A Selfish Argument for Making the World a Better Place – Egoistic Altruism

Untill Recently, the majority of the world's population worked on farms. and total production was mainly agricultural production. This production was limited by the fixed land size . Total production didn't change much from year to year. The size of the cake was fixed, The world was a zero-sum game. In such a stagnant world, the only way to do better was that someone else was doing worse. If you take a bigger piece of cake, someone else’s share will be smaller. If you want more food so conquering, using and stealing are great strategies. Losing your neighbor is your gain. This was the order of things for thousands of years. Companies were constantly invading to earn more pie. Social inequalities were extreme. Some had all the pie they wanted, while others had to live with the remains.

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash


Industrial revolution - beginning of the new era

Then the industrial revolution came, and everything changed. We have developed machinery, better crops, of the best fertilizers. Industrial production soared. But we didn't just produce more food, all industrial sectors have exploded in terms of productivity. From 1700 to 1870, steel production in Britain has increased 137-fold. The industrial revolution led to previously unimaginable industrial production. This altered the nature of our society. Economic growth changed the world from a zero-sum game to a positive sum game. We had found a way to make a bigger cake. But not only a bigger cake: a cake that has grown from year to year. More people could have more at the same time. This development is spreading and continuing today.

 Antibiotics kill bacteria, power plants provide energy, cellphones connect us, planes allow us to travel at low cost, refrigerators store food. Continuous progress in all sectors of the economy seem normal to us today, but change, from stagnation to economic growth was the most drastic change in human history.

How is it possible ? -Innovation

At the heart of this massive transformation, reside in new ideas, which lead to innovation. Innovation has many different definitions. But in this context , we mean better solutions to existing problems, and solutions to problems we never knew if we had. The more you innovate, the more you discover complex and interesting problems, as your wishes and needs evolve. The average citizen in Norway 250 years ago, maybe wanted some really good shoes. 150 years ago, maybe a bike. 80 years ago, a car. 30 years ago, a low cost air travel. And so on.

We never get satisfied with anything

When we get what we want , we don't stop. We can see how we can improve things , and how to do things better. The positive sum world has existed for 0.1% of human history, and you have to get used to it. It has a consequence that seems really counter-intuitive. In a positive sum world, it is in your personal and selfish interest, may each human being on planet Earth be rich.
It is beneficial to you that people in remote areas of countries you’ve never heard of, are thriving. There is a sincere and selfish argument for a better world. In a positive sum world, the more wealthy people there are, the better your own life. All thanks to the nature of innovation. It is fundamentally driven by supply and demand.

Demand for ideas and innovation

The supply increases when more people have the freedom and education to contribute. They become inventors, researchers, engineers or thinkers who find new ideas. The demand for ideas increases as people get richer and may pay for new solutions. They increase the size of the market for innovation. Innovation follows incentives. So naturally, if more people want and can pay for something, this will attract the attention and energy of the innovators. Improve the lives of the poorest, to a multiplicative effect. This increases the demand for ideas, and at the same time facilitates the production of ideas.

Case of curing cancer

If 1 billion people around the world can afford cancer treatment, innovation will follow this demand. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested in medical research. The effect has been enormous, but we are far from curing all forms of cancer. Today, one in six people worldwide dies of cancer, and you could be one of them. Now imagine if the demand was greater. Imagine, if instead of a billion people able to pay for cancer treatment, there were four billion. Or seven billion. Imagine how much medicine could have developed, if we had invested seven times more in cancer treatment. On top of that, there is so much human potential wasted right now. The work of a poor farmer in a developing country, is not useful for you. But if he gets richer, her children could spend their time at university, developing things that might be useful to you. Instead of only having a few innovation hot spots in the developed world, we would have them all over the world.The product of mankind's research would be much greater than it is today.

Could we have already cured the cancer if that had been the case?

Well, maybe. If we spent seven times more on research, we would have seven times more people working on it, and a global medical research network; things would certainly be much more advanced than they are currently. And this is the heart of the argument. The more people who want the same thing as you, the more likely you are to get it. This is what it means to live in a positive sum world. You don't win more cake if the poor places remain so, but you gain more cake if poor places get richer. contribute with their ideas, and make the overall cake grow.

Do you like space travel?

Imagine if there were billions of people in Africa and Asia, with their own space programs, their requests for satellites, lunar bases and cities on Mars.

Do you like to be alive?

A few billion people paying for medical research, could literally save your life. It is in your interest that people around the world become richer. The faster we get to this version of the world, the better it will be for you personally. No matter what your motivation, working for a better world is a very good thing to do. For the others, and for you.

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