The new population bomb | For the first time, humanity is on the verge of long-term decline

The new population bomb | For the first time, humanity is on the verge of long-term decline


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Slow long term decline, which imho isn't a bad thing. The most important benefit of this is that future populations of humans will have more usable land to live on.


It’s an excellent thing, constant growth is destructive.


I agree with you, but tough times are ahead. Economies depend on growing populations.


There's some theory, I forget what it was called, but effectively the premise was that in order to avoid the world running out of resources we need to intentionally slow economic growth.


This theory was first coined by professor Thanos


I heard about that in a heartwarming movie about a single father trying to solve world hunger.


It cost the poor guy everything :( all he wanted was to be a farmer


i never understood why thanos didn't, just, like. adjust the birth-rates for population equilibrium at the height of society. killing half of all people isn't gonna solve your problem, it's just gonna delay it, and is part of the reason why you pissed the entire universe off


I mean, if you can keep killing off half of all people easily, then it's nothing more than blowing on a gameboy cartridge.


Yeah, but he intentionally destroys the stones afterwards, so he can't keep doing it anymore! It just didn't make any mathematical sense. It's a if he had never heard of an exponential.


Or just do the 50% snap thing without sending a fleet to announce it. Kick back on the couch, crack another beer, snap your fingers, watch the game, have some pizza, let the sense of accomplishment flow through you.


He needed the fleets to get the stones.


Because it is a comic book.


No, Thanos was a classical Malthusian that believed in reducing absolute population numbers, but that theory he mentioned poses that we need to reduce total resource consumption, which can happen slowing economic growth (and distributing better i presume). The 10-children african or indian family living in the contryside contributes a lot less to the economy, and therefeore resource consumption, than the average rich single child family buying iphones and cars every year, eating meat every meal, traveling by airplane once or twice or more a year, etc. Thanos if he was serious about resources would decimate every rich person with a computer and internet, like us.


And might be add, efficient too.


Probably a bad theory. What will most likely happen is you use old technologies for longer when you need fundamentally new ones.


Which ain’t gonna happen while labour is cheap and governments suck at Keynesian economics.


Slowing down is how we fail. What we need to do is accelerate. It's a lot to get into but high-overhead will doom us all and there is no second chance. This is it. This is our only once chance to leave this rock or we die here.


Seems obviously really.


Malthusian theory I believe.


Slowing the growth isnt going to cut it. As an example, if for years you eat 1000 calories more than you should, and now you eat just 200 calories more than you should, you wont loose weight, you just gain weight slower. Its a step in the right direction but not enough to really safe enough ressources


You're not wrong but that is not valid for the ongoing population growth issue. Every first-world country is reproducing below it's replacement rate. As other countries modernize they also slow then go net-negative. Denmark, IIRC, has already started paying people to have kids.


The price of resources is declining


That is utter bullshit. Earth can sustain a population of like 50 billion humans easily. We're not running out of resources, we're wasting them and throwing them away and reserving them for the most inane bullshit, preventing other people from using it normally.


Yeah but think of the handful of people who have to own 50 billion times more resources than others.


The alternative is not world in which 50 billion people all produced the accordingly amount more. The alternative is a world in which the $50x billionaire doesn't exist and the remaining people all produced less than do now.




>And we won't just run out of resources, don't believe the bad actors selling you the lie that overpopulation will destroy the planet. Well, we are as a species consuming so much more than what the planet could produce in a sustainable way. And having more people would create enormous problems for housing, the American system of housing can't be translated to the whole world, so we'd just be stuck with a lot of people crammed in really small spaces. Like sure, the planet could theoretically house more people, but the living conditions would just keep on dropping




You say sustainability won't be an issue, but IIRC if we keep this current rate up, by 2050 a huge chunk of the world population (something like 1 in 5 or so, I don't remember the exact statistic) will have no clean water to drink and like 10% will have no access to water. So I do think there's an issue in sustainability. At some point it becomes a problem, the earth's resources are finite and we can't keep growing forever. >If the living conditions will keep dropping as you say then they would've already been dropping since the industrial revolution but we see the opposite is the case. Living conditions are starting to drop in high density areas like Europe or Cina. It's just starting, but if the population keeps increasing it will get worse


We can house and feed a lot of people if we turn the average person's living standards to that of Bangladesh. That doesn't sound very pleasant to me. We don't know for sure what exactly will happen when we keep collapsing ecosystems to build over, either.


