Between the first modern Europeans arriving in 1492 and the Victorian age, the indigenous population of the new world dropped by at least 90%.
Not the conquistadores and company -- they killed lots of people but their death count is nothing compared to what they brought with them: small pox, typhus, tuberculosis, influenza, bubonic plague, cholera, mumps, measles and more leapt from those first explores to the costal tribes, then onward the microscopic invaders spread through a hemisphere of people with no defenses against them. Tens of millions died.
These germs decided the fate of these battles long before the fighting started.
Now ask yourself: why didn't Europeans get sick?
If new-worlders were vulnerable to old-world diseases, then surely old-worlders would be vulnerable to new world diseases.
Yet, there was no Americapox spreading eastward infecting Europe and cutting the population from 90 million to 9. Had Americapox existed it would have rather dampened European ability for transatlantic expansion.
To answer why this didn't happen: we need first to distinguish regular diseases -- like the common cold -- from what we'll call plagues.
1) Spread quickly between people.
Sneezes spread plages faster than handshakes which are faster than… closeness. Plagues use more of this than this.
2) They kill you quickly or you become immune.
Catch a plague and your dead within seven to thirty days. Survive and you'll never get it again. Your body has learned to fight it, you might still carry it -- the plague lives in you, you can still spread it, but it can't hurt you.
The surface answer to this question isn't that Europeans had better immune systems to fight off new world plages -- it's that new world didn't have plagues for them to catch. They had regular diseases but there was no Americapox to carry.
These are history's biggest killers, and they all come from the old world.
Let's dig deeper, and talk Cholera, a plague that spreads if your civilization does a bad job of separating drinking water from pooping water. London was terrible at this making it the cholera capital of the world. Cholera can rip through dense neighborhoods killing swaths of the population, before moving onward. But that's the key: it has to move on.
In a small, isolated group, a plague like cholera cannot survive -- it kills all available victims, leaving only the immune and then theres nowhere to go -- it's a fire that burns through its fuel.
But a city -- shining city on the hill -- to which rural migrants flock, where hundreds of babies are born a day: this is sanctuary for the fire of plague; fresh kindling comes to it. The plague flares and smolders and flares and smolders again -- impossible to extinguish.
Historically in city borders plagues killed faster than people could breed. Cities grew because more people moved to them than died inside of them. Cities only started growing from their own population in the 1900s when medicine finally left its leaches and bloodletting phase and entered its soap and soup phase -- giving humans some tools to slow death.
But before that a city was an unintentional playground for plages and a grim machine to sort the immune from the rest.
So the deeper, answer is that The New World didn't have plagues because the new world didn't have big, dense, terribly sanitized deeply interconnected cities for plages to thrive.
OK, but The New World wasn't completely barren of cities. And tribes weren't completely isolated, otherwise the newly-arrived smallpox in the 1400s couldn't have spread.
Cities are only part of the puzzle: they're required for plages, but cities don't make the germs that start the plagues -- those germs come from the missing piece.
Now, most germs don't want to kill you for the same reason you don't want to burn down your house: germs live in you. Chromic diseases like leprosy are terrible because they're very good at not killing you.
Plague lethality is an accident, a misunderstanding, because the germs that cause them don't know they're in humans, they're germs that think they're in this.
Plagues come from animals.
Whooping cough comes from pigs, and does flu as well as from birds. Our friend the cow alone is responsible for measles, tuberculosis, and smallpox.
For the cow these diseases are no big deal -- like colds for us. But when cow germs get in humans thing things they do to make the cow a little sick, makes humans very sick. Deadly sick.
Germs jumping species like this is extraordinarily rare. That's why generations of humans can spend time around animals just fine. Being the patient zero of a new animal-to-human plague is winning a terrible lottery.
But a colonial-age city raises the odds: there used to be animals everywhere, horses, herds of livestock in the streets, open slaughterhouses, meat markets pre-refrigeration, and a river of literal human and animal excrement running through it all.
A more perfect environment for diseases to jump species could hardly be imagined.
So the deeper answer is that plagues come from animals, but so rarely you have to raise the odds and with many chances for infection and give the new-born plague a fertile environment to grow. The old world had the necessary pieces in abundance.
But, why was a city like London filled with sheep and pigs and cows and Tenochtitlan wasn't?
This brings us to the final level. (For this video anyway)
Some animals can be put to human use -- this is what domestication means, animals you can breed, not just hunt.
Forget a the moment the modern world: go back to 10,000BC when tribes of humans reached just about everywhere. If you were in one of these tribes what local animals could you capture, alive, and successfully pen to breed?
Maybe you're in North Dakota and thinking about catching a Buffalo: an unpredictable, violent tank on hooves, that can outrun you across the planes, leap over your head head and travels in herds thousands strong.
Oh, and you have no horses to help you -- because there are no horses on the continent. Horses live here -- and won't be brought over until, too late.
It's just you, a couple buddies, and stone-based tools. American Indians didn't fail to domesticate buffalo because they couldn't figure it out. They failed because it's a buffalo. No one could do it -- buffalo would have been amazing creature to put to human work back in BC, but it's not going to happen -- humans have only barely domesticated buffalo with all our modern tools.
The New World didn't have good animal candidates for domestication. Almost everything big enough to be useful is also was to too dangerous, or too agile.
Meanwhile the fertile crescent to central Europe had: cows and and pigs and sheep and goats, easy pests animals comparatively begging to be domesticated.
A wild boar is something to contend with if you only have stone tools but it's possible to catch and pen and bread and feed to eat -- because pigs can't leap to the sky or crush all resistance beneath their hooves.
In The New World the only native domestication contestant was: llamas. They're better than nothing, which is probably why the biggest cities existed in South America -- but they're no cow. Ever try to manage a heard of llamas in the mountains of Peru? Yeah, you can do it, but it's not fun. Nothing but drama, these llamas.
