Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Top 1% of Humanity

Reading the Tom Friedman book The World is Flat a while back, made me ponder whether the US needs more scientists and engineers. I basically came to the conclusion that my standard of living is not dependent on how many scientists and engineers are in the US, but the number in the entire world. If I find the time, I would like to write more on that. And the key is not that all the best and brightest become scientists and engineers, but that a good % of them do (not sure what that % would be, but an excellent point to think about). And if in the US a higher percentage of our best and brightest become financial wizards and managers/leaders than scientists and engineers due to the US's relative advantages in these fields, I don't think that is a bad thing.

But the point of this post is: how many people are in the top 1% of humanity? The simple answer is that if there are 6 billion people in the world that gives you 60 million. But a more interesting question is how many 22 year old are there in the world? This is the age when the best and brightest are just leaving undergraduate school and making the decision on what they want to do with the rest of their lives.

Oh yeah, you should take a guess before I tell you the answer. And average life expectancy in the world is 63 years which should be enough to get you in the ballpark.

So I did a little research. Turns out the US Census Bureau throws down some fat statistics on world demographics here. Unfortunately there don't have a good online searching mechanism, so you have to download to excel and mess with it. And for some reason they didn't aggregate all the number into a world total, so you have to do that on your own which is total lame. But anyway I digress.

There are approx 111,750,000 22 year olds on the planet. So the top 1% is 1.1 million or for a good rule of thumb 1 million. Each year there are 1 million people people are the best of the best. The top 1% who will have the largest impact on the shape the future of human civilization.

Of that 1 million, 42,000 will be from the US (4.2%), 204,000 from China (20.4%) and 201,000 from India (20.1%). For every top 1% of class American there will be a combined 10 Chinese and Indians. I don't know how the US can compete with that, but luckily, as I already stated, I don't care because my standard of living is tied to the world at large not just the country I live in. I wish I had the number for Europe but I was too lazy to aggregate all of those frickin countries together. But I bet they are somewhere in the same neighborhood as the US, maybe a little bigger 50-60,000 or so.

But the question I will now ponder (and you should too) is what % of these people would I like in various professions? How many teachers, scientists, engineers, artists, politicians, lawyers, soldiers, doctors, preachers, business people, and finance people? Where should they go to have the greatest positive impact on humanity?

1 comment:

nipun said...

Good number crunching there. :)

You can distribtue 1.1 million across the countries by population demographics but if that top 1% in each country doesn't have the same access to the same opportunities, it's hard to compare them.

My guess is that 4% in the US have greater opportunities (partly because of economics but partly because of society and culture too) and hence US is able to compete.

But your larger point is a good one: my standard of living depends on the world, now. Question now is: How can we create global cultural and economic (reward) systems that encourage a broader distribution of the top 1% of humanity? That's fundamentally a design question.

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