Saturday, May 11, 2013

You Can’t Stop That Clock

Catching up on printed media all at once after a lag of several days—an almost electric shock accompanies the experience—made me think that we really do have far too many people in the world. The collective consequence of that is there in print. This got me wondering about the current population of the globe. I went to worldometers, one of the population clocks, and took a look.

I measured first how many people accrue to world population in a minute. The number was 144. That number is births net of deaths. In my statistical minute, I noted 249 births and 105 deaths, producing my net population growth. Now that translates to 8,640 net new people every hour, 207,360 every day, and 75.7 million every year. And that clock, when you watch it, is absolutely relentless.

worldometers labels itself “real time world statistics.” Concerning “statistics,” there are two views. One derives from their right use. When used with caution and handled carefully, as if they were dangerous explosives, we get a lens on the vast collective. The other view characterizes the abuse of statistics with a famous phrase: Lies, damned lies, and statistics. Which of the two applies to worldometers? Well, censuses of population always appear at a lag of time and, because it takes several months to conduct any census, they’re not even accurate snapshots. But such population clocks more or less accurately reflect change that can be tracked, census to census. So here we’re dealing with a truth—indeed, watching that clock rushing madly along, a dangerous truth.

At the same time, lies and damned lies are there as well. I read today an article which suggests that as homeownership rises, so does joblessness. Some feeble-minded economists have collected data on both and—assuming an entirely untraceable cause and effect relationship—proclaim that homeownership may be a baddy.

In the time I put these words on the screen about 42,000 people have been added to the world’s population. Educating all of these new people is truly a growing burden. It does not surprise me that, as population increases, the average skill of economists is tumbling like the seeds are falling out there today—covering my driveway in a nice mixture of yellows and whites.

2 comments:

  1. "Feeble-minded" does not begin to describe such people.

    However, we must keep in mind that a good portion of Congress has been propounding budgets and fiscal policies based upon spreadsheet errors in the work of Reinhart and Rogoff.

    Feeble-mindedness is as feeble-mindedness does.

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  2. Ah, yes, statistics, like any tool, can be misused, abused or just entirely misunderstood. They are, of course, still a wonderful tool in the hands of a thoughtful educated... wielder.

    The population growth figures are rather breath taking... when combined with the image you have at the end of this post, about the peddles of blooming trees falling and covering your driveway, the analogy to masses of people covering the Earth is hard to miss!

    Here's to ding our best with our little spot on the driveway...

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