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Everyone Ever in the World [theluxuryofprotest.com] is a poster depicting the number of people to have lived versus been killed in wars, massacres and genocide during the recorded history of humankind. The resulting visualization, printed in transparent ink, uses existing paper area and paper loss (die cut circle) to represent the concepts of life and death respectively. The sequence of dots to the top left of the graph shows the dramatic increase in the number of conflicts over the past 5 millennia (left to right : 3000 BCE to 2000 CE) with the most recent 1000 years being the most violent. The large dot below the graph represents the 1000 years to come : a predicted startling increase in human conflict.

The total number of people to have lived was estimated through exponential regression calculations based on historical census data and known biological birth rates. This results in approximately 77.6 billion human beings to have ever lived during the recorded history of humankind. The total people killed in conflicts was collated from a number of historical source books and was summed for all conflicts - approximately 969 million people killed, or ~1.25% of all the people to have ever lived. The timescale encompasses 3200 BCE to 2009 CE - a period of over 5 millennia, and 1100+ conflicts of recorded human history.

The poster is for sale at Counter Objects.




What utter nonsense. "1921 Tulsa Massacre"? Will that be remembered in a hundred years? Is it remembered even today, outside a local population? This doesn't demonstrate that recent years have more violence, just that we remember the recent events better.

Wed 24 Feb 2010 at 12:14 AM
Jason Wenger

"the dramatic increase in the number of conflicts over the past 5 millennia"
are there proportionally more conflicts, or are there just more people around to be involved in them? what would we see if we could record incidents of "niceness" in the last 5000 years too?

Wed 24 Feb 2010 at 12:34 AM

The data for frequency of conflicts is raw data not corrected for population size – although the correction produced only a negligible difference in rate of change in frequency – particularly during the most violent last two centuries. Yes, there is an element of "report frequency" which is inevitable considering the fidelity of the historical record – but one can hardly argue this point when comparing between the 19th and 20th centuries (the last of which was undeniable the most violent in human history). Nor can one account for the dramatic increase in conflict frequency between the latter decades of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st as a factor of "historical recording" of conflicts. The increase in frequency is real and the increase in death toll is real as well.

Whether or not an incident will be remembered is of no issue here – what is important is that it is part of the historical record and that people died. In the case of the Tulsa Massacre and estimated 500+ people perished, with some reliable estimates being as high as 3000.

Wed 24 Feb 2010 at 2:40 AM

Steven Pinker on the myth of violence: Steven Pinker charts the decline of violence from Biblical times to the present, and argues that, though it may seem illogical and even obscene, given Iraq and Darfur, we are living in the most peaceful time in our species' existence.


Wed 24 Feb 2010 at 11:37 AM

Entertaining talk, but Steven Pinker is not a historian – he is a cognitive psychologist. Bruce Mau for a period was giving lectures in a similar vein – espousing the decline in violence. But again, he's too is not a historian, and lectures are not peer-reviewed. Even a quick perusal of a any history text will reveal that the most deadly conflicts occurred in the 20th century. Now whether or not pre-historic peoples were more violent than present-day society (which is the only real data Pinker is showing) is open to debate. The historical record becomes less and less reliable as one goes further back in time – and the archeological record rarely is reliable to allow for a quantitative assessment of any phenomena. The most accurate timescale is the last 3-4 centuries – which shown an unequivocal increase in death due to conflict – most likely due to efficiency in killing.

Wed 24 Feb 2010 at 9:26 PM

If past bad guys had had modern weapons, they undoubtedly would have slaughtered orders of magnitude more people than they did. So if the aim of this study, or proposition, or whatever it is, is to make the point that man is more violent today, it fails to make a case.

Tue 31 Aug 2010 at 11:31 AM
D. McMaster

Your poster may make great art , but as far as historical accuracy it is worth the paper it is printed on.

Fri 03 Sep 2010 at 12:28 AM
B Rushfeldt

McMaster – "what if" scenarios are interesting, but not reality. The 20th century is labelled the "century of conflict" for good reason – the most violent in the history of human kind.

Rushfeldt – why? my data is in agreement with the historical record – maybe even a bit conservative. See RJ Rummel (noted historian) : http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE5.HTM

Tue 23 Nov 2010 at 12:10 AM
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