Sobering Stats to Contemplate

matthew sullivan funcorporation at
Sun Aug 29 23:20:46 EDT 1999

being a bit of a nitpicker myself, i think some clarification of the forbes 
article necessary: 300 million computers are in use - that doesn't mean 
each one is owned by an individual - on the contrary, consider a government 
department, investment bank or military institution. these organisations 
own 1000s of machines - and they're owned by the company not the 
individual. your 500%-600% error margin itself is thrown way out then, 
considering this. i don't know exactly how many people own computers, but i 
would sway towards the 1/100 rather than you 5-6/100.

i feel obliged to comment on this point especially, because it seems to me 
that way too many people are seeing internet technology (and therefore pc 
tech) as a global unifier. WRONG! no doubt, it blows my mind daily how much 
more i can learn with my swanky pc and hi-speed internet connection, but i 
am in a small percentage of the world's population who have an integrated 
telecommunications system to gain access to the internet through. what 
good's the internet to an third-world farmer eeking out a living on the 
land? more to the point, what good's the internet without electricity?

and toby, the great huxley quote you mention: seems to me you've slayed a 
beautiful hypothesis yourself by focussing on an obviously arguable 



On 08/21/99, "Toby Hemenway <hemenway at>" wrote:
> At the risk of seeming a bit of a crank, I want to revisit those sobering
> stats once more. So in our village of 100 people,
> >1 would own a computer
>   I was idly leafing through a copy of Forbes yesterday, and read that
> "over 300 million computers are in use today." That means, given a
> population of 5-6 billion, that not 1, but 5 or 6 of our villagers would
> own a computer. Nitpicking? Hardly; that's a 500-600% error. I'm sorry that
> the anti-Western political agenda of the author is so strong that he's
> willing to ignore the facts.
>    How is this relevant to permaculture? Since we're in the world-changing
> business, it's important for us to be willing to see the world as it is and
> not distort it due to anger or optimism. And if we don't have our facts
> right, no one will take us seriously, as I no longer take the author
> seriously (this of course doesn't reflect on Guy for forwarding it). A
> couple of my favorite quotes are relevant:
> Mark Twain (via Disraeli): "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned
> lies, and statistics."
> T.H. Huxley: "The great tragedy of science-the slaying of a beautiful
> hypothesis by an ugly fact."

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