Author Topic: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?  (Read 12996 times)

Cranky

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I don't think you would miss the internet or cable tv if you'd never had it. LOL

Honestly, my grandparents got married in 1920. They were prosperous, but not billionaires, by far. They had someone who came to the house to do the laundry, they had a full time gardener, they had a car (and by the time my mother was born, they had two, because my grandmother had her own car.) They had electricity, and a furnace, and they went to the dentist. They took vacations.

I think some people are confusing 1916 with 1816...

Now, my dad's family was really poor, and it was certainly a crappy time to be poor.

stoaX

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I choose today because if I chose 1916 I'd be dead now.

Linda_Norway

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #52 on: August 07, 2017, 05:59:56 AM »
I don't think you would miss the internet or cable tv if you'd never had it. LOL


I remember the days of not having internet. I really missed not having an encyclopedia at home, like so many other people had. :-)
And it was really difficult to find out stuff about other places, like gathering information about emigration to another country.

talltexan

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #53 on: August 09, 2017, 02:21:11 PM »
any year before end of WWI and SPanish Flu is a roll of the dice.

tyort1

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #54 on: August 09, 2017, 04:25:41 PM »
I choose today because if I chose 1916 I'd be dead now.

Agreed - so would I.  Was a preemie baby so would have likely died then.  I've also had a heart attack, so that would have definitely finished me off in 1916.

Also, my daughter also had a difficult birth and that would have likely killed both her and her mother (my wife) at that time. 

So I'll take average American now vs billionaire in 1916 with me and my entire family dead.
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martyconlonontherun

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #55 on: September 12, 2017, 04:09:21 PM »
That's basically 25 billion in today's dollar, ~50 richest people in the world. I would probably take that deal assuming my friendships transfer over (aka i actually grew up in that period and had a chance to make friends)

The biggest down side and risk is stubbing your toe* and getting an infection and dying at a young age.

*I'm using code for syphilis

Hargrove

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #56 on: September 12, 2017, 05:09:54 PM »
*I'm using code for syphilis

Don't be ridiculous!

They cured syphilis already.

With the magic of modern science.

And arsenic.

We go easy on syphilis today.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 05:38:26 PM by Hargrove »

Tass

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #57 on: September 12, 2017, 06:14:49 PM »
I'm so shocked at the number choosing billionaire.

On a site where most people get that more money does not equal more happiness.

Funny.  :)

Is this an absolute?  I tend to think of this as a diminishing returns curve, where the difference in happiness between 1 million and 1.25 million is comparatively small but 1 billion is way the fuck at the end of the curve.  Add into that some sense of adventure for a different world. 

Also I think some of this site is about seeing the cost benefit trade off of higher spending and longer career vs lower spending and shorter career.  Retiring with 0.5 million less might cost me some small happiness but retiring 5 years earlier will more than make up for it in terms of sum total of life time happiness.

The research suggests that, on average, American happiness increases with income up to about $75k. And since that's average over all Americans, we can also assume that $75k includes some ludicrously poor housing/car/consumerist financial decisions. The same average happiness level is probably attainable at a much smaller spending rate with some adjustments in how you think/stress about money. Billionaires are not, on average, happier than millionaires, who are not, on average, happier than people who just broke 6 figures.

http://www.pnas.org/content/107/38/16489.full

Anyway, I'm in the "prefer being female in a time I can vote/own property/get a formal education" camp. I also like antibiotics, refrigeration, birth control. (Has anyone looked up the maternal mortality rates back then? Yikes.) I'm betting the pickings for romantic partners would be slim too - probably not very many male first-wave feminists.

Some female Mustchians have mentioned the lack of female suffrage in 1916. I am a man, and from what I have seen in political opinion polls, upper class women vote much the same as upper class men, middle class women vote much the same as middle class men, and working class women vote much the same as working class men. Female suffrage means we double the number of votes cast for much the same political outcome.

