Good Really Old Days

This is Survivorship Bias week at The Examined Life.

Hunter-gatherers may have been so lithe and healthy because the weak were dead. The invention of agriculture and the advent of settled society merely swapped high mortality for high morbidity, allowing people some relief from chronic warfare so they could at least grind out an existence, rather than being ground out of existence altogether.

Notice a close parallel with the industrial revolution. When rural peasants swapped their hovels for the textile mills of Lancashire, did it feel like an improvement? The Dickensian view is that factories replaced a rural idyll with urban misery, poverty, pollution and illness. Factories were indeed miserable and the urban poor were overworked and underfed. But they had flocked to take the jobs in factories often to get away from the cold, muddy, starving rural hell of their birth.

That is from the Economist once again. Here is something I posted on my blog four years ago.

(A tip: The Christmas special issue of the Economist is always worth reading. Lots of interesting stuff. )

5 thoughts on “Good Really Old Days

  1. We would find equal numbers or more of those weak as the “lithe and healthy”. So if we do find larger numbers of “lithe and healthy” hunter-gatherers then it would be for the reason that there indeed were more of them.

    Another example is the common perception deducted from works of art that the Romans were Adonises – “lithe and healthy.” But archaeological evidence showed that the vast majority were fat, unhealthy and with bad-teeth.

    “Hunter-gatherers’ dependence on sharing each other’s hunting and gathering luck….”
    Yup! No skill there as against agriculture that is immune to the vagaries of nature. Economist is sometimes such dumbshit.

    I do agree that their year-end is issue is always interesting. I remember how they subtly opposed the expansion of capitalism and settled society in Mongolia.

    PS: Its not a “Christmas issue”. That is a big no-no in the West. Call it “year-end issue”.

  2. Well! I actually have this “Special Holiday Double Issue” of the Economist right in front of me.

    Not my errors of comprehension. Just the usual illogical arguments from the Economist. Nonetheless, it’s still an interesting issue.

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