These might seem, cherry-picked examples, because aren't there hundreds of thousands of species of animals? Yes, but when you're stuck at the bottom of the tech tree almost none of them can be domesticated. From the dawn of man until this fateful meeting humans domesticated maybe a baker's dozen of unique species the world over, and even to get that high a number you need to stretch it to include honeybees and silkworms. Nice to have, but you can't build a civilization on a foundation of honey alone.
These early tribes weren't smarter, or better at domestication. The old world had more valuable and easy animals. With dogs, herding sheep and cattle is easier. Now humans have a buddy to keep an eye on the clothing factory, and the milk and cheeseburger machine, and the plow-puller. Now farming is easier, which means there's more benefit to staying put, which means more domestication, which means more food which means more people and more density and oh look where we're going. Citiesville, population lots, bring your animals, plagues welcome.
That is the full answer: The lack of new world animals to domesticate, limited not only exposure to germs sources but also limited food production, which limited population growth, which limited cities, which made plagues in The New World an almost impossibility. In the old, exactly the reverse. And thus a continent full of plague and a continent devoid of it.
So when ships landed in the new world there was no Americapox to bring back.
The game of civilization has nothing to do with the players, and everything to do with the map. Access to domesticated animals in numbers and diversity, is the key resource to bootstrapping a complex society from nothing -- and that complexity brings with it, unintentionally, a passive biological weaponry devastating to outsiders.
Start the game again but move the domesticable animals across the sea and history's arrow of disease and death flows in the opposite direction.
Several experts helped fact-check this video, and I'd like to particularly mention Dr Carolyn Harris who helped add in some vital details and without whom the corrections section below would have been embarrassingly long.
The official name is 'Wars of the Roses' not 'War of the Roses'.
Music by Kevin McLeod, not McLead.
1066! The start of the royal family on these fair isles. Well, there were kings and mini countries before that and druids before that, and Pangaea before that, but we have to start somewhere and a millennia ago is plenty far -- if that leaves out Æthelred the Unready, so it goes.
William the Conqueror, conquered in the 'Norman Conquest' -- Norman here being code for French.
Because it's the olden days, people had lots of kids, but to keep things simple this family tree is going to leave out many of them on each branch because not every child matters.
So William had three kids we care about: William II, Henry I and Adela.
If you've seen the video about royal succession -- click here if you haven't -- you'll know that formal rules for passing on the crown will get established, but for now, it's a free-for-all, home team advantage to the eldest son, but never forget bigger-army diplomacy.
Upon William the Conquerors death, William II became king.
William II didn't marry, and on a bros day out with Henry died in a 'Hunting Accident' that gave Henry I the crown.
Henry I had at least 26 children of which only two were 100% legit. He declared his daughter would rule next (after his son died in a ship wreck) and swore his knights to honor Empress Matilda by crossing their hearts, hoping to die, sticking a needle in their eye -- but when Henry I died while Matilda was in France, many ignored this while her cousin Stephen raced to Westminster using faster army diplomacy to get coronated first.
Empress Matilda did eventually return and start a decades-long civil war -- that was pretty much a stalemate because turtling in the 1100s was an effective RTS tactic.
While she did rule part of the island, as Matilda never had an official coronation, her monarchical status is disputed.
Now, as Stephen's children were either dead, disinterested, or a nun -- his crown went to his nephew, Henry II who had four sons: Henry the Young, Richard the Lionheart, King John… and Geoff. (Guess who died before his turn?)
Henry II saw the history thus far of conquering, assassination, (maybe) usurpation, attritional war -- and decided waiting until after the death of the current king before sorting out the next king didn't work.
So Henry II changed the system and crowned Henry the Young co-king with him, invoking the rule of two: one is none. Two is one. If it's important, you need a backup.
It was a good plan for stability, helped by the young King's popularity, but unfortunately -- the apprentice rebelled against the master, rallying his brothers -- which resulted in another civil war of disputed monarchs during which Henry the Young died of dysentery, Henry the Elder died of fever, and Richard I took the crown.
After Richard came John and four eldest son successions in a row: John to Henry III (insert Magna Carta here) to Edward I (Longshanks) to Edward II -- to Edward III.
Actually Ed II was overthrown by Isabelle of France A.K.A the She-Wolf of France A.K.A. his wife. After deposing her husband, she acted as regent for their son. Every one of these arrows glosses over a bit of complexity.
Edward III had five sons: Edward the Black Prince, Lionel, John, Edmund, and Thomas, none of which would wear the crown.
When Edward III died, his throne would have gone to The Black Prince, but he was dead at the time so the crown went to his boringly named son Richard, now the second.
There's a bunch of drama lamma stuff around Richard the second which your English teacher might force you to read about -- but spoiler alert, history's ending is always the same: bigger-army diplomacy, this time from Henry IV who gets the crown and Richard II gets starvation in captivity.
Another Henry before we get to the War of the Roses:
A war that strikes terror (and boredom) in the minds of students of history the nation over who have to deal with this family tree 'simplified' to explain why everyone was angry, but the shortest version ever is Edward III's great, great, grandsons duked it out, even though one of them was dead for part of the fight -- but we can't get into that now so Henry VI to Edward IV to Henry VI to Edward IV. The end.
Edward IV, on his deathbed left his crown to his son. But being twelve he needed protection, so Richard, his best-ist uncle in the world, promised to take super-good care of him. Edward V then promptly disappeared under suspicious circumstances that left Richard to become Richard the third.
But he didn't stay king for long because Edward III's great, great, great, great grandson Henry VII -- took the crown, put a ring on Elizabeth of York to lock down that royal legitimacy and then sired Henry VIII -- splitter of churches, and ladies.
Henry VIII thought it was high time to formalize the rules of inheritance, so he wrote them out in his will -- basically saying oldest boys first, girls only if there aren't any boys -- and Parliament approved the rules.
Which should have made everything neat and tidy, but we're about to enter the really messy time...
