Saturday, 3 December 2016

2016 did not suck.

The idea 2016 sucked is an indication of the triumph of media over statistics.

In the United States, which I use because their data is very open and thorough, national unemployment is less than 5% and has been steadily dropping. Of those unemployed, most of them are either between jobs by choice, or have not yet ever had major employment. We know this because the proportion of the workforce on unemployment assistance is below 1.20%, the lowest rate in more than 40 years.

Also in the US there was also a record low number (not proportion, raw number) of teenage pregnancies. That means both fewer abortions AND fewer unwanted births. So if you're pro-choice or pro-life, your side is winning.

Globally, the birth rate is falling faster than previously forecast, largely because of faster-than-forecast improvements to the quality of life in India. Last month, the Indian government target for solar power capacity was raised dramatically foe the 3rd time in 6 years because the bringing clean energy to people keeps getting easier and cheaper at a rate faster than anyone could reasonably expect.

Compared to 2015, worldwide sales of electric cars has increased 55%, worldwide use of coal has decreased. Anthropogenic (Man-made) carbon emissions were the same as 2015, despite the world economy growing.  This is an indication that we could get climate change under control.

A lot of the problems of the last couple of years were either mitigated well in 2016, or outright handled.

Remember Ebola? The outbreak is officially over, and was close to over for most of 2016. There is a vaccine that's currently in use, and if something goes wrong, we have another vaccine candidate in Phase III (late human-equivalent testing) trials to take its place. This was the ultimate Ebola outbreak - not just the biggest but the last we will ever see.

Remember the Fukushima disa
ster? Radioactivity in most (not within a km of the damaged reactor) of the region has dropped to levels fit for permanent human habitation. After the disaster, Japan shut down all their nuclear power plants for years for safety upgrades, and 2016 saw the last of them come back online. What happened with the Fukushima reactor was extraordinary, and problem of that magnitude is impossible for CANDU modern reactors.

Remember Zika? The outbreak has been contained. There are scattered reports of new cases, but it's not showing up all over the world as was predicted after the Rio Olympics. On that note, the Rio Olympics seemed unremarkable as far as mishaps and problems are concerned. I saw Rio de Janerio in October. It looked like it has survived well enough.

Remember that war that started in 2016? Me neither. A cursory search finds no armed conflict between two or more different countries that started this year.

You can remember 2016 as the year we lost Alan Rickman, but 40 million people will remember it as the year they got access to clean water.


  1. Well, while I share your enthusiasm in stats, not only because I took your class... some of the stats are an overall. When looking into labour rates of unemployment while it has decreased,we can see that type of work is temporary or part time for example. The fact that Trump won and millions of Americans do not share the same views on those stats that you mention, even showed up by the GOP's denial is alarmingly scary. I think there were these awesome tables on the demographics of the people who vote for Trump and it shows the type of people who are more likely to believe Trumps fallacies. On regards of war conflict, Syria, more specifically Aleepo has been bombarded horribly and many civilians which include women and children keep dying due to the bombs. Importantly, i believe that there's an amazing power on data and stats while also trying to provide a greater understanding of why things happen. Keep up the blogging btw ;)

    1. And we also lost David Bowie and Prince, and Leonard Cohen...too

    2. Yes, a lot of people disagree with me, and that I am only looking in the aggregate. It's the aggregate that matters. Except of course, in the American election where popular vote is an afterthought.

      Aleppo is terrible, but it's been terrible for years. Comparitively, ISIL lost tons of land, and Boko Haram is nearly wiped out, so the sources of violence are diminishing.

      As for the part time jobs, you're on to something there. Labour participation rates are still new the low they reached after the great recession. Wage per week (Wage times hours, inflation adjusted), is much more slowly improving, and even this could be an artifact of low non-housing inflation. It's a complicated picture, and I look forward to the time when a society's ability to keep its people formally busy isn't the main measure of its success.

      Thanks for your insights!

  2. No, thank you for the space! I appreciate you letting people engage in such important conversations :)

    I feel like the increased modern slavery and the scarcity of full time employment given the commodification of human capital and increased outsourcing and power given through Trade agreements to people it is something to watch for.

    Also, your post also reminded me of this one which also deals with some empirical data on how we have evolved but it is hard to see the glass half-full when you are on the other end of the effects of such decision. Many, for sure including me, would like to erase 2016 or I bet you it will go down as the "We don't talk about 2016, ever" moment in history class.

    At least we have FFXV (thank you Boxing day sales!) and nintendo switch and cats to distract us!

    Best wishes for 2017