Outside the Box

50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period in World History

February 12, 2014

Yesterday I had a long leisurely lunch with my longtime friend and family consigliere Toby Goodman. Leisurely except that your humble analyst was allowing a few phone calls to interrupt our precious time.

“We were having lunch in this very restaurant [Piccolo Mondo in Arlington, his favorite haunt] in 1993. You remember what we were talking about?” he queried. I had to admit I didn’t, I wasn't surprised Toby did, because he remembers everything. That’s why he’s my consigliere.

“I don’t either, but I do remember that it was the first time I sat with someone who made a phone call during lunch. You brought in this big brick of a phone with a long antenna. I’d never seen such a device.” It’s not the Toby doesn’t get out – he was in fact a Texas state representative and chairman of a few important committees. But these phones were pretty brand-new and cutting-edge back then. Twenty years ago today (small, subtle hat tip to Paul McCartney and the 50th year anniversary of the British Invasion).

The first iPhone was introduced on June 29, 2007. Yesterday I was talking on the fifth version in less than seven years. Things are changing rather quickly. Sometimes we get all gloom and doom about the world but fail to realize how fast things are actually improving.

"Today," Matt Ridley writes in his book The Rational Optimist, "of Americans officially designated as 'poor,' 99 per cent have electricity, running water, flush toilets, and a refrigerator; 95 per cent have a television, 88 per cent a telephone, 71 per cent a car and 70 percent air conditioning. Cornelius Vanderbilt had none of these."

Today I offer you something fun and refreshing and optimistic for your Outside the Box, and I encourage you to pass it on to friends and especially to your kids. Morgan Housel over at the Motley Fool has written a great piece called "50 Reasons We're Living Through the Greatest Period in World History."

Compare health-care improvements with the stuff that gets talked about in the news – NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell interrupted a Congresswoman last week to announce Justin Bieber's arrest – and you can understand why Americans aren't optimistic about the country's direction. We ignore the really important news because it happens slowly, but we obsess over trivial news because it happens all day long.

(There is a link early in this piece to another article Morgan wrote in the same vein.)

It’s not that there aren’t problems aplenty, massive inequalities, atrocities everywhere, puerile media coverage, and enough incompetence and ignorance in Washington DC and governments in general to thoroughly depress you – when you think about it. But sometimes it helps to remember that things really are getting better. In 2034, no one will want to go back to the good old days of 2014. Trust me.

Well, maybe the good old days of the music of our youth. I noted last week that I was going to the Paul Simon and Sting concert. I was going to hear the Paul Simon that I remember growing up and listening to every week. As it turned out, Sting ruled the concert. He played to his crowd and had them rocking. Paul Simon did a few of his old songs, and Sting did a few others with him. But mostly Paul sang some of his newer stuff. I could recognize the rhythms that are characteristic of his talent – and Paul certainly has talent aplenty, even at 72. But it seems he has moved on from his old music and somehow or another forgotten to take along most of his audience. The sound was familiar but the words got lost there in the huge basketball arena. It was a concert made for a small venue where I could hear what he was saying and not just listen to the sound.

It has had me in a pensive mood for a few days, thinking about how we as communicators can stay relevant to our audience that expects to hear a certain "sound." I think about the reaction to my friend David Rosenberg when he turned bullish. There was a certain crowd that followed him because he confirmed their bias. Rosie has to be true to himself, just as Paul Simon does.

At the end of the day I think I subscribe to the Ricky Nelson school of life – I'm sure you remember his 1985 song "Garden Party":

“You see, ya can't please everyone, so ya got to please yourself.”

Balancing our feelings about the old with our excitement over the new is something we’re increasingly going to have to contend with. It will keep life interesting.

Your still wishing I had heard “Sounds of Silence” analyst,

John Mauldin, Editor
Outside the Box

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50 Reasons We're Living Through the Greatest Period in World History

By Morgan Housel
The Motley Fool

I recently talked to a doctor who retired after a 30-year career. I asked him how much medicine had changed during the three decades he practiced. "Oh, tremendously," he said. He listed off a dozen examples. Deaths from heart disease and stroke are way down. Cancer survival rates are way up. We're better at diagnosing, treating, preventing, and curing disease than ever before.

Consider this: In 1900, 1% of American women giving birth died in labor. Today, the five-year mortality rate for localized breast cancer is 1.2%. Being pregnant 100 years ago was almost as dangerous as having breast cancer is today.