… Because Henry's son lived just long enough to screw it up -- inheriting the throne at 9 there was, of course, a scheming protectorate running things, yet he still declared at 15 that his father's rules were dumb and his sisters were dumb and that his first cousin once removed, Lady Jane Grey, should be the next monarch instead.
Then he died and Lady Jane Grey became queen at sweet sixteen, sort of -- in a disputed status way for nine days, until beheaded by Mary, the first really, truly officially nobody doubts it Queen.
Mary didn't have any kids, and passed the crown to Elizabeth I who became the second queen in a row… to also not have children. But, no problem because Lady Jane Grey was next in … oh. Right.
Now, this is the point at which we acknowledge, Scotland Exists. They'd been doing their own royal thing which for our purposes joins the English branch where Edward III's great granddaughter married into it in the 1400s and then goes: James, James, James, James, James, Mary Queen of Scotts, James. Bringing us back to the 1600s.
Henry the VIII's sister importantly also married into this line of the family giving it English legitimacy points in the eyes of the English Parliament, which asked to borrow Scotland's James, making him king of two countries with two numbers in his name depending on where you're counting from.
James had a son, Charles I, and you might think this unification of the monarchs means the very messy time is over.
Cromwell didn't like kings and beheaded Charles I: declaring no royals no longer, making himself The Lord Protector which was in no way like a king -- even though he was in charge and it was a hereditary office passed to his son.
But the Cromwells didn't last -- mainly because his son was a fancy country squire who didn't follow rule 0: keep the army happy -- giving Charles's son, Charles II, the ability to reestablish the monarchy.
Charles II had lots of children, all of which were illegitimate, leaving his brother, James II next in line. But James II was Catholic and ever since Henry split the church, Catholics had terrible approval ratings. But conveniently, he had nice Protestant daughters, one married to a Dutch Prince who by the nature of these things was the grandson of Charles I. Bonus English legitimacy points, plus, who doesn't like the Dutch?
With James so unpopular and William and Mary so popular, the army and nobles pretty much invited the royal couple to 'invade' and James II fled.
William and Mary ruled as co-monarchs, but without children the crown went to Queen Anne, who also didn't produce any heirs, though not from lack of effort -- she was pregnant seventeen times.
Again, finding themselves with a no-royals-no-longer situation, Parliament decided it was really, truly seriously the time to sort out the rules of inheritance to avoid pretenders from every branch of this messy tree fighting over the crown.
Parliament did a royal reboot to clear the cruft, defining Sophia of Hanover -- the granddaughter of James dual numbers to be the new starting point for all claims to the crown.
These rules finally stuck, thus ending the very messy time.
George I, son of Sophia, was the first king under the new rules, then his son George II, to George III, and even though he lost America and his mind, never fear, the rules are here, so the crown continued to calmly descend the family tree, going to George IV, who didn't have any surviving children, to William IV who had ten children -- all illegitimate, then passing through his dead younger brother to Queen Victoria who started her reign in 1837 and made it to just over the finishing line of the 20th century. Which is a doubly impressively long time given the state of medical technology then. After the end of her age, the crown went to her son Edward VII to George V…
to Edward VIII who finally breaks up this neat and tidy (and somewhat boring) line of succession by committing a scandal: marrying a commoner. An American Commoner! An American Commoner divorcee! twice over
Actually, the divorces were a real problem and weren't compatible with the Monarch's role as Head of State and also the Church of England in the 1930s. Edward abdicated to his brother George VI -- who was reluctant to take the crown, and then had to oversee World War II and the subsequent breakup of the British Empire -- which drained the reluctant King's health, who died at 56 leaving the crown to Elizabeth the Second, in 1952 at the age of 25. Seven years older than Victoria, her great great grandmother was on her coronation day, but in early September, 2015, Elizabeth became the longest-reigning Queen in not just British history, but world history.
From Elizabeth II the crown continues on to Charles, the longest heir apparent in British history, to his son William, to his son George.
And that, is a brief history of the royal family.
The Lord of the Rings has lots of different kinds of people: elven people, dwarven people, tree people, half-sized people, even people people.
There's like a million pages of background explaining this world that goes much deeper than the books or the movies, but if you don't want to read it all here's a four minute summary, starting with Wizards:
It's easy to mistake the wizards as humans trained in magic, like elsewhere.
But in the Lord of the Rings, wizards are low(ish) level angels. They're called Istari (get ready for lots of names in this video) and there are five of them -- Sauroman the White, Gandalf the Grey, Radagast the Brown, and the two blue wizards.
Their power comes mostly from being supernatural and not so much from book learnin'.
They're sent (by who? We’ll get to that in a second.) to help the people of world stand against evil -- not wildly successfully either. Sauroman, the leader of the five with a mind of metal and wheels gets corrupted, Radagast, gets distracted by all the pretty nature, the blue wizards just kind of fade into the East -- possibly starting cults of magic and it's only Gandalf that stays true to the quest.
Now, where there's angels there’s a god and in this Universe that's Eru Ilúvatar.
In the beginning there was naught but Eru and the infinite timeless nothing, which is rather boring so he created lots of angels to keep him company.
Ilúvatar 's angels are called the Ainur and are divided into two groups The Valar (Guardians of the world of which there are fourteen or fifteen depending on who you want to count) and their servants The Maiar.
The Wizards are the Istari a subset of the Maiar, which serve the Valar, all created by Ilúvatar.
Ilúvatar and all his angels sang together to make the world. The harmony started out great But there was one Valar named Melkor, and just from the name Melkor, you know what's going to happen, even before learning he's also the smartest, and the most powerful of the angels. And also a bit of a loner.
Melkor didn't want to just be part of the chorus like his dimmer Valar co-workers, he wanted his own song and creations and so his voice became discordant from the others and... created all the suffering and evil in the world.
But Melkor's song also attracted some Maiar to his side including the balrogs. Which means the balrog is a low-level angel making him on the same level of the power org chart as Gandalf: which explains why an old man can hold his ground against a giant lava monster.
