Paarth Madan

A medium to iterate on my own thoughts.

7 Billion

Posted at — Sep 2, 2021

Some 7.8 billion humans occupy this world. I’m 1 of 7.8 billion. That’s incredibly freeing to me and I love reminding myself of this.

If we maintain 10 digits of accuracy, a single person would look like:

$$ \frac{1}{7800000000} \approx 0.000000000012820513 $$

Subtract me and a single person would look like:

$$ \frac{1}{7799999999} \approx 0.000000000012820513 $$

Unsurprisingly, the subtraction of me in the world’s total population isn’t significantly (statistically, that is) reflected.

What does this mean? Does it mean I don’t matter? Well, not quite.

I think the beauty of knowing where I stand in the grand scheme of the world population helps alleviate any pressure or extraneous importance I place on myself. It doesn’t render me useless either, though.

When interpreting these numbers, it’s important to remind myself how recently connected the globe became. Globalization is a relatively new social relationship that doesn’t have a significant bearing on my life. I know the world population, but what does that really mean other than being a number?

In my entire lifetime, I may meet a couple thousand people.

I live in a much smaller community relative to the entire globe and unsurprisingly, this is how most people live and have lived. It’s easier to find value in myself in smaller social settings: my family, my neighbourhood, my city, my workplace, my friends, etc.

A cool corollary to this is that having impact on my smaller social circles can transitively impact larger groups.

In more rigorous terms, let’s partition the world population into \( N \) cohorts (that can be overlapping). Let’s call me \( p \).

Define \( B(q) \) as all the cohorts to which a person belongs,

$$ B(q) = \{ c \in N \mid q \in c \} $$

Assume I belong to at least one cohort:

$$ |B(p)| \geq 1 $$

Now, the fun part. If we define the set of cohorts that a person has meaning in as:

$$ M(p, n) = n \cup \{ M(q, B(q)), \forall q \in n \} $$

we see that, in a super convoluted and unclear way, \( M(p, n) \) would converge to the population of the world.

There’s two assumptions made here:

  1. Belonging to a cohort implies you have impact on the cohort
  2. All cohorts are reachable from every other cohort

These assumptions are relatively safe in my opinion. Our technological climate today renders most people fully connected. I also believe that one’s presence is sufficient for making impact (small or big).

Have I introduced anything novel? Other than the broken mathematical system describing the butterfly effect, no. Truthfully, my rationale for writing this was to better digest how everyone’s connected. In some weird way, writing this post helped.

The broken mathematics system makes some crude assumptions but highlights something rather profound.

Making meaningful impact in your small social groups can have much larger widespread effects. It might, then, be a noble pursuit or mission of life to be as impactful to those around you.

I’m reminded of two other pieces of work that are on a similar vain.

  1. Robert Nozick’s take on the meaning of life

Nozick fundamentally believes that the way to a meaningful life is to transcend your limits and “connect” to others. He describes that by attaching yourself to another you, in some way, adopt or propel their meaning.

  1. Emily Dickinson’s poem on the meaning of life

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help on fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

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