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July 2011

To see how far we've come, consider that prior to about 3000 BC, the probability of an adult human male dying via being killed in a fight with another male was between 15-60% (statistic from Pankaj Ghemawat's excellent World 3.0). From that nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw level, we're now at the far end of the pendulum's swing, where we aren't even willing to risk a day of hunger in order to get some potential value in return. We've mostly lost our ability to gamble except in the form of entertainment.

I think William James said it best, something like ‘The progress from brute to man is characterized by nothing so much as by the decrease in frequency of proper occasions for fear.’

I keep repeating one statistic ad nauseum, because people simply don't get how dramatic an effect the creation of an industrial middle class has had on average risk tolerance. In the 1790s, less than 20% of America had a paycheck income. By 1980, more than 80% did, at which time the trend reversed.

Venkatesh Rao, ‘Is society conditioning us to think that we have to have a job to get money?’