The problem, the doctor said, is that these advances happen slowly over time, so you probably don't hear about them. If cancer survival rates improve, say, 1% per year, any given year's progress looks low, but over three decades, extraordinary progress is made. 

Compare health-care improvements with the stuff that gets talked about in the news — NBC anchor Andrea Mitchell interrupted a Congresswoman last week to announce Justin Bieber's arrest — and you can understand why Americans aren't optimistic about the country's direction. We ignore the really important news because it happens slowly, but we obsess over trivial news because it happens all day long.

Expanding on my belief that everything is amazing and nobody is happy, here are 50 facts that show we're actually living through the greatest period in world history.  

1. U.S. life expectancy at birth was 39 years in 1800, 49 years in 1900, 68 years in 1950, and 79 years today. The average newborn today can expect to live an entire generation longer than his great-grandparents could.

2. A flu pandemic in 1918 infected 500 million people and killed as many as 100 million. In his book The Great Influenza, John Barry describes the illness as if "someone were hammering a wedge into your skull just behind the eyes, and body aches so intense they felt like bones breaking." Today, you can go to Safeway and get a flu shot. It costs 15 bucks. You might feel a little poke.

3. In 1950, 23 people per 100,000 Americans died each year in traffic accidents, according to the Census Bureau. That fell to 11 per 100,000 by 2009. If the traffic mortality rate had not declined, 37,800 more Americans would have died last year than actually did. In the time it will take you to read this article, one American is alive who would have died in a car accident 60 years ago.

4. In 1949, Popular Mechanics magazine made the bold prediction that someday a computer could weigh less than 1 ton. I wrote this sentence on an iPad that weighs 0.73 pounds.

5. The average American now retires at age 62. One hundred years ago, the average American died at age 51. Enjoy your golden years — your ancestors didn't get any of them.

6. In his 1770s book The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote: "It is not uncommon in the highlands of Scotland for a mother who has borne 20 children not to have 2 alive." Infant mortality in America has dropped from 58 per 1,000 births in 1933 to less than six per 1,000 births in 2010, according to the World Health Organization. There are about 11,000 births in America each day, so this improvement means more than 200,000 infants now survive each year who wouldn't have 80 years ago. That's like adding a city the size of Boise, Idaho, every year. 

7. America averaged 20,919 murders per year in the 1990s, and 16,211 per year in the 2000s, according to the FBI. If the murder rate had not fallen, 47,000 more Americans would have been killed in the last decade than actually were. That's more than the population of Biloxi, Miss.

8. Despite a surge in airline travel, there were half as many fatal plane accidents in 2012 than there were in 1960, according to the Aviation Safety Network. 

9. No one has died from a new nuclear weapon attack since 1945. If you went back to 1950 and asked the world's smartest political scientists, they would have told you the odds of seeing that happen would be close to 0%. You don't have to be very imaginative to think that the most important news story of the past 70 years is what didn't happen. Congratulations, world.

10. People worry that the U.S. economy will end up stagnant like Japan's. Next time you hear that, remember that unemployment in Japan hasn't been above 5.6% in the past 25 years, its government corruption ranking has consistently improved, incomes per capita adjusted for purchasing power have grown at a decent rate, and life expectancy has risen by nearly five years. I can think of worse scenarios.

11. Two percent of American homes had electricity in 1900. J.P Morgan (the man) was one of the first to install electricity in his home, and it required a private power plant on his property. Even by 1950, close to 30% of American homes didn't have electricity. It wasn't until the 1970s that virtually all homes were powered. Adjusted for wage growth, electricity cost more than 10 times as much in 1900 as it does today, according to professor Julian Simon.

12. According to the Federal Reserve, the number of lifetime years spent in leisure — retirement plus time off during your working years — rose from 11 years in 1870 to 35 years by 1990. Given the rise in life expectancy, it's probably close to 40 years today. Which is amazing: The average American spends nearly half his life in leisure. If you had told this to the average American 100 years ago, that person would have considered you wealthy beyond imagination.

13. We are having a national discussion about whether a $7.25-per-hour minimum wage is too low. But even adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage was less than $4 per hour as recently as the late 1940s. The top 1% have captured most of the wage growth over the past three decades, but nearly everyone has grown richer — much richer — during the past seven decades.

14. In 1952, 38,000 people contracted polio in America alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2012, there were fewer than 300 reported cases of polio in the entire world.