Absolutely false. Economies depend on consistent resource inputs. "Growing populations" is not a requirement.


The paradigm shift will need to be forced upon us it seems, that’s gonna hurt a bit.


Less people also means that innovations that would not otherwise be economical becomes so. With the technology of today, we can already do a lot of work with few people. If self-driving and AI becomes dependable enough, a lot of hands gets freed up to to other stuff.


> Less people also means that innovations that would not otherwise be economical becomes so. Did you mis-write this? Given that, on average, each person is a net-positive producer then more people means more resources to accomplish things with. For what you wrote to be valid, each person removed would have to be net-negative and at such a scale that would mean you think everyone, on average, is net-negative which means the most productive population size isn't 1/2 or 1/4 ... it's 0.


I think you have a fairly different angle to this.Assume you need 5 people to do a task, or one person and a machine.If the machine costs more than hiring the extra 4 people for x time, the task will be done by people. If salaries goes up enough (or the machine becomes cheap enough), it changes the dynamics of what kinds of work that will be done by machines.




I agree with you. Changing major pieces of the way the economy works is no easy task. I fear the growing pains associated with such big changes.


Only capitalistic economies. Socialistic and communistic economies is the future, and I am not talking about counties run by dictators in this case, but the people as a collective.


Infinite growth on a finite planet will end worse than an economy that compensates for a stable or temporarily shrinking population


That's nonsense. Economies do not depend on growing population, why on earth would they? A stagnant, stable population with a stable economy is the end goal here. What does need a growing population is the way we've been absolutely raping the idea of what an economy should look like. Companies have been scaling up and scaling up and scaling up and scaling up, without the slightest fucking thought about sustainability, stability, longevity of the system, and a lot more. All that matters is their wallet.


I am not an expert, but I can think of a couple ways. 1) Governments have a responsibility (one could argue) to care for people, especially the elderly. This costs money. Most governments collect tax dollars to make sure that there aren’t people dying in the street because they can’t afford medical bills, memory care, etc. Social security is a good example of this in the US. Social security works by taxing the working population in order to pay for the elderly. If there is a very large older population and a very small working population. The tax on the working population becomes unbearable. 2) If innovation is stagnant in a country, the country will eventually fall behind. The US, for example, can grow it’s economy by creating the latest and greatest products. Imagine if innovation came to a halt in the US. Others would quickly take over bigger pieces of the world economy. What would the US have left to offer? Not much except some outdated tech. So the question becomes, how do you increase innovation? One could argue that you need more people to generate more ideas to stay on top of the innovation game.


How can you get the former then devolve into that gibber-jabber in the later? Companies can't scale-up unless there are people demanding the service and when they scale-up they do so minimizing the people and materials used to accomplish the work - that's how profits are made; through more efficient use of resources than the competition. One of the ideas that regularly comes up on /r/zerowaste is to grow some vegetables yourself but this idea is net-negative. You will never grow your own food more efficiently, e.g. using fewer resources to generate the same yield, than a factory farm. One of the most precious resources is land which means habitat so the less efficient the yield the more land is needed to grow which requires more land to be taken over and claimed for human use. One of the worst things you can do for the environment is buy organic food.


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> Companies can't scale-up unless there are people demanding the service That is just nonsense, I almost can't believe people still believe this nonsense. It actually happens in reverse. Companies drive consumers to buy by constantly offering and advertising new products. And no matter how efficiently you make a shit product that no one needs, it'll always be a pointless waste. And the rest of the bullshit you said im not even going to address.


if only automation benefitted the people, not the rich investors, that would not be such a problem


10 out of 10 shareholders disagree. Now granted, shareholders are destructive to a civilization, too.


Regular people can be shareholders too. More regular people should buy shares.


Why? So we can more fully participate in societal collapse. Money isn’t real.


Oh money isn't real? Give me all of yours then


I don’t have many capitalism points, Bezos has more than all of us put together so go ask him. Most of mine is from when they decided houses were worth double what they were a couple years before, I didn’t do it.


