harder for homely or socially inept people to get ahead in life. Even if we did have a bunch of Newtons and Ruths running around, we wouldn’t know it.

      • CBHvi7t
      • 8 years ago

      I disagree with most of what you said although I agree with details.
      [quote<]We may have grown smarter as far as the information available to us, but we're certainly neither wiser nor more creative.[/quote<] Here I agree I don't think the genetic basis has become better, but peoples brains have become better nurtured and less harmed by alcohol. [quote<]If anything we tend to think inside the box more now because we grow up not having to solve many problems as most of our lives are already automated for us.[/quote<] Here I totally disagree. There are way more people unhindered by religion and daily needs. Children growing up with LEGO, computers, Wikipedia, ... [quote<]If anything we might have just as many Newtons and Ruths, not more, and it's significantly harder to gain recognition for them in such a crowded environment. This is not to say that we don't have more people born today with the potential for greatness, but it is not fostered as well.[/quote<] I totally disagree, there are way more people with an education today. Back then only the sons of rich men could spend time pondering about the universe. Today even woman can become physicists. The trouble today is: sitting in an armchair and working in the laboratory with one assistant you can not find anything earth shaking anymore. It takes experiments like the LHC and hundreds of Newtons to find new stuff. [quote<]Today's society is also very shallow and it's even harder for homely or socially inept people to get ahead in life. Even if we did have a bunch of Newtons and Ruths running around, we wouldn't know it.[/quote<] I don't think that has changed. It is true that you have to have "soft-skills" today because you depend on others but I doubt that "strange" people had it easier in the past.

    • NeelyCam
    • 8 years ago

    This is the temporary golden age, brought to you by fossil energy (i.e., “borrowing from the millenia before you”). This is, in no sense of the word, sustainable.

    It may last our life time, or even that of our grandchildren, depending on how much we ‘borrow’ from the ‘savings’ earth has been focusing on for ages. But this is a temporary fix.. a “golden age” for sure.

    What we should be doing is planning for a future that can provide for the future generations… enough of this spending spree with fossil fuels. Sacrifices are needed, but this really needs to happen. Enough with the short-term profits at the expense of long-term feasibility!!

    (Overall, I don’t trust all the selfish systems to figure any of this out long-term… That’s why I keep my eye on Mars)

      • Meadows
      • 8 years ago

      [quote<]"brought to you buy fossil energy"[/quote<] Buy fossil energy, I see what you did there, tee-hee etc.

      • DeadOfKnight
      • 8 years ago

      [url<]http://www.youtube.com/user/TZMOfficialChannel[/url<]

        • NeelyCam
        • 8 years ago

        Fantastic stuff! When I have more time, I’ll watch the whole 2h40min video.

      • Ringofett
      • 8 years ago

      I dont see anything wrong with exploting the heck out of fossil fuels, particularly if we can figure out how to sequester some emissions.. At least until we figure out a better long-term energy source.

      Electrified transportation: Check. (Leaf, Volt, etc.)

      Powerplants that keep the juice flowing even with no wind, in the middle of the night, deployable globally: not yet. Nuclear, but no matter how safe a CANDU design and others might be, probably not politically doable anywhere.

        • PrecambrianRabbit
        • 8 years ago

        I don’t understand the obsession with finding a power source that keeps “the juice flowing even with no wind, in the middle of the night”. There’s plenty of sun, and plenty of wind, and if you need some more power at some point, sure, fire up the nuke or the gas fired plant. There’s no need to find the One True Energy Source. It would be great if this type of power (fusion?) could be found, but hoping for it isn’t really an energy strategy.

        As for nothing wrong with exploiting fossil fuels… Air pollution? Political instability? Vulnerability to supply shocks? I don’t think they’re evil, but I’m certainly interested in other options.

          • Ringofett
          • 8 years ago

          Supply shocks can happen with anything, combined with political instability. Fossil fuels have a lot of problems, but they look like a good economic bridge options, thats all. Brazil’s found huge reserves, there’s tons of nat-gas here, Canada has impressive reserves. There’s a lot of it out there.

          And I dont use it as an excuse to push off renewables forever. Solar costs have fallen, there’s a lot of research in all those fields. Fusion is being worked out, in the mean time, nuclear works too. It’ll come eventually.

          Also, you’re right, probably need a portfolio approach.

          I just don’t see the impending crisis (from a supply stand point). People have been calling for it for about 10 years, but despite continued consumption, its not happening yet. No one saw the explosion in nat-gas production in the US, either, nor did they expect Brazil’s huge finds.

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          I’m looking for zero-pollution energy sources, and energy storage options to cover the “middle of the night” issues.

          Once electric cars become common-place, their batteries can be considered as temporary energy storage… all we need to do is enable bi-directional energy flow between the batteries and the grid, with some decent smartness built into the system (can’t have people’s batteries dying at midpoint of their commute)

        • Zoomer
        • 8 years ago

        NPPs are the answer.

        It’ll probably be more politically doable if something happens that puts fossil fuel out of commission for a while. No computers, no cars, intermittent electric, no heat, no air/AC, no TV. I’d agree to live on top of the containment chamber.

      • crose
      • 8 years ago

      THE SPICE MUST FLOW!!! God {€{€{$£€£${[]], grrrrr

    • HisDivineOrder
    • 8 years ago

    It seems so simple, really. Fewer people, but a few great individuals. More people, more of the still few by comparison great individuals. Except that doesn’t account for the effects of mass media on the masses and how widespread their reach and unified their message has become. In centuries past, we had newspapers, sure, but they weren’t all owned by one man intent upon painting a worldview that is perhaps a funhouse mirror version of what the world really is about. It certainly wasn’t a unified message everywhere you go, displayed 24/7, minute by minute, building up pandemics, disasters, and political scandals into rings at a circus. Nor did newspapers feel the ever constant, hungering need to truly make mountains, even continents, out of molehills just to satisfy the ever ravenous cravings called “ratings.”

    These institutions, unified under giant international conglomerates, create a hall of mirrors effect where one source strengthens another despite the fact they’re secretly the same source with different faces/masks. This turns a few voices into what sounds like the deafening roar of the masses speaking in unison and walking in lock step with a scant few opinions created and manufactured by careful manipulation. Those few voices echoed by the human microphone of manipulation have managed to beat down the individual in favor of a culture of critics, cynics, and complainers who–for the most part–would rather tweet about Michael Jackson’s doctor being a sick individual who killed Michael Jackson (just as they years ago were busy gossiping over the phone about Michael Jackson being a pedophile when the same sources were then declaring him to be the enemy of children everywhere and practically deserving death) than go out and demand non-sense like “Corporations are citizens” be cast out of our society.

    The whole point of those news organizations is to reduce the population to a level of apathy where they can get away with anything and no one will care or do anything about it. They want us to be like the humans in Wall-E: fat, decadent, lazy, unconcerned, complaining, but always wanting to be taken care of rather than doing anything for ourselves. Is it any wonder that the same news organizations that make stories about how Americans are obese then follow up with sponsored by McDonalds, Taco Bell, or Burger King? Is it any wonder the same organizations that tell Americans to lose weight because it’s the only way to be healthy follow up with Jenny Craig, Weight Watchers, and Gold’s Gym ads? They don’t expect you to do it, but they expect you to WANT it in that vague way that leads to uneasy discontent. They expect people to be ADHD kids. Or like the dog in Up. SQUIRREL!

