Gongol.com Archives: June 2024

Brian Gongol

June 4, 2024

The United States of America This used to be a much more dangerous country

There exists a class of viral videos best described as "People in lesser-developed countries doing eye-wateringly dangerous work". Thanks to the social-media algorithms that reward intensity of reaction rather than intrinsic quality, videos like "Excavator operator on completely unstable slope tries to free giant boulder at enormous personal risk" are rewarded with millions of views and priority placement in the news feeds of ordinary users. ■ Above all, we should not reward the creators of these videos. Just because an activity is recorded doesn't mean it needs to be shared. And just because the subject of a video manages not to get killed or gravely injured while, for instance, building a path along a sheer mountain cliff, doesn't mean that it should get clicks, likes, or views. Those only encourage the production of more such videos. ■ Just about the only good that can come of circulating those videos among people in countries with more advanced economies (and better protections for worker health and safety) is, perhaps, an appreciation for just how dangerous life was even for the people of our own countries -- and families -- just a couple of generations ago. It is not OSHA, per se, that make American workplaces safer than they were in the past, but rather the conditions of measurement, reporting, public pressure, and viable workplace alternatives, among others. ■ In 1931 (less than a century ago), 17,000 American workers died on the job. In 2022, that number was 5,486 -- less than a third of the earlier figure, despite a near-tripling of the total population. Today's number is still too high, but prosperity, technological advancements, and public pressure on legislators and regulators have served to reduce the rate by a great deal. ■ Similar changes are essentially inevitable elsewhere, as economic standards rise, choices expand, and, critically, public demands are taken more seriously by government leaders. America used to be a vastly more dangerous place in ordinary life, but highly meritorious improvements have changed that. We should avoid danger voyeurism, no matter how often the algorithms try to serve it up.

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