It's getting better all the time

It's easy to feel gloomy these days about the geopolitical future. Terrorism,  surveillance states, economic crises, etc. But overall life is getting better. Placed behind a Rawlsian "veil of ignorance", I would chose the present over any point in the past.  If you consider the standard of living of the whole world, that should be obvious. 

MDG water info graphicBut it's still nice to stumble across a good reminder of things getting better, like the "millennium development goals". The water part in particular was a positive surprise.  But it's not just water. The percentages of people who suffer from malnutrition, or don't have shoes, etc. is decreasing dramatically.

The biggest factor in raising global standards of living, in my opinion, is not aid. It's not so much "giving back" as "not taking away in the first place". That is, not denying people the right to create, to own, to  trade what they want fairly. Hernando de Soto is right.

So yeah it's getting better. Of course, that doesn't mean we should take it for granted. In particular as I've posted about before, with asteroids and climate change, humanity is being pretty stupid with the odds.  When it comes to tail risks, let's hope we collectively don't continue to act like Taleb's turkey.


Update on Ethiopic transliteration in Gmail, Google Docs, Blogger, etc.

ሰላም ዓለም!

Transliteration is is the conversion of a text from one script to another. For example,  typing  something in the Roman alphabet, like "selam alem", and having it show up in fidel (Ethiopic script) as ሰላም ዓለም.  This is a really convenient way for people who want to write in languages that use non-Roman scripts, to write on an ordinary computer which has a keyboard with roman letters.  

A few years ago (it's hard to believe it's already been that long!)  Ethiopic transliteration in Gmail, Google Docs, etc. was launched.   With several user interface changes in Google products, the instructions ain that post are a bit out of date. Here's a quick update so there's an easy reference somewhere.

Transliteration as a standalone tool

To use it as a standalone tool, where you can just type text to copy elsewhere, go to google.com/intl/am/inputtools/try/ or google.com/transliterate/amharic (similarly for tigrinya

How to write Amharic or Tigrinya in Gmail, and in Google Docs:

To use Amharic transliteration directly while writing inside Gmail, Docs, Blogger, Sites, etc. you need to set it as an "input method" (all of the following works with Tigrinya as well as Amharic.  Just select Tigrinya instead in the settings).
  1. Go to Gmail Settings (the little gear icon in the top right corner of the Gmail window) and click on Settings.
  2. In settings, under the "General" tab, in the "Language" section, click on "Show all language options" and then click on the checkbox to "Enable input tools".
  3. Click on the "Edit tools" link right next to it. A large window will pop-up with various languages on the left under Input Tools, select Amharic and move it over to the right column under "Selected input tools" using the big arrow, in the middle of the window, and click OK
  4. Save the settings: back on the settings page, make sure you scroll all the way down and click on Save
  5. Once you have done that, you will see the አ icon right next to the gear icon in the top right in Gmail. Just click on that icon whenever you want to switch to typing in Amharic 
  6. Then when you type phonetically in roman letters, and as you finish each word, the corresponding text in Ethiopic shows up.  
  7. You don't have to memorize any rules, just type naturally the words as they sound, and it will figure out the best transliteration. For example "negergn" becomes ነገርግን but "negeregn" becomes ነገረኝ.  Notice that "gn" gives different results in the two cases. The transliteration shows up as you type, showing multiple candidates, and when you hit space at the end of the word, the top one is automatically chosen.  You can also select the several other choices if the top one is not what you mean.
  8. This also works in Google Docs, Blogger,  Google Sites and most Google products that have text input.

P.S. Ethiopic font

Note that before you can use transliteration, your computer must have an Ethiopic (Ge'ez) font installed. Most recent versions of Windows or Mac have it pre-installed so you can skip this part. If you can see the following text "ሰላም ዓለም" (or read the text on this web page, then you have an Ethiopic font installed. If you can't see it, then you need to install a font like this one for example.