Through his discordant singing Melkor also created some of the evil creatures in the world such as the dragons and trolls. Which finally gets us to things that aren't angels.
Other Valar, also made their own non-angelic creations, though in a cooperative spirit with Ilúvatar.
Manwë makes the Great Eagles.
Aulë made the dwarves and his wife Yavanna made all of the animals and plants in the world before capping off that minor task with the Ents, her own race of sentient creatures.
While Ilúvatar seemed happy to leave it to his Valar to make most of the stuff -- he did personally create men and elves which makes them special and kind of above all the other living creatures. (Sorry Dwarves)
And of these two, the men are Ilúvatar 's favorite children: and he show's this by giving men shorter lives than everybody else and also the gift of death? Thanks a lot, Dad. But their short lives set them apart from the other creatures and they aren't tied to the music of creation and the world like everyone else and so are the able to forge their own futures. These qualities make them the get-stuff-done species of middle earth.
Elves, on the other hand, are so connected to the world they're practically made of nature. Same with the Dwarves in their own way, and the Ents of course. These species all but follow the flow of nature and it's partly why the humans have such a hard time getting them to do anything.
Even when faced with armies of Orcs, which brings us to Orcs. Melkor was powerful but couldn't make his own creatures as great as the elves and men and so cheated by corrupting some of them in the beginning and selectively breeding them over the generations into these creatures.
This business Melkor was up to of torturing elves, making monsters, recruiting angels from the other side eventually, but unsurprisingly, led to a war that Melkor loses and got him banished into the void.
All of the conflict in the Lord of the Rings comes long after the epic good vs. evil fight of that universe. Sauron, the Big Bad who caused all of the trouble in these books was just one of the Maiar, though an unusually powerful one, who started his career as Melkor's lieutenant -- after the war he did make a ring to focus his strength, but that's a story for another time.
Last, but not least, we have the hobbits. Even though they seem related to dwarves, what with the living underground and the vertical challenge, hobbits are a subspecies of men. For such an important and pivotal race there is little written of their origin other than the phrase 'related to men.' Turns out with a million pages you still can't talk about everything, just like in a four minute video.
Extra: STV Election Walkthrough
Queen Lion is looking to make the elections in her animal kingdom more fair. Currently she divides her citizens into ranges each of which selects one representative to go to the jungle council which makes laws for the kingdom.
But her citizens are unhappy, and it's easy to see why: the council is full of monkeys. Of course some of her citizens are monkeys, but not all of them. This council doesn't fairly represent her kingdom.
Queen lion visits one of the ranges to find out what's wrong and how to fix it.
In this range there five monkeys, four tigers, three owls, two lynx and one buffalo. One of each runs for representative and all citizens vote for their own species.
The election rule is that the candidate with the most votes wins, which is the monkey. But it's a pretty unsatisfying result considering that 2/3rds of citizens in this range aren't monkeys and wouldn't vote for monkeys.
This is the same across all the ranges of the kingdom, the monkeys have more votes than anybody else, so they win all the elections, even though they are a minority of the total population. Closer inspection reveals that the independent advisors hired to draw the range boundaries in the first place weren't as independent as they first appeared.
The result is unhappy citizens who don't trust the jungle council to make the fairest laws for all, quite rightly.
Now Queen lion wants to maximize the number of citizens happy with the election results. One way to do that is to abolish the ranges and use a proportional system... ...But her citizens want local representatives.
So Queen lion needs a system that both make her citizens happier by having a more representative council while keeping local elections in place.
After doing a little research she finds out how: Single Transferable Vote.
The big change with STV is that ranges send more than one representative, which may seem weird, but queen lion decides to test it out: she takes three ranges which used to each send one representative and combines them into one bigger range that will send three.
On election day citizens go to the polls and the results in this new range are just the same as they were in the old ranges: 34% for Monkey, 33% for Owl and 33% for Lynx.
But this isn't most votes wins: with STV to figure out the winners take the total votes and divide by the number of representatives needed, in this case 3 which gives 33% as the amount a candidates needs to win.
So all three candidates go to the council -- which accurately represents the citizens in the range.
Whereas under the old system each range would have sent a monkey. Leaving 2/3rd of the citizens without representation. A bigger range with more representatives allows the range to be more proportional.
This test turned out well, but it was also as simple as could be -- now Queen Lion wants to see what happens in a race where not everyone is a winner.
The next big range she tests has five candidates running for office: Gorilla, Tasier, Monkey, Tiger, and Lynx, three of which can be representatives.
Election day comes and goes, and here are the results of citizens first choices:
Tasier gets 5% Gorilla gets 28% Monkey gets 33% Tiger gets 21% Lynx gets 13%
As before, a candidate needs 33% to win. Monkey has that as so is immediately selected as one of the three representatives.
But no one else reached the winning 33% so how are the other two representatives selected?
Step one: get rid of the biggest loser. Sorry tasier -- you really had no chance at all.
Now, when the citizens voted, they could have just put an X next to the candidate they liked most but with STV they can also rank their favorite candidates. This is important because it shows how the election would have turned out if one of the candidates hadn't run.
Tiny and Worried Tasiers would have voted for the big calm gorilla without tasier in the race. So if their candidate can't win, they want their votes to go to Gorilla instead. This pushes gorilla up to 33% and he become the next representative.
Ranking allows citizens to support their favorite candidate without worry -- there's no point in strategizing about how everyone else is going to vote. The system works to maximize voter happiness with the result.
Back to the range: there's still one representative to select, so the next biggest loser is Lynx. His voters don't like simians, but they do think tiger's interests are similar to theirs and so if Lynx can't win they want him to have their votes. Tiger gets reaches 33% and becomes the third and final representative.
The election result looks pretty good especially considering citizens first and second choices.
Now more citizens have a local representative they can feel comfortable approaching, whereas using the old system, everybody gets a monkey.
