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What I'm Reading 3/16/23

On heroes and villains.

Many people remember the 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colorado, during the Dark Knight Rises movie. The shooter was a 24-year-old male.


Fewer recall how, in the midst of this onslaught, there was an astounding demonstration of heroism: Three men (ages 24, 26, and 27) threw themselves on top of their girlfriends, taking bullets as they used their bodies as physical shields to protect their partners during the gunfire. All three men died; all three women survived....


At the 2012 Aurora shooting there was one case of villainy and three cases of heroism. Broadly speaking, there are more good men than bad men. But, at least for now, our society concentrates on one and neglects the other.


Life is better than it's ever been.

From 500 BC to 1900 AD, death reigned supreme. The world's average youth mortality rate, defined as death before age 15, was 46.7%. Additionally, one-quarter of all infants didn't reach their first birthdays.


The more we know, the more we know we don't know.

The physicist John Wheeler, who helped develop the hydrogen bomb, once observed that “as our island of knowledge grows, so does the shore of our ignorance.” In other words, each victory and advancement that made Khan smarter also bumped him against new situations he’d never encountered before. It takes a special kind of humility to grasp that you know less, even as you know and grasp more and more.


We live better than our ancestors, and work far less.

From nomadic tribes roaming the Asian Steppe to warring medieval European empires, 99% of societies throughout history had to actively work to stay alive. Apathy equaled death...But there's a trillion-dollar industry that feeds off of our collective dopamine addiction, meaning that we can maintain the highest standard of living in history while spending 6 hours a day glued to our phones. How wild is that?

 

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