15. From 1920 to 1949, an average of 433,000 people died each year globally from "extreme weather events." That figure has plunged to 27,500 per year, according to Indur Goklany of the International Policy Network, largely thanks to "increases in societies' collective adaptive capacities."

16. Worldwide deaths from battle have plunged from 300 per 100,000 people during World War II, to the low teens during the 1970s, to less than 10 in the 1980s, to fewer than one in the 21st century, according to Harvard professor Steven Pinker. "War really is going out of style," he says.

17. Median household income adjusted for inflation was around $25,000 per year during the 1950s. It's nearly double that amount today. We have false nostalgia about the prosperity of the 1950s because our definition of what counts as "middle class" has been inflated — see the 34% rise in the size of the median American home in just the past 25 years. If you dig into how the average "prosperous" American family lived in the 1950s, I think you'll find a standard of living we'd call "poverty" today.

18. Reported rape per 100,000 Americans dropped from 42.3 in 1991 to 27.5 in 2010, according to the FBI. Robbery has dropped from 272 per 100,000 in 1991 to 119 in 2010. There were nearly 4 million fewer property crimes in 2010 than there were in 1991, which is amazing when you consider the U.S. population grew by 60 million during that period.

19. According to the Census Bureau, only one in 10 American homes had air conditioning in 1960. That rose to 49% in 1973, and 89% today — the 11% that don't are mostly in cold climates. Simple improvements like this have changed our lives in immeasurable ways.

20. Almost no homes had a refrigerator in 1900, according to Frederick Lewis Allan's The Big Change, let alone a car. Today they sell cars with refrigerators in them.

21. Adjusted for overall inflation, the cost of an average round-trip airline ticket fell 50% from 1978 to 2011, according to Airlines for America.

22. According to the Census Bureau, the average new home now has more bathrooms than occupants.

23. According to the Census Bureau, in 1900 there was one housing unit for every five Americans. Today, there's one for every three. In 1910 the average home had 1.13 occupants per room. By 1997 it was down to 0.42 occupants per room.

24. According to professor Julian Simon, the average American house or apartment is twice as large as the average house or apartment in Japan, and three times larger than the average home or apartment in Russia.

25. Relative to hourly wages, the cost of an average new car has fallen fourfold since 1915, according to professor Julian Simon.

26. Google Maps is free. If you think about this for a few moments, it's really astounding. It's probably the single most useful piece of software ever invented, and it's free for anyone to use.

27. High school graduation rates are at a 40-year high, according to Education Week. 

28. The death rate from strokes has declined by 75% since the 1960s, according to the National Institutes of Health. Death from heart attacks has plunged, too: If the heart attack survival had had not declined since the 1960s, the number of Americans dying each year from heart disease would be more than 1 million higher than it currently is. 

29. In 1900, African Americans had an illiteracy rate of nearly 45%, according to the Census Bureau. Today, it's statistically close to zero. 

30. People talk about how expensive college is today, but a century ago fewer than one in 20 Americans ever stepped foot in a university. College wasn't an option at any price for some minorities because of segregation just six decades ago.

31. The average American work week has declined from 66 hours in 1850, to 51 hours in 1909, to 34.8 today, according to the Federal Reserve. Enjoy your weekend.

32. Incomes have grown so much faster than food prices that the average American household now spends less than half as much of its income on food as it did in the 1950s. Relative to wages, the price of food has declined more than 90% since the 19th century, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

33. As of March 2013, there were 8.99 million millionaire households in the U.S., according to the Spectrum Group. Put them together and they would make the largest city in the country, and the 18th largest city in the world, just behind Tokyo. We talk a lot about wealth concentration in the United States, but it's not just the very top that has done well.

34. More than 40% of adults smoked in 1965, according to the Centers for Disease Control. By 2011, 19% did. 

35. In 1900, 44% of all American jobs were in farming. Today, around 2% are. We've become so efficient at the basic need of feeding ourselves that nearly half the population can now work on other stuff.

36. One of the reasons Social Security and Medicare are underfunded is that the average American is living longer than ever before. I think this is literally the best problem to have.

37. In 1940, less than 5% of the adult population held a bachelor's degree or higher. By 2012, more than 30% did, according to the Census Bureau.

38. U.S. oil production in September was the highest it's been since 1989, and growth shows no sign of slowing. We produced 57% more oil in America in September 2013 than we did in September 2007. The International Energy Agency projects that America will be the world's largest oil producer as soon as 2015.

