Another interesting fact from the survey is that finance people and nonprofit people are blood rivals, destined to destroy each other. When you look at all the broad career types, just about every quality on which finance people rank first is a quality on which nonprofit people rank last, and vice versa. Nonprofit people are the most worried about global warming; finance people are the least worried. Finance people are about as likely as anyone to remember college fondly; nonprofit people rank last in this category. Finally, on the true test of character, nonprofit people are the most likely to prefer a career as a public school teacher to an 8-figure crime career, and I know this is going to shock you, but finance people are most likely to go for the money and crime. However, there is one thing these two groups have in common underneath it all. When you look at the proportion of people who give themselves the top score on moral fiber, finance is last and nonprofit people are second-to-last. Oh dear. Nonprofit people and finance people, did you ever think that maybe you’re not so different, the two of you, and that together you could rule the world?
But I don’t want to focus too much on our differences when I could be focusing on what brings us together: a deep and abiding dissatisfaction with this country. The percentage of Harvard students who are dissatisfied with the way things are going in the US is 93. And it stays high no matter how I slice it. Every profession, every ideology, hot people, gross people, you name it, we’re all pissed off. In fact, out of all the various groups I analyzed while doing this analysis, I only found two sets of people who have dissatisfaction of less than 85%. Any guesses? It’s not rich people. It’s not religious people. It is … the people having 20 or more drinks per week! It makes sense, right? Usually when I get hammered enough I think the country’s in great shape too! But there’s one major group that’s a full 9 points more fine with the way things are going. At only 73% dissatisfied, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the 15% of Harvard alumni who support John McCain. I think this could be a new campaign slogan for the McCain campaign. Support John McCain – it’s like being plastered, but more so!
Now since Harvard people are the future of America, I thought it was important to look through the greatest accomplishments and see what we’ve gotten done in five years. And I was mortified to learn that one of the most common responses, with a total of 9%, was getting married. In fact, based on my estimate, about 85% of married people say marriage is their greatest accomplishment. Guys, I’m not sure if you’re aware of this, but practically everyone gets married. That’s not special. Even Yale people get married, for God’s sake. When I see you in another five years, I want to hear about something awesome you did, like setting up an international toxic chemicals conglomerate that brought in enough cash to buy a personal spaceship. Let’s get our priorities straight OK?
For those of us not going on and on about love, there was some cool stuff people accomplished. That includes circumnavigating the globe twice, making the Olympic team, saving a life, winning an emmy award, writing a bill that was signed into law in California, and appearing on Jeopardy. And all of those cool achievements are runners up for the 2008 Holden G. Karnofsky award for Best Accomplishment by a Harvard Alum. The winner was, and I quote, “not being a douchebag.” That’s right, in only five years the Class of 2003 already has one person who has pulled this off.
So now the big question is, what will we accomplish next? Fortunately we asked that question too, and I’m pretty excited about all the cool things the Class of 2003 is going to be up to. We’ve got people planning to open a restaurant, do a triathlon on every continent, win a climate change lawsuit, get laid in Athens, and even exterminate the damn moth infestation that seems to have developed in their house. But my favorite response was this one, and I quote: "’big accomplishments’ are more or less just random life events with the appropriate spin applied afterwards or beforehand. i don't see much point in laying claim to or pursuing any ‘great’ acheivement unless i can get some sort of social value out of it or there's some angle to play. and if that sounds mercenary, well duh!--i went to harvard.” And yes, for those of you who are wondering, this person is a Social Studies concentrator, and no, he has not had sex in the last month.
All right, you guys have learned a lot today, but before I let you go I want to give you some of the most important takeaways from this groundbreaking study. First of all, I did a scan for the most common qualities of people who have gotten what they want out of life, so that we can all learn from them and get more out of our own. The first things I scanned were happiness and mental health. If those are the things you want, the data say that pretty much the best thing you can do, which predicts happiness better than income or attractiveness or anything else, is get married. And if you’re wondering how to get yourself married, the top predictors of that are being religious and supporting John McCain. So, I think it’s pretty clear from all this that happiness and mental health are not an option for most of us, so let’s discuss what else we might be able to shoot for.
How about lots of sexual partners? That’d be good, right? So some of this is out of our hands, because attractive people and funny people really do get around more. But there are things you can do. The following qualities are the best other predictors of how many sexual partners you have: drinking, smoking weed, and generally being a bad person. Seriously, we measured morality in a whole bunch of ways in the survey, from asking people directly to those questions about whether you’d rather have an honest life or a life of crime. The pattern is clear: people who are more selfish, greedy, and generally corrupt get more action. They’re not happier, but remember that option is out.
Choose wisely, Harvard students. Your diploma isn’t just an automatic ticket to success, fame, and luxury, although it is that too. It’s a choice between taking on the world’s biggest problems, or in most of your cases according to this data, becoming a part of those problems. Thank you for listening and for telling me about your sex lives.
Holden Karnofsky's 2008 Speech
When the Reunion Committee asked me to present the 2003 Class Survey data, I agreed on one condition: that we make the survey really, really invasive. We asked about your mental health, your social lives and your sex lives. And we asked questions like “Would you rather be the world’s greatest poet or the world’s greatest rapper?” that give us a window into your very soul. I want to start by thanking the 713 of you who responded to our survey, helping us create a data set that will be invaluable for understanding the lives of your classmates, predicting the future of the ruling class, and blackmailing you guys. As I present these statistics, please keep in mind that every number I present is 100% true, assuming that every survey respondent was 100% truthful, and I assume nobody lied because nearly all of you rated yourselves very highly on moral fiber.