My single vote now doesn't have a lot of impact either. The bigger problem is the prevailing cultural attitude about the validity of my opinions. Asking me to take more money in exchange for more sexism is not a very tempting offer.
« Last Edit: September 12, 2017, 06:17:42 PM by Tass »

talltexan

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #58 on: September 13, 2017, 02:56:35 PM »
I would wonder if a non-voting woman with $1billion could be influential through philanthropy.

Regular people vote, but billionaires can actually make political influence a line item in their household budgets.

Tass

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #59 on: September 13, 2017, 05:54:20 PM »
I would wonder if a non-voting woman with $1billion could be influential through philanthropy.

Regular people vote, but billionaires can actually make political influence a line item in their household budgets.

Probably. But again, for me, it's the cultural attitude that would be suffocating. I'm sure being a female billionaire got you a lot more deference than the average women, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't still have to put up with a lot of patronizing BS. And I cannot express how deeply unappealing it sounds to spend time among similarly-influential men who are amazed I can think and speak clearly despite my femaleness.

Having that much money could buy me out of being a housewife or spinster, could probably conjure a reasonably respectful inner circle, but it couldn't protect me from the natural assumptions of literally every single other person about my intellect or interests. And that sounds exhausting.

Fire2025

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #60 on: September 13, 2017, 07:01:45 PM »
I would wonder if a non-voting woman with $1billion could be influential through philanthropy.

Regular people vote, but billionaires can actually make political influence a line item in their household budgets.

Probably. But again, for me, it's the cultural attitude that would be suffocating. I'm sure being a female billionaire got you a lot more deference than the average women, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't still have to put up with a lot of patronizing BS. And I cannot express how deeply unappealing it sounds to spend time among similarly-influential men who are amazed I can think and speak clearly despite my femaleness.

Having that much money could buy me out of being a housewife or spinster, could probably conjure a reasonably respectful inner circle, but it couldn't protect me from the natural assumptions of literally every single other person about my intellect or interests. And that sounds exhausting.

This times 1000.  Men could beat and rape their wives, legally.  Enough said.

AlanStache

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #61 on: September 13, 2017, 07:09:18 PM »
I would wonder if a non-voting woman with $1billion could be influential through philanthropy.

Regular people vote, but billionaires can actually make political influence a line item in their household budgets.

Probably. But again, for me, it's the cultural attitude that would be suffocating. I'm sure being a female billionaire got you a lot more deference than the average women, but that doesn't mean you wouldn't still have to put up with a lot of patronizing BS. And I cannot express how deeply unappealing it sounds to spend time among similarly-influential men who are amazed I can think and speak clearly despite my femaleness.

Having that much money could buy me out of being a housewife or spinster, could probably conjure a reasonably respectful inner circle, but it couldn't protect me from the natural assumptions of literally every single other person about my intellect or interests. And that sounds exhausting.

Yes I have been going back and forth along these lines.  On the one hand it would be a great adventure and I could fund some good causes.  On the other I would be surrounded by racists & sexists and over time might slide into there ways.  I have been rereading a 20 year old book and even over that 'short' time semi-sexist phrases are pooping out. 

A billionaire in 1916 could literally have started there own country and made whatever laws they wanted. 
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Hargrove

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #62 on: September 13, 2017, 08:01:06 PM »
Patronizing BS? Similarly influential men?

Who could patronize you? Your only peer at that wealth at that time would have been Rockefeller.

You really could imagine any historical divergence you care to imagine in this scenario.

You wouldn't have a big house and a nice car. You would own something like 1% of the US economy. If your goal were to flip sexism on its head, you'd have unprecedented clout with which to do it.

arebelspy

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #63 on: September 13, 2017, 08:06:49 PM »
Patronizing BS? Similarly influential men?

Who could patronize you? Your only peer at that wealth at that time would have been Rockefeller.

There would be plenty of men who would be patronizing to you even if you had 1000x their wealth. They'd still think the bits between their legs made them better.

And they wouldn't be rare. Cause there's plenty of those today, too. A century ago?  Gimmie a break.
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Hargrove

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #64 on: September 13, 2017, 08:36:21 PM »
This was a world prepared to believe we would cure, like, every disease. This was shortly before the era when Rosy the Riveter would completely upend the "man works, woman stays at home" paridigm. This was an era that revered Rockefeller and Carnegie like so many revere Steve Jobs today.

