The Triumph of Humanity Chart

One of the greatest successes of mankind over the last few centuries has been the enormous amount of wealth that has been created. Once upon a time virtually everyone lived in grinding poverty; now, thanks to the forces of science, capitalism and total factor productivity, we produce enough to support a much larger population at a much higher standard of living.

EAs being a highly intellectual lot, our preferred form of ritual celebration is charts. The ordained chart for celebrating this triumph of our people is the Declining Share of People Living in Extreme Poverty Chart.

Share in Poverty


However, as a heretic, I think this chart is a mistake. What is so great about reducing the share? We could achieve that by killing all the poor people, but that would not be a good thing! Life is good, and poverty is not death; it is simply better for it to be rich.

As such, I think this is a much better chart. Here we show the world population. Those in extreme poverty are in purple – not red, for their existence is not bad. Those who the wheels of progress have lifted into wealth unbeknownst to our ancestors, on the other hand, are depicted in blue, rising triumphantly.

Triumph of Humanity2

Long may their rise continue.


3 thoughts on “The Triumph of Humanity Chart

  1. Christo Fogelberg says:

    A great pair of graphs – almost a lesson in visual communication on their own. What is the definition of extreme poverty?

    Modulo that definition, a couple of quick thoughts and questions from the charts:

    (a) It was in ~1970 when the number of people in extreme poverty actually started to decline in absolute terms. This is significant because until then all we had achieved was to slow it’s growth. It begs the question of why then and, with the exception of the early 1980’s, why since then?

    (b) How does the extreme poverty vary geographically and demographically? That would shine light on (a) and also help us focus on levers to best reduce it further. Explicit assumption: Fewer people in poverty is a good thing.


  2. Hedonic Treader says:

    Interesting, but it’s only a small fraction of what matters.

    The ethical picture is incomplete without also tracking: Political/civil liberties, average SWB set-point (partly genetic and possibly enhanceable), animal welfare standards and total animal use, total wild-animal brain mass, and overall system stability.

    Given the dismal state of political and civil illiberty, and ignoring externalities, I’d prefer people under at least $20 per day to not exist. At least pre hedonic enhancement.

    For now, welfare and charity should be coupled with anti-baby incentives.


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