Hammers and Songs
So, seven billion ... and counting! I really enjoyed Toby Ord's recent lecture on population (here) and find much that he said convincing, but what about the hammers and songs?
Ord argues that there are advantages to there being seven billion people, not just disadvantages. One of the advantages comes to light when you contrast hammers and songs. One hammer is not easily shared with an extra billion people, but one song goes a long way. In fact (it is amusing to contemplate--and this is my example, not his), the Beatles repertory was enjoyed by about 3.5 billion people when it was completed around 1970. Now it's enjoyed by twice as many people. The songs have thus gained in value--in fact, they've doubled in value.
I'm not sure if that's supposed to be a complete argument, but in addition we're to consider that the shareability of a song translates into leisure time. When you double the population you need a lot more hammer-makers, but you don't need more song-writers. So as the population increases, everyone gets to enjoy a more leisurely way of life.
Never fear, much of the video is more down to earth, and deals with diminishing resources and other tangibles. But the songs argument is something new and different, to me anyway. Good video. I showed it to my class on procreation and parenthood this afternoon and someone made an interesting point: that songs are shareable, but bad things are shareable too. Indeed! Bad news, instructions for making bombs, crazy superstitions. Because of the shareability of destructive information, large populations may not need more song-writers, but they do need more police officers, bigger armies, more therapists, more skeptics. I'm not sure the songs are really in the ascendance, not the bomb-making instructions.
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"When you double the population you need a lot more hammer-makers, but you don't need more song-writers. So as the population increases, everyone gets to enjoy a more leisurely way of life." Since those of us who might have spent our lives burdened with the task of song writing can now be free to join the happy throng of hammer makers? What a boon! No need to struggle with art or philosophy either as we can be sure that there's probably someone else among the 7 billion who can do it better.
Ha! Yes, I think that's something he overlooked. People actually LIKE to do the work of writing songs, and wouldn't want to join the throng of hammer-makers. I have the feeling this hammers vs. songs argument is fatally flawed in many ways.
Exactly - my first thought when I read the post was that this is bad news for those of us who would like to make a living by writing books (or songs) or creating movies or paintings (which can be turned into prints, etc.), etc., etc.
It actually sounds to me as if we have an argument for smaller societies, where a greater proportion of people can live that kind of life, with its attendant satisfactions.
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