    People don’t believe they can DO things because our media, myths, and beliefs all lead us to a place where we aspire to be great, but are constantly reaffirmed in the fact that being great is in fact a pipe dream not meant to be attained. We are reminded that we can daydream of being Spider-man, but when we wake up we’re just Peter Parker without Mary Jane. Or we can want to go out to the streets and wage war against crime and evil, but we won’t wake up the next morning with more than bruises because we’re not rich like Bruce Wayne. Our heroes are figures that we can never match, our aspirations are dreams that cannot become reality, and so disillusioned by these fanciful notions, we don’t hold to the smaller dreams that we might enact or do. Thank the media institutions that feed us this drivel. Thank the corporations who own them for wanting to systematically squash any attempt by the masses to have more individuals become great.

    So we still have the same few (or fewer) individuals that defy the odds, act with something approaching crazy, ignore the common “sense” that is spoonfed to us from birth, and actually do manage to become great. Of course, I’m describing anyone EXCEPT the rich few of our society. They are exempt from these rules and can be great, if they don’t fall prey to reveling in all life has handed to them on a silver platter. That in itself is a challenge.

    Hence, fewer individuals show greatness despite greater numbers because the wheels that grind people down have grown both more subtle and more efficient as our population grew. Our technology took up the burden of helping the few keep the masses down and it has done very well at keeping it going.

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 8 years ago

    Much better than your last discussion topic. There are some seriously bitter, spiteful people around here.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      that’s why i didn’t participate last time. You just have to know when to get involved and when not to.

      • Jahooba
      • 8 years ago

      This topic is more a barometer of a person’s mood or personal outlook than it is an insightful discussion on science, advancement, or the benefits of a large population pool.

      • Thresher
      • 8 years ago

      Welcome to the internet.

      Where faceless, unaccountable people can spout vile, uninformed opinion without consequence.

    • sschaem
    • 8 years ago

    “Sheer math” doesn’t show that most of that new population is non educated with no skills or ability to learn anything because of lack of resources.
    The majority of the birth come from people still living in the stone age, and living in poverty.

    We also have those conditions where diabetes doubled in the past 12 years in the US.
    More people == lower quality food (processed corn laced with chemicals seem to be in about everything)
    40% of the kids today are now obese… that actually give us less chances by number to create great athletes, even so the population skyrocketed.

    So yes, we have a much larger pool world wide.. but its a pool of people with no education (or chance of getting one), and in turn no valuable no skills, and prone to disease.

    We are not going to see improvement in human achievement by multiplying the population, we are creating a lower quality of life that hinder our progress.

    My view is that we would do much better (science, arts, sports, …) if we had a fraction of todays world population.
    We could better focus on education… thats the key to knowledge.

    My view, the true golden age will happen when world population stabilize way below 7 billion.

      • Ringofett
      • 8 years ago

      Malthus may be dead and largely discredited, but his influence lives on.

      I’d suggest that it’s pretty damn obvious that, even including China and India, the pool of people with an education and access to vast troves of information is FAR greater than even, say, the 1770s, when the US was founded. Cell phones, some just using SMS but others the internet, are surprisingly common in third world countries, where farmers use it to check different markets prices. That’s a small step away from wikipedia, a resource unimaginable 100 years ago.

      Did you forget that education, even literacy, has for most of our history been the retreat of a narrow aristocracy? The average man, I read once in the NYT, alive in 1776 would be expected to read information roughly equal in content to a single days NYT issue.

      Malthus has been relegated to the history bins of economics. When world records get broken even in sports, wheres the logic that we’d do better with fewer people? Would a lower population make that Jamaican guy run faster? I’d posit it’d simply make him less likely to be born.

    • odizzido
    • 8 years ago

    an interesting topic…..I would certainly say it is a golden age of technology right now, but there are plenty of areas where we still live in the dark ages.

    It’s a dark age of empathy right now.

    We live in an age where we allow banks to kick people out of their homes to live on the street so they can become more rich.

    An age where the fast food industry makes extra profit by putting animals through horrific conditions and most people don’t care.

    An age where people get paid millions of dollars to act out a film they didn’t write or put any real effort into while others live in complete poverty, and then the film industry has the balls to sue them for downloading their movie.

    An age where those in need get fined the most while credit card companies prey on their misfortune.

    An age that sells false hope to our youth with education and the interest is so high that many are never able to recover.

    We allow all of this to happen. Our society is built to support a system that takes from the poor and gives to the rich. A very dark age indeed.

      • Voldenuit
      • 8 years ago

      You’re definitely right that we’re living in a dark age of empathy right now. Two recent incidents in China put it in stark relief.

      In one, a motorist ran over a 2 year old girl. Not only did the driver flee the scene, but pedestrians and bystanders simply walked around the child, ignoring her agony. She was run over by another vehicle that also fled the scene. She died in hospital from her injuries.

      In another, a truck driver ran over a 5 year old boy, then reversed over him, some say deliberately, because the fine for vehicular manslaughter in China is lower than paying for medical costs.

      Humanity is not deserving of the name.

        • Ringofett
        • 8 years ago

        I really dont understand you guys. Whining about a 2 year old girl and credit card companies, when Mao and Stalin not a century ago were setting about the grim task of killing tens of millions — and no one raised a finger.

        We’ve gone from a world where, not all that long ago, the US was the only democracy worth noting, to a world full of democracies. A world where suffering, dictatorship, oppression, and state violence on a massive scale (or neglect) was common. Today, there’s pretty much only three intractable hellholes left; North Korea, Somalia, and Zimbabwe. Since the early 90s, thanks to free-market reforms in India and China in the 80s, and the license Raj pretty much being too slow to regulate the internet in to the ground, the share of humanity living in absolute poverty is perhaps the lowest it’s ever been.

        The fact we can afford to care at all about a SINGLE 2 year old girl in China shows empathy is in no sort of dark age. Hell, if this financial crisis were 200 years prior, millions might’ve died, directly and indirectly. No such thing as a social safety net in 1811.

        Is public opinion so pampered we cant get perspective on the past, or has popular culture became so disgusted with humanity it can’t think anything other than we’ve become a parasite on the universe?

        Edit: Look up wikipedia. Mao, in a single famine, killed up to 43 million people. Bolsheviks and Stalin, between famine due to economic mismanagement and outright purges, were killing machines. Notice a steady stream of such events…. until recently, and even then generally limited to certain parts of the world.

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          Whoa there. I think you need to widen your perspective. “Only 3 intractable hellholes left”? That’s a gross misunderestimation.

          % of population in the poor (using MPI Index):
          Angola – 77%
          Bangladesh – 58%
          Burkina Faso – 82%
          Burundi – 84%
          Central African Republic – 86%
          Chad – 62%
          Congo – 73%
          Ethiopia – 89%
          Gambia – 60%
          Guinea – 82%
          Liberia – 83%
          Madagascar – 70%
          Malawi – 72%
          Mali – 87%
          Mozambique – 79%
          Nepal – 64%
          Niger – 92%
          Nigeria – 63%
          Rwanda – 81%
          Sierra Leone – 81%
          Somalia – 81%

          I don’t know about you, but there are a *lot* of hellholes I’m glad I wasn’t born in. Meanwhile, in the good ol’ US of A, a whopping 11.7% of people don’t live past 60 (one of the poorest statistics in the developed world). In Italy, 47% of people are classified as illiterate. In the UK, that number is 22% and in the US, it’s 20%.