39. The average American car got 13 miles per gallon in 1975, and more than 26 miles per gallon in 2013, according to the Energy Protection Agency. This has an effect identical to cutting the cost of gasoline in half.

40. Annual inflation in the United States hasn't been above 10% since 1981 and has been below 5% in 77% of years over the past seven decades. When you consider all the hatred directed toward the Federal Reserve, this is astounding.

41. The percentage of Americans age 65 and older who live in poverty has dropped from nearly 30% in 1966 to less than 10% by 2010. For the elderly, the war on poverty has pretty much been won.

42. Adjusted for inflation, the average monthly Social Security benefit for retirees has increased from $378 in 1940 to $1,277 by 2010. What used to be a safety net is now a proper pension.

43. If you think Americans aren't prepared for retirement today, you should have seen what it was like a century ago. In 1900, 65% of men over age 65 were still in the labor force. By 2010, that figure was down to 22%. The entire concept of retirement is unique to the past few decades. Half a century ago, most Americans worked until they died.

44. From 1920 to 1980, an average of 395 people per 100,000 died from famine worldwide each decade. During the 2000s, that fell to three per 100,000, according to The Economist.

45. The cost of solar panels has declined by 75% since 2008, according to the Department of Energy. Last I checked, the sun is offering its services for free. 

46. As recently as 1950, nearly 40% of American homes didn't have a telephone. Today, there are 500 million Internet-connected devices in America, or enough for 5.7 per household.

47. According to AT&T archives and the Dallas Fed, a three-minute phone call from New York to San Francisco cost $341 in 1915, and $12.66 in 1960, adjusted for inflation. Today, Republic Wireless offers unlimited talk, text, and data for $5 a month.

48. In 1990, the American auto industry produced 7.15 vehicles per auto employee. In 2010 it produced 11.2 vehicles per employee. Manufacturing efficiency has improved dramatically.

49. You need an annual income of $34,000 a year to be in the richest 1% of the world, according to World Bank economist Branko Milanovic's 2010 book The Haves and the Have-Nots. To be in the top half of the globe you need to earn just $1,225 a year. For the top 20%, it's $5,000 per year. Enter the top 10% with $12,000 a year. To be included in the top 0.1% requires an annual income of $70,000. America's poorest are some of the world's richest.

50. Only 4% of humans get to live in America. Odds are you're one of them. We've got it made. Be thankful.

 

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John B. Robb

Feb. 16, 2014, 2:45 p.m.

There is no disputing that we are far better off today in material terms than our ancestors, but not so much in quality of life. Satisfaction and happiness in life come as much or more from the work we do, and the people we work with, as how we spend our leisure time. Also important is our family life, and our sense of having a place in our community, and in the order of things.  Yet we live today in a rapidly degenerating society, in which family, community, and indeed, all social institutions, are subordinated to the mad scramble to keep up with the Jones, or, more recently, just to keep up the payments on our never-to-be-retired debts.  Merely keeping up has become challenging thanks both to the stagnant and declining economy, and the inexorable ravages of inflation.

I know that you have written at length on the difficulties of measuring inflation, and I have read everything you’ve written, but apart from noting that inflation on the personal level is a function of what each person spends his money on, the mere fact that most people agree that the CPI provides at least a crude average measure for the most important and basic things that everyone must spend their money on, means that this measure is far from meaningless, and as long as the methods of calculating it are preserved inviolate, it provides a reasonably accurate relative measure of the trends in inflation.  But there’s the rub.  The CPI has been so wantonly corrupted by a federal government desperate to shuck off its fraudulent promises to Social Security recipients and others dependent on fixed income, that the version of the CPI which has been adopted for COLA purposes today is nothing but a bad joke.

The only honest measure of inflation is the CPI as calculated in 1980, and tracked by economist John Williams at his Shadowstats website,

http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/inflation-charts

and that shows that inflation has been under-reported by an average of 3% per year for the last ten years, and the underreporting continues at about the same rate back to 1992 when the last major revision (incorporating bogus “hedonic” tweaks) was enacted.

