First World Problems

I understand the dismissive sentiment behind the phrase “first world problems.” If you can read this blog post, there are a huge number of ways in which you are more fortunate than most people who have ever lived. Even kings, popes, and emperors of centuries past would envy you. The death of your child is a highly unlikely tragedy, instead of a coin flip. You probably have so much food in your society that even your poor can be fat. You probably work in relative safety and comfort, at a career you chose. And you can share words, pictures, and videos with audience of billions around the world.

Consider your good fortune in the context of history: in the great scheme of things, Ink and toner cost too much and Why can’t they line up check perforations with the fold of a letter? are nothing to get exercised over.

But… barring bad luck and poor planning, most people who will ever live, starting now, will be much more prosperous than you and I. In other words, for most of human history yet to come, the only problems will be first world problems. Thanks to the power of first mover advantages, and the indefinite lifespan of knowledge in search engine server caches, the  attitudes and skillsets we apply to our problems are setting the first best practices for generations to come. So when we approach our problems of saving up for Disney World vacations and getting our Linux machines to send print jobs wirelessly, we are building a jumping-off point for the billions of people who will come after us to solve their problems. That’s a deep power, but thing is, we’re already wielding it. We might as well get good at it.

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