Lastly queen lion wants know what happens in a range with just two political parties. Under the most-votes-wins systems, multiple candidates from the same party would be a disaster: they'd split their voters and hand the win to their opposition.
Queen lion makes one last test range with 2/3rd tigers and 1/3 gorillas that as before, needs three representatives.
Because with STV citizens rank their candidates there can be more than one candidate running at the same time without any problems.
The tigers run two candidates as do the gorillas.
White tiger becomes the first representative, but what happens next? While tiger seems to be the biggest loser, it's also obvious that he would have gotten way more votes if white tiger wasn't in the race. If a candidate has more votes than they need, like white tiger does, the first step is to give the extra votes to their second choice. This gets tiger to 33% and he becomes the next representative.
If that seems strange, there are two things to consider:
1) If instead the extra votes were ignored, and tiger eliminated then the gorillas would get the remaining two wins, which would obviously not be represent the range.
2) Ignoring these 'extra' votes is punishing citizens who backed the popular candidate, which makes voters start thinking about how everyone else will vote, rather than what they really want. If a candidate gets extra votes in the first place it also means that those who voted for him are a big section of the population and thus fairly should get more representation.
Right: after the extra votes go to tiger, the election finishes as before: Silverback came in last, is eliminated and his voters' second choice is the younger candidate so gorilla gets in. And the results are fair.
Queen Lion has now seen STV work. Whether a range has one party or lots the process is still the same:
- Citizens rank their favorite candidates.
- Any candidate above the threshold wins immediately,
- 'Extra' votes go to their next choice.
- If no winner, last place is eliminated, and the votes to go their next choice.
- Repeat until all the winners are found.
This whole this process is designed to maximize the number of citizens who are happy with the result.
This process gives STV has many advantages over the old, most-votes-wins system:
- Citizens can honestly vote for their favorite candidate without worrying about what everyone else is going to do.
- It's more proportional. So monkeying with the borders matters less.
- Almost all citizens will have a local representative they actually voted for.
In the end Queen lion decides to switch the council's elections to Single Transferable Vote to make a better jungle council for all.
Every human used to have to hunt or gather to survive. But humans are smart-ly lazy so we made tools to make our work easier. From sticks, to plows to tractors we’ve gone from everyone needing to make food to, modern agriculture with almost no one needing to make food — and yet we still have abundance.
Of course, it’s not just farming, it’s everything. We’ve spent the last several thousand years building tools to reduce physical labor of all kinds. These are mechanical muscles — stronger, more reliable, and more tireless than human muscles could ever be.
And that's a good thing. Replacing human labor with mechanical muscles frees people to specialize and that leaves everyone better off even though still doing physical labor. This is how economies grow and standards of living rise.
Some people have specialized to be programmers and engineers whose job is to build mechanical minds. Just as mechanical muscles made human labor less in demand so are mechanical minds making human brain labor less in demand.
This is an economic revolution. You may think we've been here before, but we haven't.
This time is different.
When you think of automation, you probably think of this: giant, custom-built, expensive, efficient but really dumb robots blind to the world and their own work. There were a scary kind of automation but they haven't taken over the world because they're only cost effective in narrow situations.
But they are the old kind of automation, this is the new kind.
Unlike these things which require skilled operators and technicians and millions of dollars, Baxter has vision and can learn what you want him to do by watching you do it. And he costs less than the average annual salary of a human worker. Unlike his older brothers he isn't pre-programmed for one specific job, he can do whatever work is within the reach of his arms. Baxter is what might be thought of as a general purpose robot and general purpose is a big deal.
Think computers, they too started out as highly custom and highly expensive, but when cheap-ish general-purpose computers appeared they quickly became vital to everything.
A general-purpose computer can just as easily calculate change or assign seats on an airplane or play a game or do anything by just swapping its software. And this huge demand for computers of all kinds is what makes them both more powerful and cheaper every year.
Baxter today is the computer in the 1980s. He’s not the apex but the beginning. Even if Baxter is slow his hourly cost is pennies worth of electricity while his meat-based competition costs minimum wage. A tenth the speed is still cost effective when it's a hundred times cheaper. And while Baxtor isn't as smart as some of the other things we will talk about, he's smart enough to take over many low-skill jobs.
And we've already seen how dumber robots than Baxter can replace jobs. In new supermarkets what used to be 30 humans is now one human overseeing 30 cashier robots.
Or the hundreds of thousand baristas employed world-wide? There’s a barista robot coming for them. Sure maybe your guy makes your double-mocha-whatever just perfect and you’d never trust anyone else -- but millions of people don’t care and just want a decent cup of coffee. Oh and by the way this robot is actually a giant network of robots that remembers who you are and how you like your coffee no matter where you are. Pretty convenient.
We think of technological change as the fancy new expensive stuff, but the real change comes from last decade's stuff getting cheaper and faster. That's what's happening to robots now. And because their mechanical minds are capable of decision making they are out-competing humans for jobs in a way no pure mechanical muscle ever could.
Imagine a pair of horses in the early 1900s talking about technology. One worries all these new mechanical muscles will make horses unnecessary.
The other reminds him that everything so far has made their lives easier -- remember all that farm work? Remember running coast-to-coast delivering mail? Remember riding into battle? All terrible. These city jobs are pretty cushy -- and with so many humans in the cities there are more jobs for horses than ever.
Even if this car thingy takes off you might say, there will be new jobs for horses we can't imagine.
But you, dear viewer, from beyond 2000 know what happened -- there are still working horses, but nothing like before. The horse population peaked in 1915 -- from that point on it was nothing but down.
There isn’t a rule of economics that says better technology makes more, better jobs for horses. It sounds shockingly dumb to even say that out loud, but swap horses for humans and suddenly people think it sounds about right.
