March 04, 2009


Klara norra kyrkgataFuturePundit points out that Over Half Of Humanity Use Cell Phones. A cheerful fact, but also pretty surprising to many people.

I have heard people make the claim "half of mankind has yet to make a phone call" very recently (example from 2001) - it sounds sobering and truthful, but has probably been untrue for more than a decade. There are likely a lot of similar factoids out there. When it comes to the rapid improvements or changes of how humans live there is a sizeable cognitive lag even among people claiming to monitor the world situation. I wonder how many people have really understood that we are now a predominantly urban species? Looking at how India (and many other countries) is presented in Swedish television the lag also becomes apparent: in the eyes of most of the journalists it is a poor country and should be depicted as such. That the old state (homogeneously poor with a tiny elite) is very different from the current state doesn't fit the story they tend to fall into - since that story biases how they tend to interpret what they see. And they learned it from previous media, and so on. The lag due to biased narratives distorts our worldview. There are plenty of people out there who thinks the population explosion is still in swing (yes, we are getting more people but the rate is slowing. Iran is now at replacement fertility) or that increased standards of living necessarily require a proportional amount of resources - claims which have been untrue for decades by now.

The time it takes for a fundamental shift in the human situation to percolate is frighteningly slow. Which explains why some bad decisions are made, and suggests that we are likely wrong about many presently held "truths" about the state of mankind. The information is out there, but it diffuses slowly.

Posted by Anders3 at March 4, 2009 07:53 PM