          Claiming that we live in a “Golden Age” because we as individuals are speaking from a position of privilege just shows how conceited we are and how oblivious we are to the very real suffering faced by millions (if not billions) of people on the planet.

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            The point is that the portion of humanity living in such places has become much smaller, a point you didnt dispute. Some of those poor places are at least democracies and experiencing rapid growth and development, like Rwanda. Even perennially screwed-up Liberia seems to be doing better. The trend in many of those places is up, not down.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            I do dispute it because it is ridiculous and completely unsupported by evidence.

            Look at [url<]http://www.aphrc.org/includes/stats_main_export.php[/url<] Every single African nation in the list experienced positive population growth rate in 2011. Even if the trend is upwards (a point I don't dispute) in some (not all) African nations, the fact remains that the current state of the African peoples is woefully beneath that of other developing nations, and without some drastic measures and/or intervention, is unlikely to improve appreciably in the next few decades.

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            Their file output somehow is crashing Excel for me, but I didnt dispute population was rising. However, over the past decade or so, I know the population growth rate is also falling. Off hand, I believe Tunisia and others are already around replacement rate.

            Further, the trend across the entire planet has been falling fertility rates, particularly as income raises. Given that Africa is starting to get the sort of investment in labor-intensive industries that started Asia’s booms, and African fertility rates have already been on a downward trend in many places, I find it highly unscientific of you to posit that, somehow, these places will defy all previous examples.

            Indeed, your ideology has you fighting the battle of the 80s. People that actually keep on this stuff is worried about the upcoming phase: the world after the ‘demographic dividend’ of falling birth rates has been paid, and large numbers of retired and elderly people rely on shrinking workforces. It’s been brought up in The Economist, Foreign Affairs, IBD, WSJ, identified as a major problem about to hit China, and an existential threat to Japan. Existential.

            The only thing ridiculous and completely unsupported is this vapid argument you advance.

            If you were really up on the issues, you’d point out the one real threat the world faces: the need to boost farm yields in the face of global warming. We make enough to feed everyone, today and in the coming years, but rising prosperity in Asia is demanding more meat, which needs more grain, so we’re going to need more to feed the same people. But, you didn’t take that route.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            There is a logical disconnect in what you’re saying. You say that declining populations are a concern, yet go on to say that we don’t (or won’t) have enough food growing capability to meet future need.

            Japan has over 120 million people squeezed into a landmass 1/20th that of the United States. On top of that, close to 75% of Japan is mountainous and unsuitable for agricultural or residential use. The declining population is bad in the sense that it is economically unsustainable, not that it is ecologically unsustainable, and is a symptom of the “borrow from peter to pay paul” philosophy of modern economics, which is itself ultimately unsustainable.

            Africa is industrialising. They are doing this for economic reasons. Much of Africa still relies on subsistence farming to feed itself, and agriculture has been focused on cash instead of food crops. But a further shift away from agriculture towards urbanization will stress their ability to feed themselves. In the short term, this is beneficial as it will provide them with more funds to buy food from outside, but in the long term, this is unsustainable, as the food still has to come from somewhere.

            I can’t help but think that humans are repeating the mistakes of the Easter Islanders, outgrowing their ability to meet their physical needs with the available resources. Except that this time, we’re doing it on a global scale. It’s not just food, it’s drinkable water, arable land and energy resources. At some point, the whole system will come crashing down.

            So maybe we [i<]do[/i<] need more countries that are reducing their populations instead of growing them. Edit: PS, you don't have to export the african statistics as Excel. You can export it as plaintext.

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            “I can’t help but think that humans are repeating the mistakes of the Easter Islanders, outgrowing their ability to meet their physical needs with the available resources. Except that this time, we’re doing it on a global scale. It’s not just food, it’s drinkable water, arable land and energy resources. At some point, the whole system will come crashing down.”

            No analysis of the ‘green revolution’ and our history of improving crop yields, of prospects of GM seeds to boost yields further, of the opportunities to perhaps replicate Brazil’s ability to make marginal land productive in Africa, etc. Just opinion. You have a hunch we need depopulation, based on the same theory Malthus had. Google him. I can say this: There are three groups of economists, generally speaking. Those that lean in the Milton Friedman direction, those that lean in the Keynes direction, and a small group of Marxists that publish far more books then legit research accepted by the big journals. Economists of both main groups, Democrat and Republican alike, have long discounted Malthus and the idea that we can get stuck at a point where we can’t support more population, that the result will invariably be shortages and death and misery.

            The last reading for productivity in the US was +3.1% annualized. As long as humanity figures out how to do more with less, like we have, you’re wrong. Combine that with a population likely to stabilize below 10 billion before falling again, and you’re double wrong.

            Which is, again, why economists are busy worrying about how to boost food output. And it’s not entirely a disconnect from the rest of my argument, because the problem isn’t particularly extra mouths to feed, it’s that prosperity is on the rise and thus people demand more meat. Prosperity you’re suggesting doesn’t exist, because of increasing population, if the face of all the facts.

            “In the short term, this is beneficial as it will provide them with more funds to buy food from outside, but in the long term, this is unsustainable, as the food still has to come from somewhere.”

            Uh, how does a population urbanizing reduce its ability to feed itself? If people leave their tiny plots of land to move to the city, presumably they’ll sell it to neighbors. Those that stay behind can thus boost productivity, efficiencies of scale, etc. Brazil’s been urbanizing, but if you think their ag output has fallen, well.. lol. On top of all that, African farm yields are trash compared to the rest of the world, there are huge gains to be had by simply adapting best-practice.

            I think the real issue is you have an *opinion* where you *prefer* as a matter of *preference* that humanity decrease its footprint on a holy, sacred Earth that we shouldn’t defile, which is why you aren’t linking any hard time-series data sets or the like to back up your assertions or invoking modern economic theories. I’m suggesting its a golden age because state violence is lower, people dont die by the millions due to mismanagement, standard of living is the highest ever and is rising quickly in most of the poor world, technology and medicine is unparalleled.. You’re making a whole different sort of argument, based on ideology from Malthus and Paul Ehrlich, rather then modern analysis and fact.

          • Geistbar
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<]I really dont understand you guys. Whining about a 2 year old girl and credit card companies, when Mao and Stalin not a century ago were setting about the grim task of killing tens of millions -- and no one raised a finger.[/quote<] That things once were, or are elsewhere, worse than now / here, does not mean complaining about those issues is invalid. [quote<]We've gone from a world where, not all that long ago, the US was the only democracy worth noting, to a world full of democracies.[/quote<] Out of curiosity, exactly [i<]when[/i<] was this? You seem to have focused on the post-WW2 era, but that would imply that Canada, the UK, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, Australia, New Zealand, and many other countries either weren't democracies, or weren't worth mentioning. Even before WW2 there were many democratic nations, many from the prior list; Ireland, post Napoleonic France*, the UK... And that's just without having done any research to find others. I wouldn't be surprised to see Denmark and Norway both show up as being functional democracies during that period, constitutional monarchies similar to the UK. Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands, and Switzerland I suspect were republics for a decent period of time. I doubt Hungary reverted to a monarchy after the end of the Hapsburgs and Austria-Hungary with them. I believe Mexico became democratic sometime around the mid 19th century... The US isn't, and hasn't been, the only shining beacon of Hope and Democracy (tm) in the world. * Excepting the brief period of Emperor Napoleon III creating the 2nd French Empire for just shy of two decades.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            [quote<]That things once were, or are elsewhere, worse than now / here, does not mean complaining about those issues is invalid.[/quote<] In prehistoric times, cavemen were preyed on by saber-toothed tigers. Today, I can pop over to the shops and not get mauled by a giant feline predator. Ergo, the world is a better place now!

