Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Progress

Sometimes it feels like I am the only one who believes that the world is actually getting better (not everything in the world, but on average).

I know this is not the case, and that the people who tend to say that the world is going to hell in a handbasket are just understandably more vocal about it. It's probably a healthy phenomenon, too: the people who are unhappy with some changes are making justified noise about those changes.

To me the progress is self-evident: look what a shithole the world was 150 years ago, look what a bigger shithole it was 1500 years ago, etc. The are occasionally some very troubled times and places, that are worse off than the same place was a little earlier, but in general the world is getting better.

There is one thing I am wondering about, though: I have heard many mostly-sensible people say that it was probably not all that bad 200 years ago. I have never heard anyone remotely sensible (this excludes homicidal eco-philosophers) say that it not all that bad that some people live that way now: without clean water, or antibiotics, or other similar trappings of modernity.

10 comments:

Krabak said...

True world *is* better place now than it was 150 years ago, but tells us nothing of the current situation. IMHO world (or at least Finland) actually was much better off for example 20 years ago and in general I see the current trend to be clearly downward in direction, especially as far as certain basic human rights, such as freedom of expression, are considered.

suihkulokki said...

You are not the only one. Last decades china has moved 200+ million people from poverty middle class, with expecations that half of chinese will be middle-cless in 2025. Yet, the chinese regime is evil since it doesn't allow buddhist monks to run their theocracy in tibet anymore. Chinese are bringing progress to tibet making average tibetians much much better of than under tibetian rule, and it is seen as evil since "economic growth is eroding traditional tibetese values".

20 years ago things in finland were worse, including freedom of expression. Soviet union still existed doing things like publishing a computer game "raid over moscow" could cause a parliamentary query.. The only place to express your freedom would have been the "from readers" section of hesari, and good luck getting anything anticommunistic there. These days blogs are full of stuff that would have never been published 20 years ago.

Crime statistics after 1980's might looks scary, but a lot of that is explained by more people reporting muggings and rapes more often than before (when police wasn't trusted as much and rapes were your own fault). Most of the crimes these days are traffic offences. Finns are safer and richer than 20 years ago, including the poorest. -people fear more (pedophiles everywhere, lock your kids in!) and worry more about economy than ever before..

Things that have gone downhill are our own choice - people choose to pay a lot to live in small boxes in city rather than in larger houses countryside. Much fewer people have their own backyard garden than before...

ps. which other country has 44000 fans for their own police force? :P

Kriisi said...

In our eyes the world is better. Or at least more advanced. But we have the perspective of seeing this time and compare it to olden times. We are also one of the three first generations to see an exceptionally rapid advancement in technology under a span of 100 years.

Are we happier for it? Are we really? Or are we just high maintenance?

pjt said...

I certainly do not believe that the world, or Finland, was a better place 20 years ago.

In the world level, things like child poverty or hunger have reduced dramatically during the decades. You don't easily believe this, because the news media is always concentrating on the problems, not the progress, but infant mortality is going down, fewer people live with absolutely minimal income, etc. Also, the world is much less on the brink of global thermonuclear war, although some regional players like North Korea, Pakistan and Iran are playing with hot toys.

Sure, some things are for the worse, or at least different; for instance, radical Islam is now threatening and killing people in the Western countries instead of just a few Jews in Middle East, and immigration is forever changing the face of many countries. But it's not such a big deal.

I don't have so hugely fond memories of Kekkoslovakia, where you needed to have a special relationship to your bank manager in order to get a loan to buy a house, and where the money was devalued once or twice a year, and going to Stockholm was considered exotic and worldly.

And what's best, now almost everyone has the Internet.

Ironmistress said...

20 years ago? There are things which were better back then, and there are things which are better now.

Twenty years ago - 1990 - Finland was more egalitarian than it is today - the income distribution was more equal than it is today, the employment situation was better than today and the society was more meritocratic than it is today. Deindustrialization of Finland has not yet begun. Most of all, no hesperophobia, no political correctness and do destructive immigration back then. Work life wasn't as stressful as it is today. No bread lines back then.

Back in 1990 Finland also was a narrow-minded shithole where the only breathing hole and forum for free expression was the Internet - all UNIX and all Usenet back then. Three telly channels to choose from, three state radio channels, no mobile media and Helsingin Sanomat had the de facto monopoly on news. No leeway for sexual minorities, conscientious objectors, dissidents or anyone deemed abnorm. Censorship of video games (Raid over Moscow) and motion pictures (Born American). Violence was rampant back then - gang fights were an every weekend event. The keyword for the youth was boredom and frustration - unless you were uncool and had some hobbies, the only alternatives were drinking and fighting. Everything was horribly expensive and crude compared to today's commodities. Monetary unit - markka - was nothing but a Mickey Mouse currency completely on the mercy of the intrernational market forces.

