Building a More Valuable Human
How do we build a more valuable human?
That’s essentially what education is all about. Each of us has only one body and one mind, and whatever we do to increase our skills and capabilities will make each of us more valuable on the world stage.
So how do we calculate the value of someone’s life?
For some of us this is a very disconcerting question because it attempts to put a monetary value on a person, something we prefer to value in far different ways.
But that is exactly what governments and businesses find themselves doing on a daily basis. Every time an insurance company calculates their premiums, militaries plan their budget, or juries calculate an award in a product liability case, the value of human life is a central part of their decisions.
In fact, we make value judgments about people all the time. On a subconscious level we are placing an emotional value on every personal decision, object, place, or thing. The little voice in our head is constantly saying things like:
- This style of clothing will make me look more important, and therefore more valuable
- If I take this training, my boss will find me to be more useful and my salary will go up
- When the mayor died, his estate was worth millions. He must have been a very important person
- As a single mother raising 7 children, she left a tremendous legacy
Much like adding an adjustment for inflation, cost of living increase, or adding a premium for brand name anything, we are constantly readjusting the value filters in our minds.
To some, the difference in value between a homeless person in Africa and the CEO of a major corporation may be well over $1 billion. To others, these are people that should be considered equal in value.
Seven global shifts are currently underway causing the underlying value of human life to move up the exponential growth curve, and along with it, a massive reassessment of corporate decision-making is about to begin.
Past Human Life Calculations
To set the stage, in 1977 there was a televised debate about the value of human life between the late Nobel Economist Milton Friedman and an aspiring young filmmaker Michael Moore.
At the time, Ford motor company was dealing with a series of well publicized car accidents where a ford Pinto was hit from behind, causing the gas tank to explode, resulting in the death of the people inside the car.
In this exchange Moore objects to a decision that was made by Ford Motor Company in the 1970s, based on a typical cost-benefits analysis, to not spend an additional $13 per car to change the design of the Ford Pinto gas tank in a way that would reduce the likelihood of gas-tank explosions.
Friedman contended that Moore’s complaint merely was over the low value of $200,000 per life lost, not over the principle that the value of human life has a finite upper limit. Moore seemed to agree with that principle, but he objected to the idea that some executive at Ford could casually decide the fate of Pinto buyers, and that the value of avoiding a horrible death or injury from a burning Pinto was as low as the company had assumed in its formal risk analysis.
Moore assumed that most Pinto owners would have gladly paid the extra $13 to fix the gas-tank problem. But business decisions like this are far more complicated than that with literally thousands of tradeoff decisions like this being made on the design of every vehicle, where 100% safety can never be guaranteed, and cost savings is always a significant factor.
However, a cost-benefits analysis like this would have looked dramatically different if the value of a human life were to shift from $200,000 to as high as $2 billion sometime in the future.
If you’re wondering how much your life is worth today, you’re not alone. We now have the ability to quantify the value of human life with far greater accuracy.
For this reason I’d like to draw your attention to seven factors that will drive “value-of-life” calculations like this through the roof in the future. Let’s start with declining birth rates.
Seven Global Shifts
1. Declining Birth Rates
In his August 12th appearance at the World Artificial Intelligence Conference in
Shanghai, Elon Musk emphatically stated, “I think the biggest problem the world will face over the next 20 years is population collapse!” And he emphasized the word “collapse!”
At today’s birth rates, over 20 countries will lose half their population by 2100. This includes Korea, Italy, Japan, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Thailand, and several more. China’s population will fall from 1.4 billion people today to 730 million in 80 years.
As birth rates decline, each child becomes more precious, and the value of each life rises.
It is the children and grandchildren of today’s young people that will determine the fate of our world, and those kids are being born primarily in Africa and parts of Asia. Pay close attention to these six countries: Nigeria, Congo, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Angola, and Pakistan. The future of our planet is happening inside these countries.
While fertility rates around the world are plummeting, over half of all the new babies born in the world are being born in these countries.
According to Pew Research, these six countries are projected to account for over half of the world’s population growth through the end of this century.
At the same time, very little money is being invested in educating this future half of the planet. According to the UN, roughly 69 million new teachers are needed.
In Africa, where they have the fastest growing school-age population, over 20% of all children do not attend any school whatsoever.
It’s important to understand that as humans we have a mandate to pass our learning from one generation to the next. But very little of this learning is currently reaching remote regions of the world.
For this reason we are on the verge of an education explosion unlike anything we’ve ever imagined!
