ILLUMINATION
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ILLUMINATION

The Growth of Humanity and Its Effect on Our Health and Life

humanity has allowed humanity to thrive and prosper

Photo by Aaron blanco tejedor on Unspl Srash

Humanity has been constantly growing since the dawn of our species. It wasn’t until we became an agricultural society that our population boomed, thanks to the easier access to food and other resources that agriculture provides us with. The global human population has been exponentially increasing ever since we began practicing agriculture, and there are projections that it will continue to do so until the year 2100 when it could reach as high as 15 billion people, depending on how many people live past 100 years old today. This constant growth of humanity has allowed humanity to thrive and prosper like never before, but at what cost?

100 Years Ago: World Population

approximately 1.6 billion people (nearly 30% living in cities). Education: Only 10% of children attended school. Healthcare: Deaths from infectious diseases were 5-10 times higher than today. Women’s Rights: Only about 8% of girls received any education, with many working as child laborers instead. Progress Since Then: Not only has access to education improved dramatically since then, but life expectancy has increased by 25 years, women have gained significant rights, countries have abolished slavery and become safer places to live, and more than 100 million people have moved out of extreme poverty ...and much more!

The 20th Century: Modern Medicine

Overall, the 20th century was a huge boon for humankind. Overpopulation was under control. Technology and scientific progress had been accelerating since shortly after we’d figured out how to harness fire, but thanks to advances in medicine, things took off during our century. The average lifespan shot up from 46 years to 66—an increase that would have taken about 3,000 years prior. And although not everyone has benefited equally from these advances (or continues to benefit), it’s hard to argue with any sort of growth like that over such a short period.

Today: Personalized Medicine, Genetics, Epigenetics, Exercise Science

Last year, advancements in genetics led to a first-of-its-kind approach to medicine called personalized medicine. This personalized approach involves collecting genetic information from each patient, along with some non-genetic data. This genetic data is then compared to results from other patients to discover patterns that link gene expression with clinical outcomes. In short, what works for one person may not work for another. And while many are still reluctant to share their genetic information due to privacy concerns, it's certainly an area worth exploring as more research emerges linking genetics with health outcomes. For example, recent studies have suggested that about 10% of breast cancer cases can be linked back to BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.

Tomorrow?

Why don’t we save more for our later years? The answer is that people are wired to be present-oriented. People prefer immediate rewards over future benefits, in part because we humans place a higher value on losses than equivalent gains. This makes sense from an evolutionary perspective—it's generally better to get a meal now rather than a week from now, which kept us from starving during lean times. In modern society, though, people tend to focus on their goals for next year rather than retirement 10 years down the road; it's hard for someone in his 20s or 30s to think about what his life will be like when he's 60—so we spend money instead of saving it.

Are We Heading Towards A Dystopian Future?

The year 2026 will mark a century since eugenics was introduced in America. The laws that allowed states to forcibly sterilize people, who were deemed feeble-minded or socially inadequate, were changed thanks to lobbying by women's rights groups. Despite a consensus today that those laws were unjust, eugenics is making a comeback in 2017, some say. Others think it never really went away and instead continues to impact us with little fanfare. Many critics point out that humanity has not learned from history when it comes to certain issues related to medicine—namely medicine controlled by one group or class of people over another.

What Does This Mean For Us?

There are two things that we can take away from all of these studies. The first is that as humans grow older, we are more likely to become less active, even if we were once very active as children. The second thing is that there seems to be a link between our growth rate at a young age and how healthy we are in later life. It’s not clear exactly what or why it happens, but perhaps it has something to do with how quickly our cells divide while growing up and developing into adults. If so, then it’s an interesting idea to think about. If human beings only live for around 80 years, then wouldn’t it make sense for us to try and find ways to extend that time?

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