It all depends on which side you are looking at it.

Krabak said...

IronM:

"Violence was rampant back then - gang fights were an every weekend event."

That claim completely conflicts with published statistics for violent crime (and crime in general). Since 1982, violent crime has increased nearly 30%, crimes against property about 40%, drug-related crimes nearly 1000% and crimes in general nearly 25%.

(Reference: http://www.haaste.om.fi/uploads/u5vj6hg4o3.pdf)

"The keyword for the youth was boredom and frustration - unless you were uncool and had some hobbies, the only alternatives were drinking and fighting."

Teenager (15-17 year) violent crime has significantly increased since 1995.

(Reference: http://www.haaste.om.fi/18542.htm)

"Everything was horribly expensive and crude compared to today's commodities."

Index of wage and salary earnings vs. Cost of living index seems to indicate that things are mostly the same now than for example 1980. However, dunno how well it takes the insane development of housing costs into account.

"Monetary unit - markka - was nothing but a Mickey Mouse currency completely on the mercy of the intrernational market forces."

"Monetary unit - markka - was nothing but a Mickey Mouse currency completely on the mercy of the intrernational market forces"

Funny thing, but national economy (and people in general) were actually still doing better then than now...

"It all depends on which side you are looking at it."

Mostly it depends on if you go with statistics or preconceptions.

Ironmistress said...

That claim completely conflicts with published statistics for violent crime (and crime in general). Since 1982, violent crime has increased nearly 30%, crimes against property about 40%, drug-related crimes nearly 1000% and crimes in general nearly 25%.

According to the good old Pareto Principle, 20% of all criminals commit 80% of all crime, and 20% of the rest commit 80% of the remainder. 20% of reasons cause 80% of consequences.

Crime as itself has become far more rare today than before, but it concentrates on certain individuals. People are nicer today than in 1990, but the baddies of 2010 are more evil than the baddies of 1990. A smaller group of individuals commit more crimes today than a larger group of individuals back then.

Teenager (15-17 year) violent crime has significantly increased since 1995.

As mentioned before: the teenagers in general are nicer today than in 1995, but a smaller group of 2010 teenager individuals are more evil than a larger group of teenager individuals in 1995. A smaller group of individuals commit more crimes now than a larger group back then.

Index of wage and salary earnings vs. Cost of living index seems to indicate that things are mostly the same now than for example 1980. However, dunno how well it takes the insane development of housing costs into account.

Food and clothing certainly has come down a lot from what it was in 1990. As have consumer electronics and household appliances.

Funny thing, but national economy (and people in general) were actually still doing better then than now...

No international competition back then, which led into more generous national income, but also into inefficiency and waste of resources.

Krabak said...

IronM:

"Crime as itself has become far more rare today than before, but it concentrates on certain individuals. People are nicer today than in 1990, but the baddies of 2010 are more evil than the baddies of 1990. A smaller group of individuals commit more crimes today than a larger group of individuals back then."

I'd like to see some references/statistics supporting that claim because it contradicts both the statistics I've seen and also my own personal experience.

"As mentioned before: the teenagers in general are nicer today than in 1995, but a smaller group of 2010 teenager individuals are more evil than a larger group of teenager individuals in 1995."

Again some references/statistics supporting this claim would be nice.

"Food and clothing certainly has come down a lot from what it was in 1990. As have consumer electronics and household appliances."

According to statistics they haven't come down that much (especially in case of electornics, it's more about what functionalities you can buy) and in any case, single individual item classes are a really bad base for comparison. Cost of living index is way more proper point for comparison here.

"No international competition back then, which led into more generous national income..."

Umm, yes there was, although not quite so much as currently, that is true. Though the connection of this to "more generous national income" is very vague at best. Finland's economy is a export-driven, hi-tech economy so it's not like abolishment of trade barriers has been entirely negative thing for us.

淑君 said...

待人要誠心,做事要用心,勝負平常心。......................................................

Anonymous said...

It is good that you feel that way.

The last time i felt like that 1989 before Tianamen square.

After that I have just felt this things evolve.

There also has been:
Rwanda genoside
Bosnian cleansings
Darfur genoside

On the good side the North ireland crisis has been solved and Lebanon is mostly not war.

These were labelled eterinity crisis at the time.

-Joonas