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            That’s like saying that safer cities dont lead to better cities, even if its only a component of a better city. I’ve heard much trolling but no logical arguments as to why any previous period is superior to the current. A couple have pointed to the 50s and 60s — exactly when state violence was globally reaching levels never seen before and not seen since. How is that the golden era if one is looking beyond just the US?

            If people go through literature of past eras, there are always people whining loudly that things are in decline or stagnation. Those people have been wrong thus far, and if history is a guide, things are likely still improving and todays naysayers will be proven wrong again over the long term. Even Greece is wrecked, but it’ll get back on its feet… eventually… assuming it doesn’t follow the same policies that got it where it is.

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            When was that? I was thinking more late 1700s and 1800s. You are correct, once the 1900s got rolling, democracy was on the rise.

            As for complaining, its a matter of perspective. We can complain now about 2 year olds getting run over because we dont have to contemplate tens of millions being killed. And yet, people suggest this somehow is not as good as the good old days, whenever those might have been.

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            I’d be careful with considering democracy in the 18th and 19th century. Requirements for owning property were common in the early US, a quick glance at wikipedia says that those requirements were not completely removed until 1860, though many states had done so in the 1820s. We also only introduced the secret ballot in 1884 through 1891 (Kentucky was the last hold out), vs. 1795 & and 1848 in France, 1872 in the UK, and 1856 in Australia.

            Many nations also beat us to Women’s suffrage; New Zealand, Australia, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Austria, and Germany (although Germany’s was admittedly short lived, for well known reasons). Possibly others that I have missed.

            And all of that also misses that it wasn’t until 1913 that senators were universally voted for by the people, instead of chosen by the state legislatures. Not to mention that we didn’t reach [i<]true[/i<] universal suffrage until the civil rights act in 1964... I don't think there was ever a time where we could truly be described as "the only democracy worth noting". With respect to complaining, I agree with your sentiment; many things are better now. Perhaps I had just misinterpreted your earlier post (if so, sorry), but it seemed to be an attack on the validity of complaining; I feel that until we live in a utopia, we should always be striving to make things better.

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            I can acknowledge those other countries accomplishments, and admit our founding fathers in the US didn’t come up with all their ideas themselves; they were students of Locke, etc.

            Totally agree with you about the complaining thing, and I was probably being too harsh. Just felt we can afford to cringe at things like that girl now because things are so much better. For example, China really needs to work on making its infrastructure projects safe rather then flashy.. Something we can worry about now, since Mao isn’t starving to death tens of millions. Thats all!

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            Well, what I was trying to get at is that we haven’t been a hugely impressive democracy, even relative to most of our peers, for much of history. Hence bringing up suffrage, land owning requirements, state appointed senators, etc. Saying that we were the “only democracy worth noting” misses that for much of our history, we were a pretty unimpressive democracy, only marginally more democratic than our contemporaries, and even arguably less so than some.

          • destroy.all.monsters
          • 8 years ago

          Nothing in this post addresses [i<]empathy[/i<] and is off topic.

        • ludi
        • 8 years ago

        As I understand it, the Chinese courts have previously ruled against “good Samaritans” on the theory that only a person of guilty conscience would stop to help the injured party, and thus should be punished. For better or worse, you can’t blame passers-by for wanting to stay clear of the situation in that context.

        Sounds utterly ridiculous to anyone raised in a western culture and legal system, but this is not a western culture or legal system we’re dealing with here. The growing trappings of a westernized economy make it easy to forget that the underlying Chinese system is still rigidly authoritarian, and that the courts are sometimes more interested in making examples out of criminal conduct, than actually achieving a just result.

    • fantastic
    • 8 years ago

    This is not a pinnacle; this is a plateau. The bottom is too low and the top is hidden and hard to see. The bottom can’t even aspire to the top without knowing it exists. I think we need a little propaganda. Seriously. We need to celebrate science and intellect FAR MORE than we celebrate sports. One of my college instructors gave me this concept, but I think it’s true. Although there is the general feeling that scientists and thinkers are somewhat reclusive, there’s some room for celebrating advances without circus music in the background.

    To even bring up sports and athletes in this forum is just sad. Over and over again we’re wasting time and money worshiping millionaires playing with balls. You’d be far more productive if you played the games yourselves. Exercise, coordination, discipline, etcetera.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      WHAT YOU SAY!

      • Arclight
      • 8 years ago

      For sure, here is an example which, although a spectacular evolution, no one seems to have heard about:

      [quote<]Medal for engine which saves fuel in heat The car engineer Corneliu Birtok-Baneasa won the bronze medal in the 2011 Geneva International Exhibition of Inventions, for inventing a device which boosts the power of a car engine, while reducing fuel consumption, on hot days, Realitatea.net reports. The Romanian’s invention is called “integrated deflector for thermal radiation issued by internal combustion engines”. The device forces the air current which goes through a car radiator to adopt a descending trajectory, thus preventing its access to the engine compartment. Thus, the car’s intake manifold and air filter are protected from overheating, particularly on hot summer days. “The de­flector comes in handy in summer, as it maintains a high air density, preventing overheating and power losses. The use of the deflector boosts the engine’s power and reduces fuel consumption,” Birtok-Baneasa stated.[/quote<] Source [url<]http://www.nineoclock.ro/romania-wins-24-gold-medals-at-geneva-exhibition-of-inventions/#high_1[/url<]

    • derFunkenstein
    • 8 years ago

    We do live in what seems to be the golden age of content production. Never have quality still cameras, video cameras, and audio recording equipment been cheaper or easier to use. Never has the software been so inexpensive, so capable and run VERY smoothly on even TR’s Econobox build. The minds who give you the tools are immensely talented and the software makes it easy to have the production values better than even the pros had 20 years ago. If you have the talent.

    OTOH, putting the tools to work…I’m certainly not a Mozart working in relative obscurity. Obscure, sure, but I’m not Mozart…hehe

    • Blur99
    • 8 years ago

    “Aren’t there hundreds of geniuses pursuing breakthroughs in narrow fields of the sciences now who are brighter and more capable than a Newton or a Tesla? ”

    No they are not brighter than those 2 scientists. They are not even on the same planet as the 1st one.

      • Geistbar
      • 8 years ago

      I personally find Tesla far more impressive than Newton. That might just be my electrical engineer bias though.

        • lycium
        • 8 years ago

        von Neumann and Ramanujan were the aliens…

    • OneArmedScissor
    • 8 years ago

    Beer is a hell of a lot better than it was even 10 years ago. We’re living in the golden age right now.