Sexism is an insecurity-fueled power-politic. Barely imaginable wealth has a power-politic of its own.

It would be a gross miscalculation to suggest you simply wouldn't encounter sexism.

It would also be a gross miscalculation to suggest you would be easily and summarily marginalized while controlling 1% of the US economy.

Give me a break. :p
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 08:42:55 PM by Hargrove »

arebelspy

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #65 on: September 13, 2017, 08:40:11 PM »
It's easy to dismiss from a position of privilege.
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Hargrove

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #66 on: September 13, 2017, 08:46:54 PM »
It's easy to dismiss from a position of privilege.

Exactly. To dismiss for better or worse. In the case of sexism, it could certainly take some dismissing from the unequaled heroine avatar of outrageous success. Why can't we imagine the woman with a billion dollars in alternate-reality 1916 overcame all the things we're afraid she'd have a hard time overcoming, knows it damn well, and enjoys being a legend in her own time and for as long as history remembers? She must have overcome something incredible, right? No one could give her such an inheritance.

In this totally hypothetical historical fantasy, you really have a lot of room to imagine manipulating one billion advantages however you want.
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 08:53:32 PM by Hargrove »

tyort1

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #67 on: September 13, 2017, 09:10:41 PM »
I'm sorry, but 100 years ago the world sucked:

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arebelspy

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #68 on: September 13, 2017, 10:01:02 PM »
I'm sorry, but 100 years ago the world sucked

Sure, but you're a billionaire in this hypothetical.  Sucks for everyone else though.
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potm

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #69 on: September 13, 2017, 10:13:45 PM »
What's average American? In massive debt, stuck working a job I hate for the rest of my life?
I'll take the billionaire 100 years ago.

tyort1

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #70 on: September 13, 2017, 10:21:20 PM »
I'm sorry, but 100 years ago the world sucked

Sure, but you're a billionaire in this hypothetical.  Sucks for everyone else though.

True.  But I'd also be a dead billionaire since I've been saved by modern medicine twice (at birth and later with a heart attack).
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trashmanz

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #71 on: September 13, 2017, 10:27:13 PM »
If you are not a white man, its quite possible you might even be assassinated post haste. 

Tass

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #72 on: September 13, 2017, 11:31:03 PM »
It would be a gross miscalculation to suggest you simply wouldn't encounter sexism.

It would also be a gross miscalculation to suggest you would be easily and summarily marginalized while controlling 1% of the US economy.

I didn't deny such a woman would be powerful. I said it would be exhausting.

Maybe there IS a lady out there who would want to be known as a legend at that time for overcoming all the obstacles, but it isn't me. I prefer having the legal grounds to demand equal treatment (without having to buy it). I prefer to believe the majority of people I encounter don't immediately pigeonhole me as a member of the "weaker" sex. Sure, I could throw all kinds of money into women's suffrage, maybe get some other civil rights gains sooner, but I am just not interested in refighting those battles. Maybe it feels like a hero's adventure to rescue other people from such mistreatment, but having to struggle to be treated with basic decency - no matter how much power I'm given in that struggle - does not sound like a thrilling game to me. The sexism that still exists in the modern world is depressing enough.

And the thread asked whether I'd want to do it. The answer is no. That's all there is to it.

(Also, again: I feel like we're really underappreciating antibiotics here.)
« Last Edit: September 13, 2017, 11:38:40 PM by Tass »

arebelspy

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #73 on: September 14, 2017, 12:20:19 AM »
Interestingly, the richest woman in the world to date at that time, Hetty Green (aka the "Witch of Wall Street") died in 1916 with an estimated 100MM in assets. 10x less than this post.

http://www.investopedia.com/articles/financialcareers/09/hetty-green-witch-wall-street.asp

I enjoyed her biography:
Hetty: The Genius and Madness of America's First Female Tycoon
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GuitarStv

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #74 on: September 14, 2017, 10:53:25 AM »
As a billionaire today, with the basic knowledge you've got about stuff I think you could push a lot of the technological advances that weren't currently there.  Like get a bunch of folks together and pay 'em to study mold as a way of curing diseases.  You would likely have working antibiotics in a couple years.

