Confidence Failures

My fellow Optimists With Attitude 🙂

Why do we humans regularly think the worst of the best? When the road curves up and around to the next beautiful lookout point …

What our world looks like

… we start fighting like monkeys in the backseat, missing it all. Last week we passed over another disgusting bump in Media history. Yes, disgusting … that seems the right word. (Just read about it here, if you would prefer not to watch the graphic video) 

       
How some see our world

Why do so obviously sane, caring people throughout history (like all those that made, laughed and cheered for the film above), support such radially inhumane measures to continually save the world from imminent doom? Why these failures of conscience? Why these failures of confidence in human reason?

Especially … when a huge weight of boring evidence points in the positive direction.

  

We are the Longest Living humans that have every existed on the face of the Earth, that is, during the last 150 000 years or 7000 generations. The average lifespan was only 25 years, for many tens of thousands of centuries, until the last 200 years when this jumped up to 80 – 90 and even more years. 

 

     

We are the wealthiest humans to ever live (increasing the quality of  our environment as a consequence). The global wealth per person has risen exponentially over the last 100 years … and even more so for Western countries in the last 50 years. The standard of living globally: developed, developing and least developed countries are all increasing. And the gap between the rich and the poor is decreasing. Not something that The Media will talk about.

     

We are the healthiest humans to ever grace this planet. In our very early lives childhood mortality has dropped around the world and in the West to very low levels. Diseases of childhood like diptheria, polio etc., which our grandparents talked about in the early 1900s, have all but disappeared today. Diseases of old age like heart disease have dropped dramatically in all western countries. Other chronic diseases (except for diabetes), like cancer & cardio-vascular disease (CVD) are also dropping. Our old age is not only longer but much healthier too. 

   

And we are the safest people to ever walk on this planet. After WWI, with better global statistics, we see that the global death rates due to natural catastrophies decreases dramaticlly. In the US, as a proxy for other western countries, we see deaths due to floods, droughts etc. all decrease. Global natural catastrophy death rates per year per million people is much much smaller than in most of the 1900s.

And yet we seem to be increasingly afraid of our world. This is one of the great paradoxes of our time.

Well … Daniel Kahnemann thinks he has the answer and a few others believe him too. I must admit his evidence seems pretty presuasive.

He basically says that we act according to old Stone Age programmes running in our brains …

   

… originally made for a world that no longer exists …

 

… producing outputs that drive us to behave in peculiar ways …

… and even knowing this will not stop our System Ones from automatically controlling our System Twos.

 Just try telling your brain that the two tables above are the same length and width. Even after directly measuring, your brain still won’t see it, though now we will no longer make the wrong life threatening bets on these tables. So by using reason these rules and biases from our Stone Age brains can be controlled. But we have to consciously push for it. 

The many Media Scares (says Kahnemann  and his School) that have been sweeping the western world over the last 30 years or so, follow the predicable pattern above. So we need to protect these rusty brains of ours … so we are not pulled along by our Lemming like rules and biases.

 A way to get out of the Worry Circuit triology of Brain, Media and Fear Marketeers is by asking the simple question: “Is it true?”. When someone tells you to take a package of worry, block it with your healthy skepticism and ask for evidence instead. If not up to standard then scrunch up that newspaper, turn off that TV and go down to the beach or pub instead 🙂   

Life is too short and beautiful to waste on needless worry. Best to enjoy the trend, produced by millions of boring data points, and enjoy the 21st Century like the rest of the world is on the way to doing.

Where will we humans be living and what will we be doing after the 21st Century? Well, lets try a thought experiment … a technological thought experiment. 2-3 million years ago we humans were up an acacia tree, in the African savannah, seeing at the farthest probably a just few kilometers.

 

By 32 000 years ago we had moved to better climates, out to Europe, among other places. We were living around caves scattered  throughout France, Germany and other countries.

    

Even just 150 years ago, barely 2 human lifetimes back into the past, most of us humans here in Uppsala (just north of Stockholm) were on farms, often close to starving. Just think if you could time travel back to 1860. You land in the mud, poor farms are stretching away through to the forest. A farming husband and wife come across to you.

They look at your skin, teeth and clothes, they think you must belong to royalty. You take out your mobile phone, they think you are a magician. You click and transport them back to our time, only 150 years into their future. You land in front of the local supermarket, the glass doors slide open in front of you, they know you are a magician. You show them all the food in the supermarket, fresh from the four corners of the Earth, packaged in ready to eat sizes, costing a pittance, covered by see-through bendy material: they think you are a God.  

Now most of us humans live in the relative comfort and safety of multi-million peopled cities, away from the wilds of our African savannah “home”. Will we “move” again in the future as well?

Consider if we travelled just 150 years into our future, how much would that world seem like magic to us? Now think about jumping 300 years, 500, 1000 (a Viking time jump), 5000 years, 32 000 (a Lascaux Caves jump). Now look at these paintings below of imagined future human habitiats and future human lives. Impossible? Pure artistic fantasy?  Never any connection with reality? 

     

Given the huge weight of boring facts (just some given above in this post), the amazing rate of technological progress blatantly obvious today and considered in our technological thought experiment, as well as the perfect failure rate of past apocalypse predictions (even though it is extremely hard to be completely, absolutely wrong for thousands of years) …   then I would suggest that such a human future depicted in these paintings would not only be possible but … (Should I say it? Dare I say it? … I dare! 😉  ) … probable. And even this projection is likely to be too conservative. It looks like we humans are about to embark into an amazing future: Wanna take a ride?

“Wanna take a ride?”  What did you say?   OK to go?          OK … lets go! 
Contact: Wanna take a ride?                                             Good movie 🙂                             
 
So … I would like to finish up with this video. It’s the intro to a Sci-Fi TV series showing the history of human transportation.  It sums up nicely this post, and about the human race too, on our voyage down the millennia, on this our planet Earth, to where we are now: about to take off into the future. Concentrate on the words, when you hear: ”I”… think about … we … us humans … and the journey we have been making down through time and now onto the road ahead…

  Faith of the Heart: an enchanting song of the possibilities of human achievment…
“… I can do anything….
  … I will see my dream come alive at last…
  … I will touch the sky….
  … I can reach any star..”.

Star Trek Enterprise Intro

So … I think we shouldn’t be hiding in the dark under tables and beds, afraid and worried, waiting for The Media or Others (like the 10:10 people) to tell us the next scare story, of catastrophy and disaster, coming our way soon. We should get up, stand up straight, in the light, look the world and history right in the eye and smile, we have much to be proud of. Yes we have made mistakes, but in the last 200 years we have certainly achieved wonderful things and we will pass wonderous goals in the future. But let’s not rest on our achievements either, let’s look up, up to the sky, let’s reach for the stars, and who knows, maybe we’ll just catch those stars.

Brady – Optimist … with reason 🙂

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