4. The Progress Paradox

Note: This is is part of a book release! See the whole book here as it releases.

One reason so many billionaires are planning their underground bunkers and trips to Mars – is because they can so clearly see the following paradox that renders them pessimistic at best, or hopeless at worst.  Many of them actually became wealthy believing they were bringing hopeful solutions to the world, until their solutions turned into monsters.

It goes like this:

Progress: In 1900, the average farmer could grow 25 bushels of corn per acre.[1]  Now, she can grow 175 bushels.[2]

Paradox: The average American now consumes 7 lbs of actual corn[3] and 42 lbs of corn syrup each year.[4] 

Progress:  In 1900, diabetes meant a 10-year old child could expect to live one more year.  Now, a 10-year old with diabetes can expect to live over 60 more years. 

Paradox: The diabetes rate soars tenfold[5], largely because of poor diet.   Now, 30 million Americans are spending $322 billion a year to manage a disease that still cuts 8 years off their life.[6]

Progress:  In 1900, 1.6 billion people didn’t own a car.[7]  But humans went to work and created billions of them so people could have a ride.

Paradox: Now, about 6 billion people do not own a car, while a mere fraction of us are pumping record greenhouse gases into their atmosphere.  If I were them, I’d be pissed.

Progress: Even though we couldn’t get everybody a car, we have gotten almost all of them cell phones.  As of 2019, over 5 billion humans owned one.

Paradox:  95% of parents in developing countries are worried about the ill effects cell phones are having on their children, who are fast becoming addicted to gaming and social media.[8]

Progress: The health care community has recently mapped the human genome, created the first catheter-based artificial heart valve, developed a vaccine for the Ebola virus, pioneered robotic surgery and 3D-printed custom artificial limbs.  

Paradox: Half of American bankruptcies are caused directly or indirectly by medical bills. 

It is the same tired story.  We produce awesomeness and then turn and stab our eyes out with it.

We discover nuclear energy and instead of creating enough electricity to power the world, we build enough bombs to destroy the world. We create plastic, and it ends up as garbage in the oceans.[9]

Google “Pacific Garbage Patch” if you dare.

We design life-saving epi-pens, and then begin price-gouging.  We lower violent crime, but suicides are at an all-time high.  We finally are getting others to stop killing us, but can’t stop us from killing ourselves.[10]

Now, we are more safe than ever, but less secure.

We are more educated than ever, but less certain.

We are more networked than ever, but less connected.

We have more cures, but are less healthy.

Each time we create new technology, we look like Clark Griswold so proud of his giant Christmas tree, only to realize it won’t fit in his living room, has a squirrel in it, and almost burns the entire house down.

Solutions that have created problems that beckon more solutions that empower us to create more problems.

It’s not that technology isn’t awesome.  It’s not that we’re not awesome.  Face it:  You’re awesome. It’s that have believed the wrong Story.

It wasn’t our fault.  The wrong story has worked for thousands of years. It’s the only story we were given.   But it never fails to spawn this predictable pattern:

…which scales into this predictable pattern:

Over time, that story has led the Human Collective to become slightly more powerful than good, a slightly that adds up to major disasters like climate change and mass starvation when you multiply it by billions of people for thousands of years.

I don’t know if a 500-pound man will die of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or something else.  But I do know that if he does not change, he will die faster than he should.  And I don’t know if a 500-pound world will die of climate change or mass extinctions or A.I. or nuclear war, but I do know that it will die if it continues this narrative. 

This cannot and will not be the way our story ends.  

It’s as if the Human Collective is being driven by a force that wishes us to live as long as possible, produce as much as possible, consume as much as possible, and yet have as little of joy, freedom, and quality of life as possible. 

Because it is. This is going to take a while, so take a deep breath, relax and let’s go all the way back to the beginning.


[1] http://www.lhf.org/en/teachers/learning_fields/crops__corn/#History

[2] http://www.cornandsoybeandigest.com/blog/usda-projects-record-corn-and-soybean-crop-2016

[3] http://extension.psu.edu/business/ag-alternatives/horticulture/vegetables/sweet-corn-production

[4] I’m being generous here.  http://www.worldofcorn.com/#cereal-and-food

[5] https://www.defeatdiabetes.org/diabetes-history/.  The

[6] See http://main.diabetes.org/dorg/images/infographics/adv-cost-of-diabetes.gif and http://www.webmd.com/diabetes/news/20101201/diabetes-cuts-years-off-life-span-of-americans#1

[7] Yes, in 1900, that was pretty much everybody.  I get it.  I hope you see the irony. Probably not a good idea for everybody to have one anyways, seeings how the global concentration of atmospheric CO2 has skyrocketed to over 430 ppm.

[8] https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2019/03/07/mobile-connectivity-in-emerging-economies/

[9] By 2030, there will be more pounds of plastic in the oceans than pounds of fish.

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