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #75 on: September 14, 2017, 01:01:11 PM »
As a billionaire today, with the basic knowledge you've got about stuff I think you could push a lot of the technological advances that weren't currently there.  Like get a bunch of folks together and pay 'em to study mold as a way of curing diseases.  You would likely have working antibiotics in a couple years.

That's true. As long as you don't contract any infections in those couple years!

Optimiser

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #76 on: September 14, 2017, 01:39:16 PM »
As a billionaire today, with the basic knowledge you've got about stuff I think you could push a lot of the technological advances that weren't currently there.  Like get a bunch of folks together and pay 'em to study mold as a way of curing diseases.  You would likely have working antibiotics in a couple years.

Whether or not you have knowledge of the 21st century certainly changes the scenario.

You would not only be one of the wealthiest people in the world, but you could also base your decisions on knowledge of future events. Of course then you would end up reshaping the future and your knowledge would no longer be accurate...

edited for grammar
« Last Edit: September 14, 2017, 01:45:28 PM by Optimiser »

stoaX

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #77 on: September 14, 2017, 01:44:15 PM »
As a billionaire today, with the basic knowledge you've got about stuff I think you could push a lot of the technological advances that weren't currently there.  Like get a bunch of folks together and pay 'em to study mold as a way of curing diseases.  You would likely have working antibiotics in a couple years.

Whether or not you have knowledge of the 21st century certainly changes the scenario.

You would not only be one of the wealthiest people in the world, but you could also base your decisions on knowledge of future events. Of course then you would end up reshaping the future and your knowledge would not longer accurate...

That makes my head spin...and it hurts just to think about it!

GuitarStv

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #78 on: September 14, 2017, 02:30:33 PM »
As a billionaire today, with the basic knowledge you've got about stuff I think you could push a lot of the technological advances that weren't currently there.  Like get a bunch of folks together and pay 'em to study mold as a way of curing diseases.  You would likely have working antibiotics in a couple years.

Whether or not you have knowledge of the 21st century certainly changes the scenario.

You would not only be one of the wealthiest people in the world, but you could also base your decisions on knowledge of future events. Of course then you would end up reshaping the future and your knowledge would no longer be accurate...

edited for grammar

The beauty of this is that for most stuff you don't need to know many details.  You might change the history of who invents penicillin, but you wouldn't change the basic fact that it came from researching mold.  Changing the past might make some of your memories inaccurate, but only the useless people/dates . . . not the important 'HOW'.

Optimiser

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #79 on: September 14, 2017, 02:37:32 PM »
As a billionaire today, with the basic knowledge you've got about stuff I think you could push a lot of the technological advances that weren't currently there.  Like get a bunch of folks together and pay 'em to study mold as a way of curing diseases.  You would likely have working antibiotics in a couple years.

Whether or not you have knowledge of the 21st century certainly changes the scenario.

You would not only be one of the wealthiest people in the world, but you could also base your decisions on knowledge of future events. Of course then you would end up reshaping the future and your knowledge would no longer be accurate...

edited for grammar

The beauty of this is that for most stuff you don't need to know many details.  You might change the history of who invents penicillin, but you wouldn't change the basic fact that it came from researching mold.  Changing the past might make some of your memories inaccurate, but only the useless people/dates . . . not the important 'HOW'.

Good point. I was thinking about things like I might want to get out the stock market before 1929 so I can stay a billionaire, but maybe someone who's life was saved by penicillin ended up getting elected president and passed legislation that prevented the great depression.

Hargrove

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #80 on: September 14, 2017, 02:43:22 PM »
How I parse time-twisting questions:

Q: Can you change the future?
A: Does the question make you a historical person? If it asks if you to "live Rockefeller's life as him," then presumably the future remains intact. If you get to insert an alternate past where you and/or other scenarios exist, you can change the future, and you already have.

