It’s a given that we worry about the wrong thing in contemporary society.
My previous post highlighted the ultimate cause of death. This is the wrong thing to worry about: dying of cancer in 2014 is sad, but it also indicates that you missed out on dying from something like typhoid fever as you would have done a century ago. There’s an aphorism that I heard years ago that’s relevant here: “Most men die with prostate cancer, but not of prostate cancer”.
Basically, we ought to be focusing on days of potential life lost, rather than cause of death. That we’d focus on more important stuff, like car crashes, suicides, and AIDS.
Anyway, an improved version of the previous post focuses on this diagram (via bookofjoe). This shows life-years lost (that’s good). But, it shows them worldwide (which doesn’t do much for America’s weird proclivities). And it uses a misleading 3-D perspective (which distorts our senses).
There also isn’t a before and after: cancer is as big a pink area as it is because the yellow and green areas have gotten smaller through time.
What can we learn from this?
- Malaria is huge. Bill and Melinda Gates, or Bjorn Lomborg, are right to be focusing on this.
- War is tragic, but is hugely overrated as a problem.
- AIDS is a much bigger problem than most of the stuff we spend money on in hospitals and doctor’s offices.
- Road accidents are tragically large. I wonder how much of this could be completely eliminated by stronger enforcement of road rules. Given how little of the rest of the chart is related to crime, perhaps it’s time we recognize that bad driving is the biggest crime of all.
- Huge chunks of the yellow block are essentially macroeconomic: starvation, diarrhea, pre-term birth, lower respiratory infections, neo-natal conditions and neo-natal infections. It is a tragedy of contemporary developed economy politics that we don’t hold accountable leaders of developed countries who’s policies lead to untimely deaths. These people are mass-murderers before they even get out the guns.