As mechanical muscles pushed horses out of the economy, mechanical minds will do the same to humans. Not immediately, not everywhere, but in large enough numbers and soon enough that it's going to be a huge problem if we are not prepared. And we are not prepared.
You, like the second horse, may look at the state of technology now and think it can’t possibly replace your job. But technology gets better, cheaper, and faster at a rate biology can’t match.
Just as the car was the beginning of the end for the horse so now does the car show us the shape of things to come.
Self-driving cars aren't the future: they're here and they work. Self-driving cars have traveled hundreds of thousands of miles up and down the California coast and through cities -- all without human intervention.
The question is not if they'll replaces cars, but how quickly. They don’t need to be perfect, they just need to be better than us. Humans drivers, by the way, kill 40,000 people a year with cars just in the United States. Given that self-driving cars don’t blink, don’t text while driving, don’t get sleepy or stupid, it easy to see them being better than humans because they already are.
Now to describe self-driving cars as cars at all is like calling the first cars mechanical horses. Cars in all their forms are so much more than horses that using the name limits your thinking about what they can even do. Lets call self-driving cars what they really are:
Autos: the solution to the transport-objects-from-point-A-to-point-B problem. Traditional cars happen to be human sized to transport humans but tiny autos can work in wear houses and gigantic autos can work in pit mines. Moving stuff around is who knows how many jobs but the transportation industry in the United States employs about three million people. Extrapolating world-wide that’s something like 70 million jobs at a minimum.
These jobs are over.
The usual argument is that unions will prevent it. But history is filled with workers who fought technology that would replace them and the workers always loose. Economics always wins and there are huge incentives across wildly diverse industries to adopt autos.
For many transportation companies, the humans are about a third of their total costs. That's just the straight salary costs. Humans sleeping in their long haul trucks costs time and money. Accidents cost money. Carelessness costs money. If you think insurance companies will be against it, guess what? Their perfect driver is one who pays their small premium but never gets into an accident.
The autos are coming and they're the first place where most people will really see the robots changing society. But there are many other places in the economy where the same thing is happening, just less visibly.
So it goes with autos, so it goes for everything.
The Shape of Things to Come
It's easy to look at Autos and Baxters and think: technology has always gotten rid of low-skill jobs we don't want people doing anyway. They'll get more skilled and do better educated jobs -- like they've always done.
Even ignoring the problem of pushing a hundred-million additional people through higher education, white-collar work is no safe haven either. If your job is sitting in front of a screen and typing and clicking -- like maybe you're supposed to be doing right now -- the bots are coming for you too, buddy.
Software bots are both intangible and way faster and cheaper than physical robots. Given that white collar workers are, from a companies perspective, both more expensive and more numerous -- the incentive to automate their work is greater than low skilled work.
And that's just what automation engineers are for. These are skilled programmers whose entire job is to replace your job with a software bot.
You may think even the world's smartest automation engineer could never make a bot to do your job -- and you may be right -- but the cutting edge of programming isn't super-smart programmers writing bots it's super-smart programmers writing bots that teach themselves how to do things the programmer could never teach them to do.
How that works is well beyond the scope of this video, but the bottom line is there are limited ways to show a bot a bunch of stuff to do, show the bot a bunch of correctly done stuff, and it can figure out how to do the job to be done.
Even with just a goal and no example of how to do it the bots can still learn. Take the stock market which, in many ways, is no longer a human endeavor. It's mostly bots that taught themselves to trade stocks, trading stocks with other bots that taught themselves.
Again: it's not bots that are executing orders based on what their human controllers want, it's bots making the decisions of what to buy and sell on their own.
As a result the floor of the New York Stock exchange isn't filled with traders doing their day jobs anymore, it's largely a TV set.
So bots have learned the market and bots have learned to write. If you've picked up a newspaper lately you've probably already read a story written by a bot. There are companies that are teaching bots to write anything: Sports stories, TPS reports, even say, those quarterly reports that you write at work.
Paper work, decision making, writing -- a lot of human work falls into that category and the demand for human metal labor is these areas is on the way down. But surely the professions are safe from bots? Yes?
When you think 'lawyer' it's easy to think of trials. But the bulk of lawyering is actually drafting legal documents predicting the likely outcome and impact of lawsuits, and something called 'discovery' which is where boxes of paperwork gets dumped on the lawyers and they need to find the pattern or the one out-of-place transaction among it all.
This can all be bot work. Discovery, in particular, is already not a human job in many firms. Not because there isn't paperwork to go through, there's more of it than ever, but because clever research bots sift through millions of emails and memos and accounts in hours not weeks -- crushing human researchers in terms of not just cost and time but, most importantly, accuracy. Bots don't get sleeping reading through a million emails.
But that's the simple stuff: IBM has a bot named Watson: you may have seen him on TV destroy humans at Jeopardy — but that was just a fun side project for him.
Watson's day-job is to be the best doctor in the world: to understand what people say in their own words and give back accurate diagnoses. And he's already doing that at Slone-Kettering, giving guidance on lung cancer treatments.
Just as Auto don’t need to be perfect -- they just need to make fewer mistakes than humans, -- the same goes for doctor bots.
Human doctors are by no means perfect -- the frequency and severity of misdiagnosis are terrifying -- and human doctors are severely limited in dealing with a human's complicated medical history. Understanding every drug and every drug's interaction with every other drug is beyond the scope of human knowability.
Especially when there are research robots whose whole job it is to test 1,000s of new drugs at a time.
Human doctors can only improve through their own experiences. Doctor bots can learn from the experiences of every doctor bot. Can read the latest in medical research and keep track of everything that happens to all his patients world-wide and make correlations that would be impossible to find otherwise.
Not all doctors will go away, but when doctor bots are comparable to humans and they're only as far away as your phone -- the need for general doctors will be less.
So professionals, white-collar workers and low-skill workers all have something to worry about.
But perhaps you're still not worried because you're a special creative snowflakes. Well guess what? You're not that special.