Q: Can you go back with present knowledge?
A: If unspecified, yes, but it has to change your hypothetical if you do! You may miss air conditioning if you remember it. You can also advance research and possibly make bets on major events shortly after your appearance (but probably not long after). But what would you bet on if you had a billion dollars already? You may not be as satisfied simply accelerating the past as you think, either - if the future is what you want, you're already here! If fame is what you want, though, that's an easy boost to it.

Q: How stable is my knowledge?
A: Science facts? Stable. History facts? Very unstable. All your history is of probabilities chosen - everything you do ripples, and the bigger you are and the more you do, the more it ripples. If you want to stop Hitler, you might do it accidentally from 1916. You probably wouldn't do it in 1942. But, any major effect you have on anything would change everything after it too much for your knowledge to still apply. GuitarSTV summarized something similar.

Q: Are you ever born?
A: Sure. Otherwise, this is no fun. The future where you were born no longer exists in your current timeline, though. You can't ever meet yourself. /sadfaces

tyort1

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #81 on: September 14, 2017, 05:35:56 PM »
The problem with changing the past for the better is that we (as a society) only learn our lessons and advance when something shitty happens.  If you prevent things like the depression or the various wars, I believe we'd be in a much worse place, now.
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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #82 on: September 14, 2017, 05:58:43 PM »
The problem with changing the past for the better is that we (as a society) only learn our lessons and advance when something shitty happens.  If you prevent things like the depression or the various wars, I believe we'd be in a much worse place, now.

Not sure I agree with that as a philosophy. That means you'd be arguing it's better that the holocaust happened. And it's better Trump was elected.

And, hell, it'd be better if we had WWIII tomorrow, so we can learn lessons and advance.

You'd be arguing for brutal and terrible things all the time.

I think we'd be in a much better place if the dark ages never happened.

I agree that we can advance and learn after terrible things, but I don't think they're a necessary (nor sufficient--we often don't learn from them, see e.g. Vietnam war) condition (we can learn without terrible things).
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FINate

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #83 on: September 14, 2017, 07:14:45 PM »
It took the horrors of WWII (including the holocaust) to disabuse Europe's nation states of expansionist tendencies which were instrumental in the rise of fascism. I'm not convinced the lesson would have been learned without the trauma. (A good case could be made that America still hasn't fully learned since the war was somewhat removed). It's terrifying to think of Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy rising up after the advent of atomic weapons (and scary how close the Germans were to developing the bomb before VE day). And the UK (and others) relinquished control of their colonies after the war. Again not convinced that this would have happened otherwise.

So although I agree that we shouldn't seek out calamities, I do think these have shaped society in important ways. If WWII hadn't happened when it did then we *may* have experienced a much worse calamity later on. I think it's really unknowable.

Regarding Trump, not a fan and thankful we have division of power, but he may stumble along for 4 years while bringing the crazies out of the woodworks from both sides (e.g. neo-Nazis and antifa), which might create an opening for third party or a moderate that appeals across the partisan divide. Perhaps I'm too much an optimist, but I think it's possible.

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #84 on: September 14, 2017, 07:33:21 PM »
It took the horrors of WWII (including the holocaust) to disabuse Europe's nation states of expansionist tendencies which were instrumental in the rise of fascism. I'm not convinced the lesson would have been learned without the trauma. (A good case could be made that America still hasn't fully learned since the war was somewhat removed).

Given Russia's recent actions (and the fact that they suffered more than any other country in the second world war), I'm not entirely sure that you can argue that there was any great lesson against expansionist tendencies.

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #85 on: September 14, 2017, 07:38:23 PM »


So although I agree that we shouldn't seek out calamities, I do think these have shaped society in important ways. If WWII hadn't happened when it did then we *may* have experienced a much worse calamity later on. I think it's really unknowable.

I agree they shaped society in important ways. And I agree it's unknowable what would have happened otherwise.

But to say we need those type of tragedies to improve implies:
1) they're necessary, and you can't improve without
2) they're good

I don't agree with either.
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FINate

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #86 on: September 14, 2017, 07:51:41 PM »
It took the horrors of WWII (including the holocaust) to disabuse Europe's nation states of expansionist tendencies which were instrumental in the rise of fascism. I'm not convinced the lesson would have been learned without the trauma. (A good case could be made that America still hasn't fully learned since the war was somewhat removed).