      • flip-mode
      • 8 years ago

      Surely now is better than any time hitherto to be a beer drinker.

      • Voldenuit
      • 8 years ago

      My favorite beer is Leffe. It was made in 1240. So no progress for me here.

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        The variety of beer available today is certainly amazing. But we had to come through the beer Dark Ages (Prohibition up until the craft beer revolution of the past couple of decades) to get here! IIRC the number of breweries still has not completely recovered to where it was in the early 1900s (which would mean that in terms of number of breweries per person we are still [i<]way[/i<] behind).

          • derFunkenstein
          • 8 years ago

          What about brewing capacity per person? Megabreweries that cater to the average joe that just likes Bud Lite are plentiful. I’m sure that from the early 1900s til now, even without prohibition, we’d see plenty of consolidation in this space just because everything caters to the lowest common denominator..

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            Maybe I misunderstood what you’re saying, but actually seen an explosion in variety of microbrews, largely due to deregulation. Used to be nigh impossible to set up a small operation as I understand it, and still isn’t easy in some places. (I still get a kick out of Jack Daniels distillery being in a dry county) Now just about anyone can order some stuff off the internet and be brewing in a week. For people that enjoy the taste, and have disposable income and the time to try it all, well, thats the microbrews market.

            Mm.. think a trip to World of Beer is in order tomorrow.

            • derFunkenstein
            • 8 years ago

            what I mean is that jbi is saying that there are fewer breweries in the world today than there were in 1900. My question is whether or not a natural consolidation would have happened even without prohibition.

            • just brew it!
            • 8 years ago

            Yeah, there probably would’ve been consolidation anyway. But more breweries should correlate with more diversity, because you’ve got more people coming up with unique recipes and procedures.

            Over the past 20 years or so, the pace of new small breweries opening has outpaced the consolidations, which is a wonderful thing IMO.

          • ludi
          • 8 years ago

          I don’t think the number of breweries is the right metric. Do you have figures for volumetric production per capita, or distribution range, of a typical early 1900s brewery? I would think that the number of breweries in 1900 would tend to reflect shipping limitations, thus more unique facilities but a far smaller region-market served by each.

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            I’ve never been big on alcohol (everyone please put your pitchforks away), but it’d seem to me that you’d probably get better beer out of many regional breweries, than a handful of mega-breweries. I guess I wouldn’t actually know though.

            • mutarasector
            • 8 years ago

            I would say that is a fairly accurate. I’m in an area with a dozen microbreweries within a 10 mile radius, and can attest to fact they generally produce beers superior to the mega breweries.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            Megabreweries produce nothing worth drinking.

      • Arclight
      • 8 years ago

      Beer has always been good where i live, idk where you live (i’m guessing the USA) but i didn’t knew this topic was country/region specific. More than anything this is the Golden Age of Stupidity and Greed.

        • OneArmedScissor
        • 8 years ago

        Awesome. Except even 10 years ago, you weren’t getting all sorts of styles of beer because they didn’t even exist outside of somebody’s homebrew.

        It doesn’t matter where you live. There is a much more significant worldwide drive to experiment and let the market choose now.

          • NeelyCam
          • 8 years ago

          [quote<] There is a much more significant worldwide drive to experiment and let the market choose now.[/quote<] G*ddamn capitalists... We should let the government the omniscient decide what beer we shall like.

    • just brew it!
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Aren't there hundreds of geniuses pursuing breakthroughs in narrow fields of the sciences now who are brighter and more capable than a Newton or a Tesla?[/quote<] Perhaps modern scientists tend to be [i<]too[/i<] narrowly focused. IMO sometimes it takes a generalist to see the forest instead of the trees, and make the true breakthroughs because the broader perspective allows them to think "outside the box".

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 8 years ago

      I’m going with this. Look at Steve Jobs. He didn’t painstakingly invent the parts of every successful device he came up with. He just looked at the big picture of what modern technology had to offer over a lengthy period of time and kept finding things people weren’t using to the advantage of normal people.

      And that made him a “genius,” or something, not because he was so mind bogglingly intelligent, but because he seemed to be the only one with that approach in the entire consumer technology industry.

        • Geistbar
        • 8 years ago

        Steve Jobs wasn’t a scientist, he was a businessman. A skilled businessman, but he really has no purpose in a conversation dealing with great scientists.

          • OneArmedScissor
          • 8 years ago

          *WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH*

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            A truly convincing rebuttal. You wound me.

            • OneArmedScissor
            • 8 years ago

            The topic isn’t “great scientists.” I simply pointed out the type of person considered a “genius” today instead of a scientist. I’m sorry that was so difficult.

            • Geistbar
            • 8 years ago

            [quote<]The topic isn't "great scientists." I simply pointed out the type of person considered a "genius" today instead of a scientist.[/quote<] I disagree, see the comment that you were responding to: [quote<]Perhaps [b<][u<]modern scientists[/u<][/b<] tend to be too narrowly focused. IMO sometimes it takes a generalist to see the forest instead of the trees, and make the true breakthroughs because the broader perspective allows them to think "outside the box".[/quote<] Underline added for emphasis. All the same; the difference there though is that what Jobs was talented at was business. The field of "business acumen" has not been something that has been getting significantly more intricate, detailed and expansive on the same scale as the physical sciences. A talented businessman from the the 19th century would be similarly multi-talented to a modern businessman. Whereas a scientist from the 19th century would have a far more diverse knowledge set than a modern scientist. Steve Jobs just really isn't comparable to any of the great scientists, outside of being successful. I'd be quite surprised if he had anything significant to do with the design of anything that didn't involve aesthetics or profitability. I'd also be reticent to describe him as a genius. He was smart, very smart even, but I don't think genius is at all an appropriate descriptor.

        • cegras
        • 8 years ago

        And by saying so you do a complete disservice to all these ‘focused’ people who came up with the product.

        • Malphas
        • 8 years ago

        Yes, but aside from the histrionic fanboys no-one actually puts Steve Jobs on the same pedestal as Einstein or Newton or Tesla or Leonardo da Vinci or Benjamin Franklin or Shakespeare, etc. etc.

        It’s you that’s missing the point, not everyone else. Modern day capitalism – although useful in various ways – doesn’t produce the kind of “greatness” we’re discussing here. I’m not demonising it, it’s just a fairly obvious observation. If Steve Jobs is the best example you can muster from today’s era, then it just highlights this fact.

      • Geistbar
      • 8 years ago

      A big part of it is that the fields have expanded significantly over the centuries. A truly bright person in Newton’s time could be knowledgeable on most fields of math, physics, literature, and contemporary philosophy. A truly bright person today would likely have the vast majority of their knowledge focused on a single field, and still not be an expert on every subject in that field. Even an exceptionally bright person would have to deal with that.

      Another part, partially as a consequence of that, is that any significant project is going to need [i<]teams[/i<] of people to solve. Tesla was able to solve most of his problems with just his own mind. Same with Newton, Euler, Maxwell, Gauss... The problems they solved were more fundamental. The era of the "Gentleman Scientist" ended long ago. I wouldn't call anybody from either era more intelligent or bright than the other. I would say that the work of those in the past was more important however.