So two things struck me immediately about the Class of 2003: we don’t like sex very much, and we really really like the movie The Departed. 85% of us would rather have our intelligence than our sex drive, and 42% would trade our sex drive for money, which seems like a lot to me, given that that’s totally insane. I guess it just goes to show that the old saying is true: the average man thinks about sex every twenty seconds, and the average Harvard man thinks about sex when he’s reading a postmodernist deconstruction of gender roles.
Meanwhile the Departed got 21 votes for best movie – that’s as many as the next two combined, and it’s one more than the number of people who like cheap liquor. That’s incredible. I guess there might be something about this movie that Harvard students can relate to, whether it’s the Boston accents or the just constant backstabbing. The other movies on the list weren’t very surprising, they’re kinda mainstream highbrow, No Country for Old Men, Juno kinda stuff. But I couldn’t help noticing that there was one person who voted for The Matrix Revolutions. Yeah, I know. I was really curious so I took a look at this anonymous person’s submission, and the coolest thing he’s learned to do since college is make love, but he also rates his college years – presumably when he did not know how to make love – as the best years of his life. Anyway, if you’re out there, anonymous Matrix Revolutions lover, I know you say you have excellent mental health, but I’m a little worried about you. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.
The most popular websites were the New York Times and Facebook, with 92 and 76 votes respectively, with no one else getting more than 25. Exactly two people voted for porn sites, fewer than the number who voted for online medical journals. This was probably the statistic that made me feel the most out of place in the class of 2003.
And now comes the real question you’ve been waiting for: what was the most popular Facebook application? And the answer is … and I quote, “I hate them all.” I’m just kidding, only three people wrote “I hate them all.” But we also had a person who wrote “Hate the applications,” a “They are all annoying,” a “I hate Facebook” – actually two people wrote that – we also had a “Facebook is lame,” a “This is lame,” and an “Oh no you didn’t,” although I think the last one is actually the name of a Facebook app. Anyway, my point is that if you add up all the responses to the question that not only did not have a favorite Facebook application, but specifically expressed hatred and annoyance at the very idea of a Facebook application, you get 21 responses, which is more votes than people gave to any actual application. … Except for Scrabulous. Scrabulous got 39 votes, and that’s not even counting the two people who specifically said they hate all the applications except for Scrabulous. 39 votes is not only 3 times as much as the next-most popular application, it’s more votes than people gave to any single favorite movie, book, or musician. Next time we do this survey, we will be including a question about whether you like Scrabulous better than sex. By the way, when you compare people who listed a favorite Facebook app to people who did not, you find that the Facebook people are more likely to be single and more likely to be virgins. Interesting stuff.
Anyway, I have fantastic news. Not only are 96% of Harvard students smarter than the average person, 83% of us are more informed than the average person, 68% of us are more moral, and 66% of us are funnier. And 55% of us are better-looking, compared to only 6.5% below average. This is actually one of the most significant findings of our study, and I believe that if we can verify the result, it will challenge decades of established research on the Ivy League, and may even end up bringing into question fundamental laws of nature such as the conservation of matter and energy. But there you have it – Harvard students aren’t just smarter than the average person, they’re hotter too.
18% of us are already married or in a civil union, and this group is actually less attractive than the rest of us. It’s possible that my married friend Micah is dragging the average down all by himself, but I think it’s a pretty robust result.
Hey, I’m not criticizing you guys, if you don’t have a lot of choices it makes sense to lock in what you’ve got. And to be fair, out of the 18% of you that are married or in a civil union, 62% rate yourselves as very happy. Compare that to 25% for single people and 36% for people in a relationship. That’s incredible.
Now, one of my responsibilities as an analyst is to caution you against jumping to rash conclusions from data. And so before you go getting yourself engaged based on that number, I should warn you that marriage does make you happier, but it also seems to instantly make you older. Allow me to elaborate. People who are married or in civil unions have been to fewer countries, they’re less likely to have a good sense of humor, and they’re over twice as likely to be supporting John McCain. Yikes. And only 15% of them have had sex 15 or more times in the last month, compared to 20% in a more committed relationship. That’s right, the downward spiral starts the day you take your vows.
One thing that’s very clear from this data is that people who work in entertainment are cooler than the rest of us. They’re by far the most attractive, with 25% giving themselves the top score, and they’re the most likely to smoke marijuana and the most likely to list favorite musicians I’ve never heard of, instead of people like Feist that you probably found out about from iPod commercials. Entertainment people have the lowest ratings on moral fiber, they’re the most likely to say their education is only good at cocktail parties and the least likely to be well-informed, and they’ve had the most sexual partners just about any way you slice it. Yet if you scratch the surface of these popular, fun-loving kids, you’ll find a deep vulnerability inside. People in entertainment are far and away the least happy and the least mentally healthy. And for the question about your biggest accomplishment, a whopping 15% of them – this is three times as many as other alumni – put a big fat “Nothing.”