Given Russia's recent actions (and the fact that they suffered more than any other country in the second world war), I'm not entirely sure that you can argue that there was any great lesson against expansionist tendencies.

Yet EU certainly came away from the war with the lesson learned. I'm arguing that it was a necessary factor but not sufficient. Russia seems to have come away instead with a deep mistrust of the West, somewhat justified given that they were invaded from the West twice within the span of a little over 100 years. That they've more-or-less been headed by authoritarian governments resulted in lack of transparency in the media and a people without much say in government affairs, which I think is a factor in why Russia still doesn't get it.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2017, 07:54:19 PM by FINate »

FINate

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #87 on: September 14, 2017, 08:15:26 PM »


So although I agree that we shouldn't seek out calamities, I do think these have shaped society in important ways. If WWII hadn't happened when it did then we *may* have experienced a much worse calamity later on. I think it's really unknowable.

I agree they shaped society in important ways. And I agree it's unknowable what would have happened otherwise.

But to say we need those type of tragedies to improve implies:
1) they're necessary, and you can't improve without
2) they're good

I don't agree with either.

I agree that we can make progress w/o tragedies, but not in all cases, or at least there are cases where a tragedy is necessary to prevent an even larger tragedy. Was the US Civil War necessary and good? I don't think it's a simple answer. Given enough time the Confederacy may have given into abolition, but for how long and at what a cost to the generations that continued under slavery? The war itself wasn't "good" per se but the results, however incomplete, were progress.

Back to WWII: Was it good? The war itself, no, war is never good. But one could imagine a parallel universe where the fascists rose to power "peacefully," slowly enslaving their people while deliberately grinding out their genocidal plans within their borders, annexing sympathetic neighbors without triggering an international conflict, and then going full blow expansionist after they were much stronger. In many ways we are extremely lucky that Hitler was such a delusional lunatic that mistrusted his military leaders and foolishly opted to start a fight with two super powers on two fronts. In that sense WWII was good in that it was better than many of the other possible outcomes.

tyort1

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #88 on: September 14, 2017, 08:58:40 PM »
I'm saying that the last hundred years has been a period of massive change, mostly for the better.  And that the bad things helped shape it as much as the good things.  I do feel that true wisdom tend to come from painful experiences.  Both for societies and for individuals.
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Hargrove

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #89 on: September 14, 2017, 09:06:39 PM »
I'm with Arebelspy on WWII... I mean, what progress can we nail down as necessarily from it? Much cultural progress is temporary anyway, because culture is so transient. It's not even possible for a single person to fathom how much life was spent, lost, and stolen in horror after horror in that war.

So many western cultures believed they hit an advanced era, imploded along similar lines as previous cultures, believed they hit an advanced era...

With Hitler delayed a few years, he would have been sidelined by Parkinson's. The German military was not close to atomic weaponry, and they knew it. They got to heavy water and realized they'd win or lose before the weapon was ready. They had unstoppable tanks with no gas and bad transmissions and excellent tanks with no gas, that were as hopelessly outnumbered as their army (as any army ever fighting Russia). American and Russian military fantasy still dreams of re-enacting the war, and they recreationally do so through proxy conflicts since 1945.

Could I imagine a parallel universe where fascists rose to power differently and more sustainably? Sure, but since we're playing imagine-parallel-universes-the-game, I would overwhelmingly prefer to imagine no systematic extermination and no WWII, and it's pretty easy to imagine Himmler being killed after Hitler gets sidelined waiting just a few years (which is why he didn't wait a few more years, and probably a big reason Barbarossa was launched).

Also, expansionism isn't needed for fascism. It does just fine with isolationism, too.

I never understood arguing for the necessity of tragedy. It's not like tragedy needs help and won't happen all on its own.