        • just brew it!
        • 8 years ago

        Even if we limit the discussion to computer software the same trend is apparent.

        Back when I was learning computers, it was possible for a person to understand pretty much everything there was to know about programming a PC. (Yeah, I’m an old fart…)

        Today, you’re probably lucky if you know even 1/10th of 1% of it.

      • codedivine
      • 8 years ago

      Indeed. In my department, I know many profs who know very little outside their very specialized subjects. I am a PhD student, and in fact some profs have actively discouraged me from “wasting” my time reading about topics not related to my thesis.

        • PrecambrianRabbit
        • 8 years ago

        I’m not sure your advisors are wrong. The Ph.D. signifies extensive training in research (exemplified by a dissertation that contributes something to human knowledge), and it’s actually the beginning of your career, rather than another step in the ladder of schooling. The goal is not to become a more knowledgeable person, per se, but to make specific contributions in an area.

        Sometimes knowledge outside your area can really help your career – I have a colleague that got a huge boost from his idea to use Bloom filters in microprocessors, which is a distinctly cross-area contribution – but there’s no guarantee. I wouldn’t say exploring outside of your field is a “bad” idea, but I’d weight it with respect to it’s likely contribution – maybe 95-5 in favor of your thesis work.

      • cegras
      • 8 years ago

      I somewhat disagree. The general formulation of physics and chemistry is quite set in stone. Diving into the details necessitates that we become specialists.

      • bandannaman
      • 8 years ago

      Examples?

        • CBHvi7t
        • 8 years ago

        Gravity and Inertia
        Einstein was right but there is something missing.
        They are looking for a Higgs-particle but so far have not found it. What is the theory B, if A doesn’t look good?
        Dark-matter and dark-energy? Maybe just effects of the shape of the space that our universe exists in/on? Or shadows of other universes outside of ours?

    • My Johnson
    • 8 years ago

    Statistics.

    What you may be asking is if life has any direction and indeed it does. Baseball’s 100+ years of statistics reveal it.

    But I’ll leave it to the readers to determine what that direction is.

    • Malphas
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Or has, perhaps, the current cultural cacophony and the leveling effect of industrialized civilization produced an environment less conducive to true greatness? Has modern technology granted survivability and even stature to less physically robust individuals, producing fewer naturally capable athletes?[/quote<] You might have trouble selling it to yourself but I find it easy enough to believe. 99.99% of people are inconsequential cogs. The fact there's a larger world population isn't the be all and end all, the environment is different, we're more dependent on corporations and R&D departments rather than entrepreneurs and inventors. Athletes are churned out on the formula of good genetics + high school sports + coaching + performance enhancing drugs, so you don't see the raw natural talent and personality from when things weren't taken so seriously and money didn't play such a big part of sport. For similar reasons you'll never see a politician or leader like - for example - George Washington, because everything is done on opinion polls, approval ratings, lobby groups, PR campaigns etc. rather than principles and convictions. Arts and media - again mostly dominated by corporate interest and profit rather than any actual artistic creativity. I don't think the present is awful or anything, but I'd hardly call it a golden age either. If it is a golden age, it must be the be a golden age of consumerism and personal electronics or something, not science or the arts. Everything is driven by profit and capitalism (not a bad thing in itself) and everyone is incredibly risk-adverse compared to previous history, in all aspects.

    • Bensam123
    • 8 years ago

    I believe the golden age took place after WW2… around the 50s and 60s. We’re still riding the coat tails of surviving a world war. Heck popular culture still surrounds it.

    Sadly those that rose to the top during that time period think they did so solely of their own accord with no one else’s help and seek only personal wealth (the more likely case is it’s their children that inherited their wealth and none of their wisdom).

    Honestly I think the comment about great minds has a lot to do with contrast. People back then lived more in obscurity, with very few ways of being spotted, learning, or actualizing. Minds back then could’ve been easily lost because they couldn’t attend school or they had to work on the farm. Now the bar has been raised so high and most ‘common sense’ avenues have been explored, so great minds no longer seem all that great.

    Now days to be regarded as a Einstein you have to be a order of magnitude above everything else, those are usually considered loonies in wide regard as it’s really hard to follow their lines of thought and their is so much evidence that weighs against them. It really does make me wonder how humanity can move forward as a whole in this day and age.

    People with money are no longer willing to take risks. I’m not talking about everyone deserves to have a home so they should give everyone a loan risks, I’m talking about putting money into something that sounds like it might work, but has no data behind it. Business sense has been replaced with metrics. Small, incremental, safe bets that has proven data behind it.

    Masterpieces are really something that is lacking in this day and age. I’m not just talking about art, there is a lot of really good stuff on deviant-art, but true masterful pieces that exist in real life… skyscrapers, technology that really pushes the boundaries of human understanding, exploration to the deepest parts we dare to tread, harmony and solidarity, people with money really doing amazing things with it, entertainment that pushes the envelope (still exists in anime!!)…

    This is why the current state of AMD makes me quite sad. I consider AMD and Intel to be one of the marvels of the last 20 years or so. They cannot be replaced… once they’re gone, that’s it.

    • LoneWolf15
    • 8 years ago

    “Would today’s greatest athletes, for instance, completely destroy the storied heroes of our sports lore in a direct contest?”

    I doubt it, on a level playing field.

    Give storied heroes the modern equipment of today (from bats and balls to racquets, shoes, bicycles, golf clubs –even athletic clothing), and you’d improve them more. They learned to be great with a lot less.

    Give many of today’s athletes the gear of yesteryear, and watch them struggle to adapt –they’ve been blessed with the good stuff for much of their lives.

      • Peldor
      • 8 years ago

      I find it hard to agree. I mean yes the equipment has changed, but that’s penny ante compared to the changes in the sports environment. Babe Ruth was one of a few players in his era that DIDN’T need a second job. Today we have thousands of players who can (and many do) spend a plurality of their waking hours honing their skills. It’s hyper-specialization, but it’s effective.

      There’s a nice anecdote from one of the major Tour de France riders a few years back. He knew he wasn’t going to win next year because when he called Lance Armstrong to wish him Merry Christmas or Happy New Year Lance was still on his bike.

        • LoneWolf15
        • 8 years ago

        Being a cyclist myself, I believe Eddie Merckx would have kicked Lance’s butt. But that’s just my .02. Still in line with my original assertion.

        [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eddie_Merckx[/url<]

      • Corrado
      • 8 years ago

      Considering many speculate that DiMaggio played almost his entire career with a torn ACL, I am SORT of agreement, but at the same time, todays pitchers throw high 90’s for 100 pitches. I don’t see the Babe knocking out 60+ homers facing Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels.

        • Blur99
        • 8 years ago

        That wasn’t DiMaggio it was Mantle the center fielder that succeeded him.

        • LoneWolf15
        • 8 years ago

        Maybe not quite so early as the Babe, but Bob Feller threw 95-100 in his day.

        Iron Man Joe McGinnity won three doubleheaders in 1903, pitching all six games, in the span of a single month. He played shortly before the Babe’s time.
        [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joe_McGinnity[/url<] There are supermen in every era --for each one we pick from today, there is probably one we can pick from yesterday who could compete.