The result of this means, among other things, that:

(1) the U.S. has been in recession since the collapse of the dot.com bubble in 2000;

(2) the real incomes of Americans has declined significantly since then, except for those in the top 15% by income - roughly those who receive six-figure incomes.  Most of these people are either directly or indirectly connected to the government fiat currency creating machine - this includes most middle and upper level people who work for the government, the financial industry, the academy, and the various government licensed or regulated monopolies (lawyers, doctors and other medical professionals), corporations that live off of government contracts, and the like.  As the present thoroughly corrupted government and social institutions are propped up, and as the hard-earned wages of those who contribute to the market economy are siphoned off into these parasitical activities, the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer.  The process is reflected in these graphics

http://go.bloomberg.com/multimedia/americas-growing-income-gap-shows-two-recoveries-in-action/

(3) the net worth of most Americans has declined significantly since the year 2000, even for the top 15% who own most of the stocks that the Fed has obligingly pumped back up, and even with all the bailouts that have enabled foreclosing banks to withhold millions of unsellable houses off the market, creating the illusion of a real estate recovery;

(4) fewer and fewer Americans can find jobs, and the jobs they find neither pay as well, nor are as rewarding in other ways. I grew up in the 1950s when the notion of a career, and of mutual loyalty between employer and employee meant something. In today’s employment world, most people lie, cheat, steal, backstab, and try to take credit for the work of others to get ahead. As a result, even though the work involved with many of today’s jobs may be more interesting or pleasant or easier, overall job satisfaction has probably declined, even as anxieties about being able to count on a job in the future have undoubtedly risen.

Many of your 50 reasons why we are better off revolve around improvement in medical and social pathology statistics over recent decades, but the fact is that our 19th century ancestors, who were mostly farmers, lived much healthier and safer lives than we are able to manage today.  And virtually all of the improvements to health and longevity are due to a short list of high payoff medical improvements, almost none of which are attributable to the vast government-financed medical research industry.  Strip out these few improvements, and your improved longevity and healthy retirement statistics don’t look so impressive.

As a starting point, consider the statistics in Virginia DeJohn Anderson, New England’s Generation (Cambridge University Press, 1991).  Ms. Anderson made a statistical study of the first comers to New England (represented by the complete passenger lists of 7 ships that arrived in the 1630s), and found that the average age at death for those who were at least 21 when they immigrated was 71 for men, and 67 for women. The lower figure for women, was due, of course, to the dangers of childbirth, and the large families that these people had (an average of 8 children, compared with an average of about 7 back in England).  However, conditions were so salubrious in the rural and small town environment that these people lived in that about 90% of children reached the age of 21, a figure which compares very favorably with that of children born today in American cities.  Most complications of childbirth, that was the principal killer, were probably due to the fact that, while every community had its skilled midwives, the way people were spread out across the countryside, sometimes in the dead of winter, they weren’t necessarily a 5-20 minute ambulance ride away.

On the other hand, the fact that the early settlers weren’t crammed together into large population centers, largely eliminated the social pathologies that you point to recent improvements in.  Not that social pathologies were likely to take root with a people focused on building strong families and communities. There were virtually no serious violent crimes, and even property crimes were generally solved, and restitution made because people took personal responsibility for their own safety instead of trusting governments to do it for them.

There were plenty of dangers, then, of course: people died from accidents of various kinds, and some were even killed by Indians, but OTOH no one died in an auto accident, or went down in a plane.  Call the accidental death factor a wash.

Fast forwarding to 1900, the appalling mortality statistics were largely due to the fact that by 1900, population was beginning to concentrate in cities and large towns, and roughly 50% of adults died before their time from complications of TB.  This, at any rate, is the estimate of one sociologist, and it is borne out in my own fully worked-out ancestry for the generations born after 1850, based on their death certificates and obituaries.

Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin in 1928, was thus, arguably the greatest boon to mankind ever, or at least to citified, industrialized, man, but it wouldn’t have happened if he had been as well funded, or his research program as carefully channeled into the established paradigms that claim all the funding today.  Fleming’s petri dish was contaminated because he had the windows open to air things out, not having access to modern air-conditioning, which, along with the cheap lighting that electricity makes possible, is surely the most beneficial material improvement of the last 100 years - at least for all but Eskimos.