2. Improving Global Connectedness
Much of our value to society is being formed around relationships.
The only way the human race will survive is by people forming relationships and having children. Yet there are powerfully few schools that do a good job preparing students even though there have been countless books written on this topic.
In the 1990s, British anthropologist Robin Dunbar claimed that the number of people you can manage strong relationships with was around 150. This became known as the Dunbar Number. However, social media has changed his entire theory.
Social media relationships, something that never even existed 20 years ago, now consumes the vast majority of our relationship-building time. And our expectations surrounding a “good” relationship has vastly changed over the past two decades.
Our ability to connect digitally has done more than just change how we find the perfect romance, it’s changed how we network, form business deals, and sell a product. Keep in mind, it wasn’t all that long ago when most relationships began with a smile and a handshake, rather than a click or a swipe.
With each new connection, the value of our influence along with our value as an individual grows along a similar exponential growth curve.
3. Improving Our Base of Skills
A skilled laborer is more valuable than an unskilled one, and a multi-skilled individual is even more treasured.
Over time, our ability to accurately assess macro and micro skills will add to the growing body of evidence that the value of human life is indeed snowballing.
Counter to fatalist thinking that automation will cause large numbers of people to be unemployed, automation is simply readjusting our capabilities. By 2030, with the help of automation, the average person will be able to accomplish exponentially more in their lifetime than their counterpart today.
4. Increasing Life Expectancy
Life expectancy is currently increasing by two years every decade, and there are few signs that it’s slowing down. Average life spans around the world are now double what they were 200 years ago.
Many times in the past, experts have predicted the increase in life expectancy would slow down and may even reverse, but they have repeatedly been proven wrong.
So will aging increase …forever? Is there a limit to how long we can survive into old age?
With improved diets, lifestyles, and healthcare advances particularly in such areas of gene therapy, stem cells, CRISPR, and radical life extension research, having people reach the age of 250 with an active lifestyle becomes increasingly probable.
Most experts have concluded that there really are no hard ceilings that will prevent us from living indefinitely.
In Great Britain, as an example, the Office for National Statistics predicted in 2010 that nearly one-in-five people will live to see their 100th birthday.
As the producing/consuming years of human life grows, so does its overall value.
Now that SpaceX has proven the viability of its Starship transport system, that
technology will be further developed for more types of commercial use – retrieving and
delivering satellites for example in support of its Starlink Internet access service. Then
there’s space tourism – trips around the moon in the very near future and ultimately
delivering people to space hotels, the moon, and Mars for incredible experiences.
Starlink is a satellite Internet constellation being constructed by SpaceX that is designed to provide Internet access all over the world. It will effectively be the world’s first global telecom company. While Amazon, Samsung, and others will be competing for this space, Starlink’s 12,000 satellites will be the first and most pervasive.
Tesla Solar Roof
Tesla Solar Roofs have been on the market since the first of this year, fulfilling Elon
Musk’s promise of an energy-generating roof that’s also attractive and durable. The
solar cells are embedded in the roof itself, rather than on mounted panels. They’re
pricey, but tax incentives can take away a little of the sting. I see this as another
example of a market-busting innovation that will come down in price as technology and
production processes improve. The company is partnering with Mississippi Power to
install Tesla Solar Roofs throughout a new housing community – work that will begin in
While still a bit under the radar, Tesla has already created over 120 operational microgrids around the world. Microgrids are small regional power grids, and in Tesla’s case, they’re being designed to merge Solar Roofs with Tesla’s Powerpack platforms, Powerwalls, and electric cars to form an entirely new ecosystem for power generation, that involves buying, selling, trading, storing, and distributing electricity throughout a community. Using bi-directional charging networks, power flows to where it’s needed, and stored efficiently when it’s not. They expect to have over 1,000 microgrids throughout the world very soon.
Neuralink Corporation is a neurotechnology company to develop implantable brain–machine interfaces. While the company has been aiming to make devices to treat serious brain diseases in the short-term, their eventual goal is to enhance the human mind, sometimes called transhumanism.
To be sure, we’re probably only scratching the surface of all the ventures Musk and Bezos has queued up in their heads, but the entire world will be paying close attention to all their tweets and press releases.
In less than a decade, will Elon Musk be the first trillionaire, and the richest person on earth? There’s a good chance he will. Then again, setbacks and economic and market conditions might wreak havoc with his innovations. But I certainly admire his courage and audacity as he continually strives to deliver giant leaps for mankind.