      • Ringofett
      • 8 years ago

      I think there’s a lot to be said for toughness. I think even a 2nd-rate boxer from earlier eras would destroy the current heavyweight division. These guys get exhausted after 12 rounds.. try 50, with nearly-bare fists!

        • worldbfree
        • 8 years ago

        You also had looser drug laws, coca was in everything, and you could get heroin over the counter.

    • ShadowTiger
    • 8 years ago

    I think that short term thinking and the profit driven nature of corporations has stifled innovation, with our political situation doing little to help.

      • OneArmedScissor
      • 8 years ago

      Every business is profit driven if they want to stick around, and a corporation just means a legal entity distinct from the people who compose it.

      Demonizing these things certainly isn’t helping. We want the economy to improve, but we don’t want businesses to be profit driven corporations? Okely dokely neighbor!

      Government manipulated international conglomerates ≠ corporations

      Get it through your heads, people. Capitalism isn’t the problem. The problem is that capitalism is dead.

        • ShadowTiger
        • 8 years ago

        There is a difference between companies that make products or services to help people and companies that make products or services to make money.

        Money does not have to be the end goal, rather means to an end (serving more customers, offering more products, better services, etc).

        I am not trying to “demonize” anything, I didn’t say capitalism was bad. I said GREED is bad.

    • Firestarter
    • 8 years ago

    [quote<]Or has, perhaps, the current cultural cacophony and the leveling effect of industrialized civilization produced an environment less conducive to true greatness?[/quote<] I don't think our modern society is any more or less conducive, but I'm pretty sure that there are a lot of brilliant people researching and having brilliant findings that live in relative obscurity. I mean, sure they get their names on papers, maybe a lot of papers, but as essential they are to the furtherment of our species, I doubt that they'll have their names cemented into history as some had not even 50 years ago.

    • Krogoth
    • 8 years ago

    I feel that we have already exited Golden Age and have entered into Second Gilded Age. It seems that economic downturn and the decline of science and other intellectual pursuits are starting to take their toll. You know that it is bad when technological innovation is starting to happen more and more elsewhere. Our culture doesn’t put engineers and scientists in high regard. We idolized more superfluous stuff like entertainers, MBA-types, professional athletes, get-rich-quick schemes etc.

    The entire Occupy movement is merely a symptom of this.

      • Vasilyfav
      • 8 years ago

      Not everything is about you, americans.

        • Krogoth
        • 8 years ago

        Well this website is based in USA and the topic in question references to the state of the USA.

        If we are talking about the world in general. I say that the disparity between “have and the have nots” has never been greater in human history. The vast majority of the world’s population still lives in massive poverty and social unrest. They have a hard time to have access to mundane stuff that we take for granted. (clean water, shelter, stability)

          • Damage
          • 8 years ago

          The topic is entirely meant to be about the state of humanity, not just the USA. Proceed accordingly.

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            In that case, we are on a collision course with a very nasty energy crunch. If we don’t find something else that can satisfy our energy needs when our hydrocarbon supplies starting to get to low.

            It is still unclear whatever or not we can make net gain Nuclear Fusion happen within an Earth environment. Nuclear Fission requires years of infrastructure change and we might already be too late. “Green energy” is woefully inadequate to satisfy our current energy demands.

            If the energy crisis doesn’t get resolve, it will inevitably lead to another World War and the collapse of all industrialized civilization. We will regress back to a “Neo-Metal” age.

            • flip-mode
            • 8 years ago

            Wow, you just don’t want to stick to the topic at all.

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            That’s regular ordinary Krogoth for you.

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            I’m seeing the larger picture.

            If you are going to talk about the state of current civilization as a whole. You can’t ignore the energy and resource crisis that is on the foreseeable horizon. We are running out of the “easy to get” energy with no viable alternative in sight. When resources and energy gets tight, people will fight tooth and nail to acquire on what remains.

            There are already growing parts in the world (poorest ares) where they don’t have enough “essential” resources (water, food, shelter) to go around. Guess what happens? Stability and social order go bye-bye. Unfortunately, at the current rate things are going. It will not be long until the crisis eventually spreads to “developed” nations (USA, EU, China, Brazil, India).

            In terms of technological development, we haven’t really develop anything truly revolutionary since 1950-60s. We are just refined the same concepts that were developed from then. The electronics and CPUs we have are not much different in concept/design, the only difference is that advancements in manufacturing (process shrinking) allows to scale concepts that once were practically impossible or economically unfeasible (Mainframes => Desktops => Laptops => Tablets => Smartphones).

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            There [u<]is[/u<] no larger picture. Scott brought in a specific topic. You can't answer in any proper quality, so you're just trying to derail it into areas where you can blabber on about your misinformed pop-news-outlet world views instead of addressing the actual point.

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            It is more like you can’t handle the fact that this “golden age” of technological progress is already at an end. The cheap portable energy that made it all possible is about to become expensive. There is no viable alternative to replace it in the foreseeable future. Modern civilization’s infrastructure depends on it in order to work. Even if an alternative were to be develop, it takes decades for the infrastructure to adapt to its usage. I fear that western civilization might already be out of time.

            The people in western societies are too preoccupied with superfluous crap (bread and circuses redux) and/or are simply living in denial, “My easy-going lifestyle is last forever!” They are going in for one hell of a shock once the defecation hits the ventilation shaft.

            • Meadows
            • 8 years ago

            What can’t I handle? Stop talking about infrastructure and address the topic.

            • Krogoth
            • 8 years ago

            It is difficult to gauge the current state of civilization without having to address the implementing energy and resource crisis. We are currently in a transitional period with the raising cost of living and energy. We are already out of the golden era of cheap energy, rapid technological innovation and progress. The global finance crisis of later-2000s put an end to it. The current fiscal problems in EU, USA and poorest nations are just beginning.

            • NeelyCam
            • 8 years ago

            I kinda wanna disagree with you, but I can’t.

            The transition is going to be worse than any of us, our parents or even their grandparents have experienced in their lifetimes. Having to wean off oil/coal is going to give us the worst hangover ever.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 8 years ago

            I think that if our “golden age candidate” occurs a short time before everything circles the drain, then it is not a very good golden age. That would be like like achieving the speed of sound right before running off the track and crashing.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            Agreed… not to be egocentric, but relatively speaking compared to the rest of the world… it does revolve alot economically, socially, and culturally around the US… Usually we’re the prelude to what is to follow the rest of the world.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            Egocentric, yes. Historically accurate, no.

            America is not the forefront of all technological and social advancement. We were not the first country to abolish slavery, allow women to vote, launch a satellite, put a man into space, build a supersonic transport, launch a space station, cut CO2 emissions etc. Many medical treatments were available in other countries before America (chicken pox vaccine, colloidal IV fluids).

            America is a significant contributor to scientific, social and economic advances, but it is historically inaccurate to claim that it is the font of advancement.

            • Bensam123
            • 8 years ago

            That is correct logically speaking… people don’t always strive to follow logic though. Look at trends in the US and how they’re ‘usually’ adapted else where in the world roughly 10-20 years later.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            From a cultural point of view, only 10 Nobel Prizes in Literature have ever been awarded to Americans since 1901 (that’s roughly 10%). There are dozens of Hollywood and American television remakes of foreign films and media instead of the other way around (just for the fun of it, I want to bring up Bollywood Matrix as a rare example of copying America). Media may flow out of America in volumes (and commercial value) unlike any other country, but the font doesn’t necessarily spring from home ground.