Dr. James LeFanu, The Rise and Fall of Modern Medicine (1999) looks back at the medical accomplishments of the 20th century, and finds only 10 of any significance - the first, and by far the most important, being the discover of penicillin.  Another was the development of open heart surgery, which was the work of a number of men, as was the scientific linkage of cigarette smoking to cancer, and the massive PR campaign that was waged to reduce the incidence of tobacco abuse.  Neither of these advances owed much to medical research, per se, though.  One of the ten breakthroughs that did, was the discovery in 1984, by an Australian researcher you’ve probably never heard of, Barry Marshall, that ulcers and much stomach cancer was caused by a bacterium, helicobacter, and could be easily treated by antibiotics. It was fortunate that Marshall was obscure and not subject to the federal grantman machinery, or his energies would have been misdirected and waster, propping up the established paraigm that ulcers were due to excess secretion of stomach acid, brought on by stress and other factors, which was accepted by virtually every doctor, and believe by virtually every informed person.  Also, in keeping with an older, heroic, medical research tradition, Marshall tested his theory on himself by swallowing a helicobacter cocktail, then curing himself with an appropriate antibiotic.  Try to run that by the FDA.

I could go on and write a book refuting your myopic Candidean viewpoint, but you confined yourself to only 50 points, even though most of them are heavily redundant.

leslie fried

Feb. 13, 2014, 12:12 p.m.

AMEN! this should be MANDATORY READING for everyone. yes, some of the facts do have a pinkish glow to them, but overall, we are living in great times.

ascprsvc@gmail.com

Feb. 13, 2014, 5:13 a.m.

Interesting-#36-We are living longer therefor SS and Medicare-are underfunded. Could it be the systematic raiding of the trust fund to balance budgets-and the worthless IOU giving in return by the federal govt.
#39-Gasoline maybe cut in half- but the sucker fish of taxes more then offset the reduction in the price of gasoline. More efficient cars-more traveling miles-Fed and State love this avenue of taxation.

Robert Blum

Feb. 12, 2014, 3:42 p.m.

Amazing facts reflecting how much our society can and has advanced . . . .or, what can actually be accomplished absent a growing, interfering, dominating, bureaucratic empire in the name of ‘the state’ ?

Gordon Foreman

Feb. 12, 2014, 3:35 p.m.

Many of these numbers are spun so hard to show them as positive that they lose contact with reality. I will use just one example, point #49. If $34K puts people in the top 1% for income, that means that worldwide there are about 70 million of them. If these were ALL in the USA, it would mean that less than 25% of the population earns this much, but since it is worldwide, with Europe, Japan, and lots of other countries with incomes comparable to the US, I can’t figure out how he came up with this number.

Clearly, he is only talking about wage earners, but even so, this number is so low that it is simply not credible. And the 50% level of $1225/yr is likewise not credible, even if you figure that all dependents (children, non-working spouses, etc.) are part of the bottom group. And this assumption means that well over half of Americans would fall into this group.

I live in Ecuador, and even those who work for the Ecuadorian minimum wage of $380 per month would almost reach the top 20% level worldwide, if his numbers are to be believed. Ecuador is a growing third-world country, but there is flat no way that almost 80% of people around the world are worse off than an Ecuadorian who earns the minimum wage.

And I could have picked apart perhaps half or more of his other points. #49 just happened to be the last one to annoy me. And having made these complaints, I do agree that we live in a marvelous age, with a great deal to be thankful for, but articles like this that are so far over the top as to be ridiculous are not helpful, except perhaps to politicians.

Wesley Wornom

Feb. 12, 2014, 12:45 p.m.

The article erroneously uses life expectancy at birth to suggest that adults didn’t live, or live long, after reaching their 50’s. See points 1 & 5. The average life expectancy of a 65 year old is only about 7 years longer now than in 1900. According to “Life Expectancy, Aging, and the Graying of Society”, section 9.4 from the book Sociology: Brief Edition (v. 1.1):“In 1900, a 65-year-old person could expect to live another 11.9 years; the comparable figure for a 65-year-old now is almost 19 years, an increase of almost 7 years.” How can the life expectancy at birth be reconciled with the small change for a 65 year old? The low life expectancy was skewed by many children dying in childbirth or before their tenth birthday. Averaging in those zeros, ones, two, etc. reduced the age. Even now, the countries that have life expectancies in the 40’s have many elderly people, but they also have high childhood mortality. Adults in their 40’s don’t drop dead in those countries.

phildowning@comcast.net

Feb. 12, 2014, 12:22 p.m.

I’m sure there are plenty of things we can add to this list.  One is the near instant access to amazing amounts of information via the internet that a huge proportion of the world’s population can access via smart phones (often at data speeds unavailable in the US). This information can then be used (or not) to gain knowledge on both an individual and communal basis. I saw a recent article that stated more human beings today have access to as much or more information than the President of the United States did 30-40 years ago.