It’s January 18, 2023. Here’s the rundown:
Some good news, you know, for a change
Disneyfied: Scientists determine we all need to grow up
Numbers and links
Some good news, you know, for a change
Some good news, for a change: When we make a plan and stick to a strategy, we can achieve things!
Image: American Cancer Society
I am, admittedly, a pretty pessimistic guy. I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite aspect of myself. But it’s there. And honestly, given the past several years, I cut myself a little slack, because we’ve been through the wringer as a society as of late.
But there are good things happening. We’re seeing positive outcomes. We just need to actually do the work, utilize our tools, consider our strategy, and be patient.
Case in point: We’re making serious headway against diseases like cancer. New data shows that between 1991 and 2019, death rates from cancer in the U.S. have fallen by 32%.
How did we do it? Nothing fancy — just studying the problem, developing better, newer treatments, and improving our diagnostics. Basically, we know what causes cancer, we can look for it earlier, and put better treatments to work, earlier. While cancer is still a big issue, we’re getting much better at handling it.
A similar trend happened in the field of fire safety. I attended firefighting classes a couple of years ago, and learned that during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, buildings were burning down left and right, and people were dying in fires…often. These days, though, fires are relatively rare — especially house fires, or those in which people are killed. They happen, of course, but usually in older buildings that are not up to code, or because people do things they shouldn’t have (like build walls to separate rooms, etc.)
Our overall success in increasing fire safety likewise boils down to the fact that we’ve learned from past mistakes, and implemented changes. There are fire codes now. Sprinkler systems. People know what you’re supposed to do if there’s a fire (stop, drop, and roll, evacuation plans, fire drills, etc.). As a result, we’re much, much better today about fire safety than we were a few decades ago.
So, these are things that we, as a society, should be happy about and proud of. Hopefully, we can keep making headway.
It also brings us to the fight against inflation. With the latest CPI numbers having been released last week, we can see that we’re likewise making progress. Prices were up 6.5% year-over-year during December — still way higher than the 2% target, but down from 7.1% in November. It’s also the sixth-straight month that price growth has slowed. We’re not out of the woods, but again, we’re making headway.
We’re utilizing what we’ve learned in the past (raising rates can suppress demand and lower prices, hopefully) and applying it to a current problem. For now, it looks like it’s working, without too much collateral damage. That’s good.
The question, though, is whether we can keep it up. We’ll see. Let’s hope for the best possible outcome. One economist told me last week that we’d probably all be ecstatic with the current situation given where we were last summer.
It’s not cancer treatments or fire safety, but we’re making progress. Let’s be happy about it.
“Disneyfied”: We all need to grow up, scientists determine
Recent research shows that we need lessons in building strong relationships because we’ve been exposed to fantasy-fairy tale versions of love — which warp our expectations.
Our “Disneyfied” view of the world isn't doing us any favors, and may actually require some intervention to fix. That’s a key takeaway from some recent research from the University of Exeter, which found that young people have warped views of how relationships work, largely because we fill their heads with far-fetched fairy tales (think the concept of “soul mates,” the idea that “I can fix him,” etc.) and they grow up to have unrealistic expectations from potential partners.
That’s to say: There’s no Prince Charming or Sleeping Beauty. We all need to grow up and realize that the world isn’t a Disney movie.
While this particular study involves relationships, I’ve long held a same belief as it relates to, well, just about everything else in our lives, too. Money is a big one.
I used to think that most people were fairly mature about money. As I got older, and especially now, that’s changed. I remember the exact moment that I realized that most people had no clue what they were doing or how to even manage their expectations around money, too.
When I was a strapping young lad, I worked at a radio station. We did call-in shows and had some hosts that you might call “life coaches,” or something along those lines — mostly, these hosts told people what to do to fix their lives in a very gentle way. One woman called in and was lamenting about the financial trouble she was having, and asked point blank: “I really need, like, a giant pot of money to fall out of the sky. When do you think it’ll happen?”
Not only did this woman think that a giant pot of money was absolutely going to fall out of the sky, she thought that she should be able to call someone up to see if she could get the process sped up. She was serious, too. I remember the host telling her something like “you need to get a job,” (the host dressed this up as saying “you need to put energy into the universe,” or something like that) but the caller wasn’t having it. She was entitled to money, damn it, and she needed it now!
I realized the caller wasn’t kidding after a while. Then I started seeing similar beliefs and worldviews around finances all around me. Friends would borrow money with no intention of paying it back, and then just declare bankruptcy. They’d have their cars repossessed. Why not? I’d see people who actually thought they were going to win the lottery. Or retire and live off of Social Security.
Or that Bernie was going to win and get rid of their student loans. The list goes on.
Suffice it to say: This isn’t a Disney movie, and Prince Charming isn’t going to ride in on a — whatever Prince Charming rides — and hand you a check. As Suicidal Tendencies once said: “This ain’t no Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood!”
What’s the point? Let’s all try to collectively grow up, and take an adult approach to our relationships, money, pandemics, elections, NFL playoff games, and whatever else.
I’ll do my best if you will too!
Numbers, links, and more
2035: The year that some free-market-loving Wyoming legislators hope to ban the sale of new electric vehicles in the state. “If you don’t like our petroleum cars, well, we don’t like your electric cars,” said one of the resolution’s sponsors, an actual adult person, who speaks like this and thinks this is a good idea. (State of Wyoming Legislature)
247: The number of new UFO sightings reported to the Pentagon since June 2021, a sharp increase. (Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
$1.35 billion: The grand prize in the Mega Millions lottery game, which someone from Maine won last week. (AP)
Undefeated: Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence has never lost a game while playing on a Saturday in high school, college, or in the NFL. (Fox Sports: NFL)
Risky: The most significant global risks in 2023 include energy supply and cost-of-living crises. (Visual Capitalist)
On the money: Exxon’s researchers accurately predicted climate change 50 years ago. They were pretty damn good at it, too. (The Guardian)
Good article, Sam. Thanks for writing. I think some of the "numbers" links you put in really illustrate your points. Sounds like the legislators in Wyoming need to grow up and get serious about how the world actually works. And your links about the Mega Millions and the undefeated Saturday quarterback illustrate our society's delusion with probabilities. Unlikely things happen all the time, but the odds of it happening to any one particular person are astronomical. But since one person won the lottery, or one player is undefeated on every Monday there is a full moon, why won't it me be next time?