The number of people on earth

The number of people on this planet is a pretty mindboggling number if on stops to think about it. Here is a world population clock:

Exponential growth is crazy, especially over a span of centuries. It seems like only yesterday (1999) when there were only 6 billion people on the planet. The world hit 5 billion people in 1987.  Being that there are 6.7 billion people now, the human population on earth has grown roughly 12% in the past decade.

6.7 billion is a pretty big number. My pet comparison has been the amount of gold on the planet per person. The total amount of gold produced (in ~1997) is roughly 3.4 billion troy ounces, which in a sensible unit of measurement is 3.7 billion ounces. There is thus less than one ounce of mined gold per living person, which in my mind is good enough reason to not have a gold standard.

Gold production is roughly 80 million ounces per year, which is also roughly the current number of additional people born per year (i.e. births minus deaths). That is a lot of people. Over twice as many people as live in California, every year. Enough people are born in 4 years to comprise the entire current population of the United States. Kind of crazy to think about, especially because that entire population will be shitting their pants.

The big 7 billion is coming in 2011.

A corollary to this is that a lot of people die each year. Overall mortality is around 1%, meaning around 60 million people die every year. So much death…

“I Voted”

What really peeve me about elections are those “I voted” stickers. I don’t really see any use to them except to increase smugness. Voting should be done out of a sense of civic pride or belief in the issues at stake, not for some sticker or associated feelings.

If the sticker is an incentive for one to vote, then I think one is voting for the wrong reason. A physical sticker should have exactly 0% chance of influencing one to vote. Furthermore, others knowing that you voted should have no influence on whether you vote or not. In other words, others’ perceptions of you should not have any influence on your civic pride or personal beliefs, and thus having the signal that you voted in the “I voted” sticker should be moot. In other other words, the “I voted” sticker is absolutely useless.

A friend mentioned that the sticker might be useful in that it helps get people out to vote, i.e. it raises general awareness that today is a day to vote. I think this is a little silly because (a) the voting date is not ambiguous and everyone should know about it well ahead of time, (b) anyone who is registered to vote gets all that mail, including a sample ballot, and (c) those little stickers aren’t exactly the most conspicuous way to announce an election (see points above). And even if seeing a sticker gets someone who wouldn’t have voted otherwise to go and vote, is that person really voting for the right reason? I mean, if one is apathetic enough to not realize that it is an election day (but for seeing a sticker), doesn’t that imply that one didn’t really care about voting anyway? And if the sticker is a form of peer pressure for others to vote, isn’t that also voting for the wrong reason (and the sticker its medium)?

Which is all to say that the “I voted” sticker is just a way to (more or less literally) wear your pride on your sleeves. Which is cool and all, but I think severely misplaces how and why one should feel about voting.