I remember over the decade, humanity was said to eventually reach 50B, then 20B, then 15B, then 12B… Hopefully one day, it will just keep shrinking down to 5B, enough where there will be enough for everybody.


No way it will reach 50b. Most projections have it maxing out around 12b in about 100 years, then beginning to decline.


Yeah this is a good problem


We don't know how to live in this 'slow decline' situation. It means that population is getting older, and we don't know who will be feeding all these older people, with their medical treatment becoming increasingly expensive.


This is part of the reason why Japan has invested heavily in building humanoid robots for aged care facilities


I think it’s likely we’ll stop providing such extensive end of life care. More elderly will live in multigenerational households without much medical care. More elderly will die alone under bridges. Of course the wealthy will still have cutting edge treatments as they decline.


We'll have to end democracy for that. Because older people tend to vote more than anybody else.


Mandatory voting (and ensuring access to polls, time off work) is a solution to this.


Still, there would be more older voters than younger. And if you want to throw older people on the street, you have to deprive them of the right to vote first. E.g. you could say that only working people have the right to vote. If you can't work anymore, then you can't vote, and do whatever you want, we don't care.


There wouldn't though millennials outnumber boomers, not to mention all the Zoomers further eclipsing the elderly demographic Globally the young far outnumber the old by an insane amount.


Speaking from Australia, there’s plenty of useable land already. It’s just that inhumane immigration policies mean people can’t come here easily, and 1. land laws which support monopolisation and inefficient use of the land, and price explosion 2. anemic infrastructure and regional development spending, and 3. crappy suburban development standards, mean that people find it very difficult to live anywhere but the current cities.


Australia has a lot of land yes but how much of it is actually livable? I would say 90% of Australia is virtually devoid of people because most of the landmass is a vast desert. All animals gravitate towards water sources, people aren't any different. That's why the cities were built where they are. Look at the water problems the American southwest is starting to face.


Plenty of underused arable land and land with water access. Lots of desert, yes, but it’s a big continent and there’s less than 30 million people living here.


You'll basically be growing the existing cities outward as they're located in the hospitable areas. That combined with higher temperatures and less precipitation makes sustainability even harder. Building on top of your arable land decreases the amount of food you can grow, which affects food security. I know Australia grows plenty of food now, but when you start adding mouths and subtracting farms that changes the balance. Clean water is going to be a serious issue in the coming decades. Many places on earth have a physical scarcity of water, Australia one of them. Adding to your population only compounds all of these problems.


More usable land and inherited wealth.


It's only bad news to the neo-~~feudal~~liberal economists because to them the concept of "inflation triggered by increasing population" is God.


The Earth’s doctor just informed her that her cancer is starting to shrink.


This is only useful if we return land to nature.


That's just a silly thing to worry about. There is more than enough land to go around, we could increase the number of humans tenfold and *should not* be in any problems. There aren't really any benefits to an ageing population.


We have a lot of land, but not usable land. That's land with fresh water and fertile soil that we can use for farming vegetables and raising livestock.


When having children is not a viable option economically. Population declines.


It's most strongly tied to standard of living, when your retirement doesn't require a hundred kids to work a shitty field by hand you have less.


Most strongly tied to women having access to education and careers and options that aren't just being baby machines, and especially having access to contraception and birth control. When women start to have actual choices about their lives, popping out babies every year doesn't tend to figure high on the list of priorities.


Pretty sure the [birth rates plummeted](https://www.statista.com/graphic/1/1033027/fertility-rate-us-1800-2020.jpg) well before emancipation or contraceptives.


Some of the places with the highest birth rates are the most impoverished. I think that’s more true for rich, western nations.


Even in Western nations birth rate scales inversely with income


Hmmmm was this engineered by the 1% to save the planet by choking the resources of 99%?


Who cares? Our kids won’t be alive to suffer through it.


Yeah they will. Social security is getting closer to its demise. A shrinking population will certainly put an end to it. If that happens, it will fuck over entire generations. Not only will my 5 year old experience it, we are likely to experience it also.


Whose social security? Check the sub mate


Your not wrong but: The Name of the program changes but the basic structural problem exists for most countries which have anything resembling it.