FINate

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #90 on: September 15, 2017, 01:15:49 AM »
The germans were close to achieving the bomb: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/military/nazis-and-the-bomb.html With a little more time, and without the distraction of war and our related efforts to sabatoge their program, they would have succeeded. They were vastly outnumbered because Hitler was a blundering strategist. Had he died early of Parkinson's he would have been entombed and glorified, and Göring would have picked up the banner and carried on his ideology. Unlike Hitler, Göring had real military education and had a better grasp of military matters. If he had taken over, the world may be much worse off today. But yes, we could go round and round with what-ifs.

You don't think tragedy is necessary, but what about the US Civil War? Was that tragedy necessary? There are cases where tragedy is unavoidable, where these tragedies must play out before progress can be made. In a hypothetical utopian world where people are not selfish, bigoted, and small minded then yes, tragedy would never be necessary because groups of people behaving badly would voluntarily change and we could all move forward together in peace and progress. But that world doesn't exist. History is rife with examples of regimes and ideologies that could only be corrected through tragic means.

A few things that necessarily came out of WWII:
- As already mentioned, Europe finally started to unify and stop warring with one another. I would go as far as arguing that the European Union would not exist w/o WWII.
- The United Nations and resulting improvement in international relations. Who knows how many tragedies this alone has prevented.
- War Crimes Tribunals and the novel (at that time) idea of holding leaders accountable for crimes against humanity.
- An end to isolationism in the US and a determination around the globe that we can never let this happen again
- The Cold War (itself a tragedy) which was instrumental in bringing about: modern computers, space exploration, satellites, GPS, the internet. 

EDIT: What's striking about this [partial] list is that these are things that create the conditions we enjoy today, where in most cases we can avoid tragedy because we have the necessary tools such as the UN and war crimes tribunals and world governments that are willing to step up and take responsibility in the world to prevent such horrors. The world pre WWII was a very different place, I think we easily lose sight of that.

 
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 01:42:08 AM by FINate »

Hargrove

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #91 on: September 15, 2017, 04:08:30 AM »
From your own link:

"The German scientists were cautious: while it was clear that they could build atomic bombs in principle, they would require a great deal of resources to do so and could not realize such weapons any time soon."

The resistance to your use of "necessary" is really just its more positive connotation than "unavoidable." In that sense, people don't usually call the damage from chemotherapy "necessary" even though it may not be wise (right now) to avoid it, if you have cancer.

Those benefits you listed ignore how close the world already came to major war several times since. Cuban missile crisis, Ukraine, North Korea, Syria. Or genocide (e.g. Rwanda).
« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 04:39:14 AM by Hargrove »

tyort1

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #92 on: September 15, 2017, 08:31:33 AM »
From your own link:

"The German scientists were cautious: while it was clear that they could build atomic bombs in principle, they would require a great deal of resources to do so and could not realize such weapons any time soon."

The resistance to your use of "necessary" is really just its more positive connotation than "unavoidable." In that sense, people don't usually call the damage from chemotherapy "necessary" even though it may not be wise (right now) to avoid it, if you have cancer.

Those benefits you listed ignore how close the world already came to major war several times since. Cuban missile crisis, Ukraine, North Korea, Syria. Or genocide (e.g. Rwanda).

I think without WWi & WWII, those "close to war" conflicts you list WOULD have become full blow wars.  I also think the "Cold War" would have escalated at some point and we'd have had a true nuclear conflict had we not gone through the mess of the world wars.  Also, there's this:

« Last Edit: September 15, 2017, 08:35:02 AM by tyort1 »
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zolotiyeruki

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #93 on: September 15, 2017, 10:10:26 AM »
From your own link:

"The German scientists were cautious: while it was clear that they could build atomic bombs in principle, they would require a great deal of resources to do so and could not realize such weapons any time soon."

The resistance to your use of "necessary" is really just its more positive connotation than "unavoidable." In that sense, people don't usually call the damage from chemotherapy "necessary" even though it may not be wise (right now) to avoid it, if you have cancer.

Those benefits you listed ignore how close the world already came to major war several times since. Cuban missile crisis, Ukraine, North Korea, Syria. Or genocide (e.g. Rwanda).