            America is very much the “middle ground” of cultural trends, not the other way around. We have a largely conservative population (not that there is anything wrong with that) that is averse to change. Have we had a female president (or national leader equivalent)? Nope. Canada has. Germany has. The UK has. Hell, even [i<]Pakistan[/i<] has. And let's not forget that racial segregation persisted in America until the 60s (and was only overcome with much unrest). What I can take from this is that America is slow to change, but when it does, it has a larger impact on the rest of the world than many other smaller countries. That doesn't mean that it's leading the charge, though.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 8 years ago

            I think you are taking the worldwide spread of McDonalds and fat people too seriously.

            • helix
            • 8 years ago

            The US government is working hard on exporting US laws. This enables business ideas developed in the US to work smoothly abroad.

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            Scott, what did you base your opinion on? The [url=http://www.economist.com/media/pdf/QUALITY_OF_LIFE.pdf<]Quality of Life[/url<] index (last taken in 2005), showed a tight cluster of developed nations (China somehow managed to make it on the list, despite lack of freedoms, poor wages, crowded cities, poor working conditions) above 6/10. Most of the rest of the world did not rank as well. Since then, many of these developed nations have suffered crippling economic and social upheaval (Ireland, the highest ranked country in 2005, is now essentially bankrupt, Iceland also had a major financial collapse and Greece is experiencing social unrest and crippling debt). Meanwhile, not much has happened to improve the lot of the vast majority of African continent countries, where conditions are so bad that reliable data was not even available for the study. And now we have 7 billion mouths to feed, educate and shelter.

            • OneArmedScissor
            • 8 years ago

            The Misery Index also just hit a 28 year high, and the US has the widest gap in wealth distribution since something like 1929.

            If you think that’s not representative of the numerous people in less developed countries, boy howdy, just wait until we see where food and energy prices are headed.

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            So the US and EU has stagnated, and Africa continues to be.. well.. Africa..

            But meanwhile, India and China, collectively well over two billion people, has continued to build their middle classes. Global GDP has continued to rise accordingly. If we include all the new farmers brought in from their rice paddies and given semi-modern lives in industrial cities in those two countries, I doubt the world has slid backward, despite the huge financial upheaval.

            I mean, geez, 6% GDP growth in China would probably be called a “hard landing” these days.

          • Voldenuit
          • 8 years ago

          +1

          Poverty? Check.

          Social upheaval? Check.

          Famine, starvation and water shortages? Check (2010 West Africa, 2011 East Africa).

          Environmental damage? Check (there’s now an ozone hole over the [i<]North[/i<] Pole and Tibet as well). Looming energy crisis? Check. Economic downturn? Check. Decreased social mobility? Check. Widening social gap? Check. Reversal of democracy and civil liberties? Check (while the Arab spring has toppled many dictators, there is no guarantee that the political powers that rushed into the power vacuum have any respect for democracy. Meanwhile, in the West, we have seen a consistent erosion of freedoms - Free Speech Zones, Patriot Act, public cameras in the UK, etc. etc.) While every age has its crises and we are not unique in history, I can't help but feel that things are getting worse for the majority of the human race, not better. Sure, we have more technology* and medicines than ever, but that's of no relevance to the huddled masses that are struggling to survive, let alone afford basic health care or luxuries. *I'll tell you what's not getting better, it's America's space capability. Between cancelled launch vehicles (Project Constellation) and bloated, overpriced replacements (SLS was supposed to be *cheaper* than Constellation, but is widely criticised for being too expensive), it looks like the world will be looking to China and Russia (and maybe India) to further space exploration.

          • Ringofett
          • 8 years ago

          “I say that the disparity between “have and the have nots” has never been greater in human history. ”

          Prove it.

          I very much doubt that if data was found and analysis done, the gini coefficient today of the world in aggregate is worse then most of human history, where there was a gilded aristocracy of kings and despots, their direct family, and then the rest of population left to rot in fields with nothing in their lives except religion and the promise that their life might suck less after they die — if only they do good and plow their land really diligently so they can pay the local duke, count, etc his taxes. And maybe, if he says his prayers, the taxman wont rape his wife in the process.

          I could be wrong! But, I doubt it. Bring on the data!

            • Voldenuit
            • 8 years ago

            [quote<]I could be wrong! But, I doubt it. Bring on the data![/quote<] Here you go: [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gini_since_WWII.svg[/url<] And here [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Gini_Coefficient_World_CIA_Report_2009.png[/url<] There's a 10 year gap between the two charts, but if you draw a line between the missing data, it's clear that the trend has been for increased GINI scores (indicating greater inequality of wealth) over the past 50 years (the timeline that Scott mentioned in his article). USA was at ~0.43 in 2000 and in the 0.45-0.49 bracket in 2009, for instance. China, despite (or perhaps precisely because of) the growth of the middle class, also has a rising GINI index, as the lot of the common farmers, laborers and blue collar workers has not improved, while the rich live like czars. And here's more data on wealth inequality in the US: [url<]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chart_of_US_Top_1%25_Income_Share_(1913-2008).svg[/url<]. Hmmm... maybe whoever said the Golden Age was in the 50s was actually not far off the mark...

            • Ringofett
            • 8 years ago

            The issue was in terms of human history. Your charts reveal the last 5 seconds of human history, basically, and most of them are moving sideways. Fail.

          • ztrand
          • 8 years ago

          About the disparity between the have and the have nots, it’s probably not what you think: [url<]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hVimVzgtD6w&feature=relmfu[/url<] This ted-talk is a couple of years old but if you havent seen it, take a look. It's around 20 minutes but very much worth watching. The presenter is very skilled and entertaining (once you get past his accent :)) Was a real eye-opener for me.

          • Ushio01
          • 8 years ago

          [url<]http://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm[/url<] There are now more people suffering malnutrition from obesity than lack of food.

            • Anonymous Coward
            • 8 years ago

            Another billion people ought to fix that right up.

        • ludi
        • 8 years ago

        No, but some of it is.

    • tviceman
    • 8 years ago

    Love the Zach Greinke reference. Someday the Royals will be good again.

      • derFunkenstein
      • 8 years ago

      You know he plays for the Brewers now, right?

        • Damage
        • 8 years ago

        Yeah, and the Royals were pretty good after the all-star break, too.

          • derFunkenstein
          • 8 years ago

          They were better in April when it looked like a 2-team fight with Detroit for the AL Central title.

        • insulin_junkie72
        • 8 years ago

        And the poor Royals have ex-Brewer boss Ned Yost as manager.

        (To be fair, he’s OK for the play-young-kids stage of team development – but when it comes time to be competitive, he’s not the guy you want around as a fan)

          • derFunkenstein
          • 8 years ago

          I dunno man, he got the Brewaz to the playoffs in 2008 (which, as I’m about to explain, means nothing). I think it’s more of a “GTFO of the way of the players and don’t cost your team games” than anything else for a field manager. Roenecke got alot of credit for the Brewaz running away with the NL Central this year, and TLR gets too much credit year after year when he wins with Albert Pujols and Chris Carpenter. The same with Joe Girardi “winning” the WS in his first year withe Yankees. It’s like “uh,durr”.

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