Welcome to the home of Noah Brier. I'm the co-founder of Variance and general internet tinkerer. Most of my writing these days is happening over at Why is this interesting?, a daily email full of interesting stuff. This site has been around since 2004. Feel free to get in touch. Good places to get started are my Framework of the Day posts or my favorite books and podcasts. Get in touch.

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How Is Our Era Unique?

I often find myself arguing that for all the change we’re seeing in the world at the moment, most of it is really just incremental. Communication speed, for instance, has been increasing at a pretty rapid clip for awhile now and the rise of self-publishing of the last five years is an extension of the camcorder (YouTube is the internet’s America’s Funniest Home Videos).

Anyway, over at Overcoming Bias, economist Robin Hanson outlines three changes he finds significant enough to dub “unique”: “We are entering an era where most anyone can quickly talk to most anyone else who can talk” (he talks about not just the spread of English but also translation tools), we don’t have contact with “strange cultures” (“Our distant ancestors heard rumors from travelers about distant strange cultures.”) and how rich we are (“each thinking-talking person having a median income so far above his or her subsistence level”).

Whether or not you accept Hanson’s three examples or not, it’s an interesting thought exercise. What would you add?

September 20, 2009