In Africa there are more children then adults, average age is below 25. They are not going to stop anytime soon and Europe will have to feed them all.


I don't think that's accurate. The most desperately poor and impoverished people have many children. The most wealthy tend to have very few.


I’m not convinced overpopulation is a problem in a vacuum


7 Black Holes in your region of space would like to know your location


According to Hawking radiation, any black hole in my area will be so small that it will irradiate away instantly causing an explosion that will destroy the entire planet or will swallow the planet regardless if they are big enough So they can’t know my location sweaty


I shall have you know that I very recently showered and am not at all sweaty


Depends on the size of the vacuum, tbh.


honestly as it is right now overpopulation isnt the problem causing housing crises and global warming. that being said though, i wont be caught dead having any children the way the world is right now


Wouldn't it be a problem, by definition? It's *overpopulation* after all, not *large population*.


Wtf. We are fucking overpopulated


It's not about the population, but its derivative. [Rate of change](https://i.imgur.com/8cFq9KP.png).


And if population growth has been slowing down, that means this prediction cod be based on the derivative of the derivative!


Population growth is exponential (positive or negative) so all of its derivatives are sort of the same .




Excellent news


Good. I was born in the early 70s and the human population of the planet has more than doubled in my lifetime. At the same time much of the wildlife on the planet, which had already fallen enormously in numbers before that, has fallen by about 60%. We need a lot fewer people. Fewer people, and for *all* of those people better conditions, good access to education, health, balanced diets, technology, etc.


I find it a little silly that the author is suggesting humans are now going to decline into extinction in a few hundred years


Phew. This misleading title had me thinking someone had invented a new kind of highly destructive type of bomb called: “the population bomb.”


Super Diarrhea Boner Pills™, the Ultimate Euthanasia, now also in Strawberry flavor.


Are you.. threatening me with a good time?




The thing is, the more people we have, the more we can produce. Now that doesn't necessarily create new resources to source materials from, but by the same token, having less people does not equal more for everyone else. It's still entirely possible the West will continue to increase it's demands for technology and material wealth, drawing more from the 3rd world serf nations. After all, if there mores stuff available, why share it with someone else? Might be a touch cynical, but I think my point stands.


Idk with an increasing percentage of production compacity done by automation and fixed amount of resources id say we’re moving closer and closer to less population being for favorable.


True, but look at Tesla. We aren't at a stage where everything can be automated, and humans do quite a lot. Plus, for as many robots increase productivity, there's a proportional increase in maintenance work that needs done. However, it's more of a thing to think about, rather than an actual complaint about declining population. We'd probably be better off having less people, just perhaps not as few as we think we need.


Yes but it’s slowly moving that way and the population isn’t dropping all at once but slowly leveling off as well. You don’t need to have completely humanless giga factories like what Tesla was going for, but to have technology make it so that a single worker can produce that much more. Ideally more than we would lose out from less workers in a declining population.


The way things tend to pan out, it's those "3rd world serf nations" that get tired of sharing with us. Maybe even charge high enough prices to enjoy some of that prosperity for themselves, and suddenly there's a grainy satellite photo printed on poster board in Congress, and state representatives reading statements prepared by their corporate sponsors. Why not another 20 years? If anything we need to stop making every damned thing out of plastic. Of course it's terrible for the environment, agriculture, and fishing, but we keep acting like there's an infinite amount of oil in the ground. there isn't. At our rate of consumption, our strategic oil reserve will last us 4 years. WW2 was 6 years long. WW3 will last until the tanks grind to a halt and countries get *really* desperate.


I honestly hear a lot of conflicting things on oil. We're still discovering new deposits, and synthetic refineries are a thing. More telling, airplane companies are still designing new aircraft. Until they stop, I'm confident Oil won't be an issue, at least globally. Individual nations might run out sooner though... Plastic pollution is a big deal, but not in America. Mostly. It's the nations with no pollution controls, like China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Malaysia that dump all the trash in the ocean. I've heard rumblings about bacteria that can break down plastic, but who knows if that will ever take root. Microplastics and BPA are probably a more immediate threat to human and animal life, although we don't really know enough yet. And as for the 3rd world, it's a combo of complete corruption from within and without. The US keeps it's 'strategic interests' close to the chest, so that nations it needs to produce cheap materials keep doing so. And most of the time, those 3rd world dictatorships are more than happy to keep the goods flowing if it means they get to live the high life. It's a sad cycle forged from the evil of human nature and globalist.