Creativity may feel like magic, but it isn't. The brain is a complicated machine -- perhaps the most complicated machine in the whole universe -- but that hasn't stopped us from trying to simulate it.
There is this notion that just as mechanical muscles allowed us to move into thinking jobs that mechanical minds will allow us all to move into creative work. But even if we assume the human mind is magically creative -- it's not, but just for the sake of argument -- artistic creativity isn't what the majority of jobs depend on. The number of writers and poets and directors and actors and artist who actually make a living doing their work is a tiny, tiny portion of the labor force. And given that these are professions that are dependent on popularity they will always be a small part of the population.
There is no such thing as a poem and painting based economy.
Oh, by the way, this music in the background that your listening to? It was written by a bot. Her name is Emily Howel and she can write an infinite amount of new music all day for free. And people can't tell the difference between her and human composers when put to a blind test.
Talking about artificial creativity gets weird fast -- what does that even mean? But it's nonetheless a developing field.
People used to think that playing chess was a uniquely creative human skill that machines could never do right up until they beat the best of us. And so it goes for all human talent.
Right: this might have been a lot to take in, and you might want to reject it -- it's easy to be cynical of the endless, and idiotic, predictions of futures that never are. So that's why it's important to emphasize again this stuff isn't science fiction. The robots are here right now. There is a terrifying amount of working automation in labs and wear houses that is proof of concept.
We have been through economic revolutions before, but the robot revolution is different.
Horses aren't unemployed now because they got lazy as a species, they’re unemployable. There's little work a horse can do that do that pays for its housing and hay.
And many bright, perfectly capable humans will find themselves the new horse: unemployable through no fault of their own.
But if you still think new jobs will save us: here is one final point to consider. The US census in 1776 tracked only a few kinds of jobs. Now there are hundreds of kinds of jobs, but the new ones are not a significant part of the labor force.
Here's the list of jobs ranked by the number of people that perform them - it's a sobering list with the transportation industry at the top. Going down the list all this work existed in some form a hundred years ago and almost all of them are targets for automation. Only when we get to number 33 on the list is there finally something new.
Don't that every barista and officer worker lose their job before things are a problem. The unemployment rate during the great depression was 25%.
This list above is 45% of the workforce. Just what we've talked about today, the stuff that already works, can push us over that number pretty soon. And given that even our modern technological wonderland new kinds of work are not a significant portion of the economy, this is a big problem.
This video isn't about how automation is bad -- rather that automation is inevitable. It's a tool to produce abundance for little effort. We need to start thinking now about what to do when large sections of the population are unemployable -- through no fault of their own. What to do in a future where, for most jobs, humans need not apply.
Robots, Etc in the Video
Welcome to Hong Kong: the island city of China packed with seven million people at unbelievable density. But if you, dear tourist, start from Victoria Harbor and head toward the mainland you'll find that while Hong Kong is China she doesn't act like it.
To cross the bridge your passport must be checked and stamped and checked and stamped. Not because you're a suspicious foreigner: Mainland Chinese can't just stroll across either, but rather because Hong Kong has her own immigration policy.
And Hong Kong isn't the only isolated island, there's nearby Macau with her own passport-checking bridge and a ferry between them -- which also checks passports. Travel from Hong Kong to Macau to the mainland and back and you'll end up with three stamps, and that goes for everyone: Hong Kongese can't just live in Macau and Macanese can't just live in Hong Kong and they both can just live on the mainland.
Yet it's all China. And inconvenient travel isn't the only speciality of these sister islands. They also have:
- Separate governments and political parties.
- Separate police.
- Separate money.
- Postal systems.
- and languages.
Hong Kong even has her own Olympic team which competed in the 2008 Beijing olympics which doesn't make any kind of sense.
The only things these sister islands don't have that other countries do:
1) Their own armies.
Though that isn't unique with modern countries, and…
2) Formal diplomatic relations.
Though even this unclear as both are members of international trade organizations. And other countries have 'embassies' in Hong Kong and Macau, sure China won't let them be called embassies, those are only for mighty Beijing -- they're called consulates even if they're bigger than Beijing's embassy.
All this makes Hong Kong and Macau, as mentioned in a previous video, the most country-like countries that aren't countries.
So why are they China?
China says so.
It's called 'One China, Two Systems' -- though fast-counters in the audience will see it should be called 'One China, Three Systems. Also there's China's special economic zones (where capitalism runs free) making it more like 'One China Four Systems' -- and if China got her way it might be 'One China, Five Systems'.
But we can't talk about everything so back to China, Hong Kong, and Macau (oh my!)
China ended up having these two essentialy city-states, as always, because Empire.
Portugal showed up in Asia in the 1500s and didn't exactly make friends. China and Portugal skirmished until Portugal used Bigger-pile-of-money diplomacy to bribe a local Chinese official into turning over the islands of Macau as a trading port.
Later, Britannia found China and discovered she had many of lovely things like silks and porcelain and precious, precious tea that Britannia craved. In return China wanted from Britannia… to be left alone and Britannia nobly agreed to respect China's independence and soverenty.
Nothing generates demand like addiction -- which Britannia was happy to supply. And, her bigger-gun diplomacy secured Hong Kong as a base through which the drugs must flow.
Later in a world where telegraphs and lightbulbs were newfangled a lease gave control of Hong Kong to Britannia for 99 years or quote "as good as forever", kicking the transfer problem down the generations to be delt with by the unimaginably futuristic society of the 1990s.
Thus these sister cities grow up under the influence of their Emperiffic parents. Hong Kong had English common law and lived in Britannia's org chart as one of her many crown colonies and Macau had Portuguese civil law.
And the parental effect is still seen today: visit Hong Kong and she is clearly Britannia's daughter what with her love of business and international finance (and lasers!) and english-accented language and near-identical transport system.
Macau had a more troubled adolescence, as her bigger sister stole the spotlight with her trading skills. But Macau eventually grew up to be the gambling capital of the world. She's Las Vegas x10 with a mixture of Portugal and China.
