On today's Human Achievement Hour thing


Human Achievement Hour is this evening, as Junksmith noted yesterday. Instead of turning off that great modern invention, the electric light, for Earth Hour turn it all on to celebrate the way in which we can now push back the darkness.

In fact, the way in which people will turn back that very night as soon as they are technologically or financially able to is something that has led to a new way of measuring the wealth of parts of the world. As this paper discusses there are parts of the world, all too many alas, where we simply have no reliable information at all about what is going on. But we can see, from satellites, when people gain access to the technology of extending the day. For we can see their lights and thus measure the penetration of economic activity that allows such.

I do have to say though that there's a much more personal reason why I think this is such a great and grand idea, this celebration of the electric light. As is explained here at length, the majority of the light that we can see in such satellite photos comes from one particular lighting technology. A technology which I am involved in as a supplier. Indeed, for the past 15 years or so I've been the near monopoly supplier of the vital ingredient for that technology to lighting companies everywhere. I know, it's strange how the back lanes of the global economy work: and no, having such a global monopoly does not; alas and alack, confer great riches. But it is possible for me to look at those satellite photos and to claim, quite truthfully, that some 50% of the light you can see in them comes from product I've handled....or at least that has gone through my account books.

The second entirely personal reason for my interest is that today is my birthday. No, no guesses as to which, just too old to be excited by another year passing and still just young enough not to be astonished at seeing another one. A synchronicity which, to be quite frank, simply has me screaming with laughter.

My involvement in this trade was made possible by a number of factors: the fall of the Soviet Union, cheap air travel, cheap telecoms, the internet, cheap air freight. The spread of lighting itself by very much the same things and the general advancement of technology, as is of course our ability to measure it. I shall be raising a glass tonight for very personal reasons but at about 8.30 if I could offer the toast? "To human achievement".

Oh, and while you're raising your glass, just flick all the lights on would you?