We are likely gonna need oil for any foreseeable future. The main thing will be to make sure it's only used for high-value purposes like long-haul flying. The released CO2 should be offset by carbon capture and storing. We need to get away from using fossile fuels for stuff like power generation/transport and heating as soon as technically feasible. EV's will take over for ICE-cars, trucks and heavy machineries are likely to follow, and renewable will have to provide the power. The linchpin in this transformation is batteries. We need a lot of cheap batteries to store and even out the production from many different sources that provides varying amounts of power depending on the weather and such.


You should be more worried about China and India exploiting their poor and other nations. Since they are not “developed” they don’t even have to adhere to climate goals and can fuck the environment however they want




We have an affordable housing and job shortage pretty much everywhere, couples gotta work in pairs to make ends meet, everything is getting more expensive. Of course people aren't gonna have kids.


This is gonna be terrible for my kid. Our economies currently pretty much depend on infinite growth. He will live most of his life through a recession, instead of one in every 8-10 years. We will not adapt to the new reality quickly - this has been the truth for Japan for the last 30 or 40 years, and they didn't manage to change zilch. But this is going to be good for his grandchildren, who will grown into a place that is more stable and not planned for infinite growth anymore. IE: 50 years from now it will be a disaster, a century from now it will be good for humanity as a whole. Assuming we don't nuke ourselves back to stone age first ( Big if there)


We'll never adapt really. Capitalism doesn't possess the capacity to adapt to this kind of problem.




It's always annoying to see economist panic about this issue when the lowered birth rate is a direct consequence to the economy they have pushed for the last century.


Suck it Malthus.


Best news I’ve read in ages.






imo this is the best protest against taxes and all regulations


Second paragraph sites women's empowerment as one of two causes? As a man I find that is a really stupid statement. How about the economic pressures in industrialized countries are associated with women not having kids till later or not at all.


Poor women in industrialized countries have more kids than rich women.


This is fantastic news in the long run.


Thank god , we really dont need more humans tho.


I thought we were going up to 10 billion because of Africa's demographic transition?


Where’s Thanos when you need him?


Maybe if they'd let us cure disease we could increase longevity and that would curb the decline.


Honestly? Good. There are a lot of people out there that have no business being parents and they’re popping kids out left and right. We are extremely over populated, in the middle of a pandemic, and our entire ecosystem is on it’s last leg this world simply cannot sustain this many people for too much longer. And on a more childish note a lot of parents these days are very open about the fact that they hate being parents and it discourages other people from having kids so you know I’m sure between the mass economic and global crisis and parents proving that parenthood actually kind of sucks not many people are looking to have kids. We are the first generation where parenthood wasn’t just expected in our lives, and I’m glad that more people are coming to the realization that having kids isn’t an obligation it’s a choice and it’s a choice you don’t have to make if you don’t want to. I asked my mom and my grandma why they decided to have kids and they said it wasn’t really a decision it was more or less expected of them.


I agree. Personality, I’m adopting when I can. I think more people should consider adopting tbh. But then again, I’m an adopteee so I’m prob a bit bias on why you should adopt


Honestly I can foresee some nations pioneering artificial means of birthing kids in the future. We are in a situation where we want to give persons access to a full life and part of that is deciding how many or if at all to have kids. But at the same time nations will likely depend on having a cohort of younger citizens. Once the tech to cut out the middle man is there, some of the approaches might be taken


Having a child is the single most destructive action someone can take with regards to climate change. Glad to see more people taking a stand to improve the world for others.


I read this, and then live in the Midwest. Where everyone I graduated with has 5 kids and counting. This can’t be real


However, if you move away from the minority groups who live in rural areas, you'll find that the majority of the western world is only having 1 or 0 children. You need every woman to have an average of around 2.1 babies each in order to maintain a stable population, and there is hardly a single country in the western world hitting that average. Which includes China, and India is only slightly above that number and still falling.