I think without WWi & WWII, those "close to war" conflicts you list WOULD have become full blow wars.  I also think the "Cold War" would have escalated at some point and we'd have had a true nuclear conflict had we not gone through the mess of the world wars.  Also, there's this:


I'd love to see a version of that chart that went back into the 1600's, too. It feels like the last 400 years (well, truthfully, the entirety of human history) has been a constant series of wars.  Our ability to efficiently kill the enemy has gradually increased over time as well.  I have to think that the advent of nuclear weapons and MAD has been a major factor in the decrease in the scale of wars since WWII.  Of course, you could also point at the increased level of global trade for the same effect.

tyort1

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #94 on: September 15, 2017, 10:49:33 AM »
I'd love to see a version of that chart that went back into the 1600's, too. It feels like the last 400 years (well, truthfully, the entirety of human history) has been a constant series of wars.  Our ability to efficiently kill the enemy has gradually increased over time as well.  I have to think that the advent of nuclear weapons and MAD has been a major factor in the decrease in the scale of wars since WWII.  Of course, you could also point at the increased level of global trade for the same effect.

Ask and ye shall receive.  You are right, we've been killing each other at a pretty high rate since at least the 1400's.  But there's been a precipitous drop in the 50 years:

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GuitarStv

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #95 on: September 15, 2017, 12:27:56 PM »
So you're saying that the top is in?

Maenad

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #96 on: September 15, 2017, 12:53:55 PM »
Antibiotics

Vaccinations

Birth Control

Hypertension medications (dead in my 50s without, like my great-grandparents)

Women's Suffrage, as well as the right to own property and get a STEM education

Lots less racism, sexism, anti-semitism, other forms of bigotry

Yeah, I'll take now, thank you very much.

FIT_Goat

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #97 on: September 15, 2017, 07:08:35 PM »
For people debating whether or not you would retain your knowledge of 2017, I think the article made it clear that you wouldn't.

Quote
If in 1916 you wanted Thai curry, chicken vindaloo or Vietnamese pho, you could go to the phone hanging on your wall and ask the operator (direct dialing began in the 1920s) to connect you to restaurants serving those dishes. The fact that there were no such restaurants would not bother you because in 1916 you had never heard of those dishes, so you would not know what you were missing.

So, there's no "cheating" by using your wealth to accelerate the future.  You're stuck living in that time period, as it was.

Personally, this is tough.  I probably would pick today, assuming I could keep my current lifestyle and not change it for the average one of debt.  My life is not bad.  I am working to get to a point where I don't "have" to work, but I have time to enjoy life as it is right now.

GuitarStv

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #98 on: September 16, 2017, 08:46:00 AM »
For people debating whether or not you would retain your knowledge of 2017, I think the article made it clear that you wouldn't.

Quote
If in 1916 you wanted Thai curry, chicken vindaloo or Vietnamese pho, you could go to the phone hanging on your wall and ask the operator (direct dialing began in the 1920s) to connect you to restaurants serving those dishes. The fact that there were no such restaurants would not bother you because in 1916 you had never heard of those dishes, so you would not know what you were missing.

So, there's no "cheating" by using your wealth to accelerate the future.  You're stuck living in that time period, as it was.

Personally, this is tough.  I probably would pick today, assuming I could keep my current lifestyle and not change it for the average one of debt.  My life is not bad.  I am working to get to a point where I don't "have" to work, but I have time to enjoy life as it is right now.

An awful lot of my life to date has been spent learning stuff that apparently is going to be erased from my mind.  Am I going to be given an equivalent amount of information from the 1916 period in return for this, or am I just going to be stupid if I go back into the past?

arebelspy

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Re: Would you rather be a billionaire in 1916, or an average American today?
« Reply #99 on: September 16, 2017, 10:52:29 AM »
An awful lot of my life to date has been spent learning stuff that apparently is going to be erased from my mind.  Am I going to be given an equivalent amount of information from the 1916 period in return for this, or am I just going to be stupid if I go back into the past?

I assume all of you would be obliterated for this; "you" would no longer be you, you'd be the billionaire.
We are two former teachers who accumulated a bunch of real estate, retired at 29, and now travel the world full time with a kid.
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