Monday, July 22, 2019

"Everything was awful for a very long time, and then the industrial revolution happened"

From Luke Muelhauser:

Three wild speculations from amateur quantitative macrohistory
Note: As usual, these are my personal guesses and opinions, not those of my employer.
In How big a deal was the Industrial Revolution?, I looked for measures (or proxy measures) of human well-being / empowerment for which we have “decent” scholarly estimates of the global average going back thousands of years. For reasons elaborated at some length in the full report, I ended up going with:
  1. Physical health, as measured by life expectancy at birth.
  2. Economic well-being, as measured by GDP per capita (PPP) and percent of people living in extreme poverty.
  3. Energy capture, in kilocalories per person per day.
  4. Technological empowerment, as measured by war-making capacity.
  5. Political freedom to live the kind of life one wants to live, as measured by percent of people living in a democracy.
(I also especially wanted measures of subjective well-being and social well-being, and also of political freedom as measured by global rates of slavery, but these data aren’t available; see the report.)

Anyway, the punchline of the report is that when you chart these six measures over the past few millennia (data; zoomable), you get a chart like this (axes removed for space reasons):
all curves, with events
(And yes, there’s still a sharp jump around 1800-1870 if you chart this on a log scale.1 )

HT: I'm not sure who sent this but thanks for the link.