In his amazing essay on “Long termism”, Max Roser posits
“How many humans have ever lived?”
Demographers Toshiko Kaneda and Carl Haub have tackled the question using the historical knowledge that we do have and as per them, considering a 200,000 years deadline when first humans came into existence, about 109 billion people have lived and died.
Past Created the Present
We are an outcome of all of these people’s struggles, efforts, experiments and achievements that we are bearing the fruits of.
The 7.95Bn people alive today constitute only 6-7% of the total humans that have walked the world ever.
Think about the evolution of language, Some researchers claim that it happened in a single leap, creating through one mutation the complete system in the brain by which humans express complex meanings through combinations of sounds. These people also tend to claim that there are few aspects of language that are not already present in animals.
Other researchers suspect that the special properties of language evolved in stages, perhaps over some millions of years, through a succession of hominid lines.
In order to achieve a large vocabulary, an important advance would have been the ability to ‘digitize’ signals into sequences of discrete speech sounds – consonants and vowels – rather than unstructured calls.
A large part of the evolution remains unrecognised.
When those, like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, who are still remembered today even after 2000-2500 years, were born, a large part of the basic structure was already in place.
So what we have in terms of history is a very small fraction of the 200,000 years since humans have inhabited the earth.
The number of people who are remembered even today in this 2500 years history are actually a very small fraction of the total that was born and lived through the entire history of human kind.
Maybe around 100,000 and no more (that’s just a guess).
How many of these people do you remember?
What do you remember them for?
How many of them contributed to how we think, talk, behave or relate to the world?
Today we have them as a reference point, what were their reference points?
What Differentiated this small minority?
Leonardo Da Vinci was enamoured now just by the art of painting but even by its craft.
He is remembered even today for how deeply he worked on displaying the human anatomy on the canvas.
To learn about human anatomy, he actually dissected and studied over 1000 bodies and the result is evident.
What’s the Key here?
Just reading this opens your mind to the differentiating factors:
- A sense of curiosity that goes beyond the basic
- An effort to genuinely satisfy that curiosity
- Make an attempt to excel and now just finish a task
- Driven not just by the outcome but by the process
It all sounds basics, however you realise that not many practice any of this leave aside all of it and that’s possibly the reason that only a very small fraction of people are remembered through the history rest all gone unnoticed.
It is also possible that as a large part of this history was spent by people struggling to survive, not many had evolution as a priority and your priorities do define your outcome.
A recent survey revealed that buyers spend 11 hours researching a car purchase compared to 1 hours obtaining a home loan.
That’s the priority.
I can bet my bottom dollar that most , if not all, investors spend even less in taking an investment decision and then repent the losses.
The objective is not to make everyone great enough to be remembered.
The objective is to use the reference points from the greats in history to be able to make important decisions in a manner that’s logical.
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