The Math of Gratitude (Part Two)

Hi all,

It’s Scott Asner in Kansas City – welcome back to my blog!

Previously, I shared some interesting facts related to the population of the United States in comparison to the rest of the world. I thought it was a fascinating topic that underscores just how lucky we all are in our daily lives. – so today I wanted to expand the idea and focus on our current place in time.

I’d like to invite you to ponder some of the following points and get a sense of all of the things we take for granted simply by virtue of being born in our historical era.

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As a starting point, it is estimated that the total number of human beings to exist throughout all of history is around 100 billion people, with the first appearing between five and seven million years ago. To give you some perspective – there are currently 7.6 billion people alive today. This is an important idea to keep in mind because it highlights the sheer number of people who have lived much harder lives in years past, without the modern comforts we now enjoy.

Take something as common as the air-conditioner for example. Air-conditioning was not invented until 1902. And while anyone living in the 21st century would find it hard to go about a hot summer day without our buildings circulating cool air – that was the standard for millions of years.

Going back just a couple of decades earlier, the modern lightbulb first appeared in 1879. Before that we had torches, candles and gas lamps, each with its obvious limitations. Think of how many extra hours in the day the modern person gains through such a small invention. And now, we even have options for things like colored lighting, mood lighting and flashlights on our smartphones – all of which would have been inconceivable not too long ago.

You can even go back tens of thousands of years and find incredible inventions that now allow us to live in relative luxury. For example, the adoption of agriculture is considered to be one of the turning points in the human story. While challenging to nail down, experts estimate that humans first began farming somewhere between 10,000 – 15,000 years ago.

Before farming, humans lived short lives in nomadic tribes, hunting and foraging for every piece of food they could find. Life was grueling and spent traveling from location to location (most often by foot) to hunt down the next meal. With no time to waste, every second counted as valuable time to find resources just to survive. And imagine how many people passed away from mistakenly eating harmful plants and animals, before slowly figuring out the appropriate diet for human beings.

Contrast the reality described above with today, when most people are not even sure where their food comes from. Billions of people all over the world make convenient stops at the supermarket and pick up their favorite mass-produced foods and snacks, or even order it directly to their doors with a couple of swipes on their phones. Most people exert little to no effort and still have access to nearly unlimited options for food sources.

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Of course, these examples do not even factor in game-changing inventions that are the basis of modern life. Things like antibiotics, the automobile, computers, the internet, smartphones and more keep us all happy, healthy and afford us ample time for leisure.

It can be easy to overlook these modern miracles but reflecting on their tremendous value and their impact on the arch of our shared story is a great way to find gratitude as well as a reminder that we are always living in the best of times.

So consider yourself lucky and remember that the best is yet to come.

Until next time,

~ Scott Asner, Founding Principal of Eighteen Capital Group (18CG) in Kansas City, Missouri

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