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To my 7 billion closest friends


The headlines tell me that the human population will hit 7 billion any day now so I thought I’d take a moment to say hello and, yay I’m happy for the company!

But I’m sad that so many of us are having such a hard time.  And by hard time I’m talking about extreme poverty to the point of starving to death.  Not to get overly techno about this, but the way I’m thinking about this uses this image: if every human were a streaming-media node feeding data into a network, even taking into account all the alleluias and birthday parties, sex, drugs and rock n roll, the aggregated data stream would be dominated by pain and misery.

And it doesn’t make me feel any better that some of you are living high on the hog because you one percenters are causing so much of the suffering in the first place.  Okay, that’s my own political bias showing through and this is supposed to be a cheerful message to all of us and I got off on kind of a downer note so forget I wrote any of this.

Anyway, on the bright side, I note that the human population a few tens of thousands of years ago was down to 600 or so breeding adults and we almost got completely wiped.  From that point it took forty or fifty thousand years to the year 1800 to reach the first billion, then only 200 years to get to seven billion.  We rock!

Some people – mostly uptight people with mortgages and 401K’s – take a dim view of so many of us competing for their houses and retirement accounts.  They do the arithmetic of taking all known assets and resources and dividing that by 7 billion.  They end up with a much thinner piece of the pie than they started out with.   These folk would generally like it if a few billion of us would kindly step off the planet, or at least make do with a much thinner slice of the pie.  Needless to say these guys are not into the humans-as-streaming-media-nodes concept, and don’t really want to plug into the cool music of aggregated humanity etcetera.

But they overlook something very hopeful.  The Earth will soon accommodate 7 billion of the most intelligent beings in the known Universe.  Man, talk about cognitive surplus! The thing we’ve got to work on first is how to work on this together.

This is a technological question, but also more a political one, if you get what I’m saying.  I’m not going to go off on a rant about that here, but give it some thought as you spend your day.  A lot of the people in possession of wealth and power have attained all that by discouraging the idea that we’re all in it together.

So you might have to think in secret. But you can be thinking about ways for all humans to hook into the big data stream and work together while pretending to watch Fox News or whatever. It's a very secret, underground thing I’m talking about, and trust me, I’m in on it so I’m not turning you in.  But don’t be smiling when you come up with a bright idea because that’s a sure sign of subversive activity.

I wish we could all pitch in so we could get something when the 7 billionth human is born.  Wouldn’t it be great to show up at the door with a truck load of Huggies and big old Cadillac for mom?  If we all pitched in just one cent, that would come out to $70 million!  That's almost as much as some lower level CEOs make in a whole year!  And more than an adequate slice of the pie for the rest of us.

So Happy Birthday, whoever, whenever, and wherever you may be!

H. Doug Matsuoka
27 October 2011

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