Because we’re a nation of aging, overweight slobs.
By Sam Harris
This post from Sam Harris, an entrepreneur, engineer, and former data scientist at the U.S. Air Force, originally appeared on Quora as an answer to the question, “Is the United States on the brink of a political revolution?“
No. We don’t have enough teenagers.
When I was an officer in the Air Force, I was a data scientist, and at one point we were tasked with determining what level of violence in Iraq could be considered “normal” so that we could declare victory and leave with dignity.
Obviously, the base level of violence in Iraq would be higher than in Sweden, but precisely how much higher and why? These were the questions.
We did analysis on hundreds of factors across centuries worth of data from hundreds of countries to determine what drove the levels of violence in a society. The worst violence levels are obviously during civil wars and government collapse.
We looked at wealth inequality, famine, disease, number of children per woman, infant mortality, median GDP, average GDP … literally hundreds of factors and their cross-dependencies that numbered in the quadrillions — think average GDP combined with median life expectancy combined with infant mortality combined with … you get the idea.
What we found was that the most significant factor was the number of individuals aged 13–19 relative to the number of individuals aged over 35. If the teenage group ever exceeded the over 35 group, violence increased to the point there was a very high chance of civil war. Furthermore, the opposite was true. If the 35+ year-olds outnumbered the teenagers, there was no chance of civil war.