But Empires come and empires go, and the 90s eventually arrived, meaning Britannia's lease expired. Portugal claimed the treaty gave her control of Macau forever but China disagreed and the UN was in a no-empires-no-longer mood, and frankly had Portugal complained too much, China could have used her own bigger-army diplomacy at this point to resolve the situation.
So the transfer was going to happen: but the world was nervous about China, what with the lingering communism and all, so the deal was the Empire's daughters would go but they had to remain basically independent, to which China agreed as long as everyone else agreed to call them China.
The situation was a bit like if the US had to give Alaska back to Russia and Russia super promised to leave Alaska self-governing. You couldn't blame the locals for being nervous.
But, unlike what you'd expect in this case China has mostly left the little sister islands alone.
So everything is dandy...
The handover came with its own version of the as-good-as-forever clause. China didn't agree to leave Hong Kong and Macau alone for all time, only fifty years, again passing political problems to a future generation. (Hopefully one that's actually unimaginably futuristic this time).
Anyway, assuming such provincial concerns as these are not rendered irrelevant by the singularity, what happens in the 2040s? Will Hong Kong and Macau remain tiny city-states or will they lose their independence and be absorbed?
Only China knows, and China does not say.
The Law You Won't Be Told
On a Jury you know your options: guilty, or not. But there's another choice that neither the judge nor the lawyers will tell you -- often because they're not allowed to and also it might better if you don't know.
This video will tell you that third choice, but be warned: simply watching may prevent you from ever serving on a jury -- so this is your last chance to hit the pause button before you learn about...
Jury nullification: when the defendant is 100% beyond-a-reasonable-doubt guilty but the jurors also think he shouldn't be punished. The jury can nullify the law and let him go free.
But before your on your next jury and yell 'Null! Booya!' at the judge you should know that just talking about jury nullification in the wrong circumstances can get you arrested. Though a video such as this one, simply acknowledging the existence of jury nullification and in no way advocating it is totally OK. And, while we're at it:
(CGP Grey is not a lawyer, this is not legal advice it is meant for entertainment purposes only. Seriously, guy, don't do anything in a court of law based on what an Internet Video told you. No joke.)
So why can't you do this? It's because nullification isn't in the law †, but exists as a logical consequence of two other laws:
First: that juries can't be punished for a 'wrong' decision -- no matter the witnesses, DNA, or video proof show. That's the point of a jury: to be the decider.
Second: when a defendant is found not-guilty, that defendant can't be tried again for the same crime ‡.
So there are only two stated options: guilty or not, it's just that jury nullification is when the words of the jurors don't match their thoughts -- for which they can't be punished and their not-guilty decision can't be changed.
These laws are necessary for juries to exist within a fair system, but the logical consequence is... contentious -- lawyers and judges argue about jury nullification like physicists argue about quantum mechanics. Both are difficult to observe and the interpretation of both has a huge philosophical ramification for the subject as a whole.
Is nullification the righteous will of the people or an anarchy of twelve or just how citizens judge their laws?
The go-to example in favor of nullification is the fugitive slave law: when Northern juries refused to convict escaped slaves and set them free.
Can't argue with that.
But the anarchy side is Southern juries refusing to convict white lynch mobs. Not humanity at its best.
But both of these are juries nullifying the law.
Also juries have two options where their thoughts may differ from their words. Jury nullification usually refers to the non-guilty version but juries can convict without evidence just as easily as they can acquit in spite of it.
This is jury nullification too and the jurors are protected by the first rule, though the second doesn't apply and judges have the power to overrule a guilty verdict if they think the jurors are… nt the best. And, of course, a guilty defendant can appeal, at least for a little while. Which makes the guilty form of jury nullification weaker than the not-guilty kind. Cold comfort, though.
Given the possibility of jurors who might ignore the law as written, it's not surprising when picking jurors for a trial, lawyers -- whose existence is dependent on an orderly society -- will ask about nullification, usually in the slightly roundabout way:
"Do you have any beliefs that might prevent you from making a decision based strictly on the law?"
If after learning about jury nullification you think it's a good idea: answer 'yes' and you'll be rejected, but answer 'no' with the intent to get on the jury to nullify and you've just committed perjury -- technically a federal crime -- which makes the optimal strategy once on a jury to zip it.
But This introduces a problem for jurors who intend to nullify: telling the other 11 angry men about your position is risky, which makes nullification as a tool for fixing unjust laws nation wide problematic.
(Not to mention about 95% of criminal charges in the United States never make it to trial and rather end in a plea bargain, but that's a story for another time.)
The only question about jury nullification that may matter is if jurors should be told about it and the courts are near universal † in their decision: 'no way'.
Which might seem self-interested -- again, courts depend on the law -- but there's evidence that telling jurors about nullification changes the way they vote by making evidence less relevant -- which isn't surprising: that's what nullification is. But mock trials also show sympathetic defendants get more non-guilty verdicts and unsympathetic defendants get more guilty verdicts in front of jurors who were explicitly told about nullification compared to those who weren't.
Which sounds bad, but it also isn't difficult to imagine situations where jurors blindly following the law would be terribly unjust -- which is the heart of nullification: juries judge the law, not solely evidence.
In the end righteous will of the people, or anarchy, or citizen lawmaking -- the system leaves you to decide -- but as long as courts are fair they require these rules, so jury nullification will always be with us.
† As with any legal topic, check your local rules and regulations. The video is about Jury Nullification in the United States, but of course, in the US things are still different in each of the states. For example, New Hampshire (live-free-or-die) passed a law explicitly allowing judges and lawyers to inform juries of their ability to nullify laws.
‡ This is the 'double jeopardy' clause -- made famous by its wildly inaccurate movie representation. Each instance of a crime counts as a new crime, so robbing a bank and being found not-guilty on a technicality does not give you a rob-the-bank-again-for-free card.