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Peak Human Population?

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#1
BlazingRocket

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Dear everybody on Futuretimeline forums,

 

I am just curious, do you guys have opinions on when the human population will peak? I personally believe that it will peak at about 12-13 billion before it stabilizes.

I believe so for a number of (optimistic) reasons:

 

1) By the mid-22nd century, even developing nations will have easy access to technology that ends aging and allows practical immortality. Because the concept of "death", "aging", and "life expectancy" will disappear, there will be no societal incentive to have new members born into it (as they will consume resources in their childhood, and nobody is "retiring" anymore).

 

2) A decline in "birth-positive" culture. In many East-Asian nations (ex. Japan, South Korea), cultural attitudes are shifting in that people in their late-20s and early-30s are increasingly going without children. Those who do have children are giving birth much later in their lives. Due to these two factors, Japan is already facing a population decline and other nations are expected to follow suit in several decades. I believe that this will spread to the rest of the world, and this will get rid of the personal incentive to have birth (as culture changes personal beliefs). For this reason, by the mid-22nd century, all nations will have reached this point.

 

Conclusion: Due to a lack of death and a lack of birth, I believe that the human population will stabilize at 12-13 billion in the mid-22nd century.

 

What are your opinions on the peak human population, if you believe there will be one at all?



#2
Jakob

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I for one fervently believe and hope that the human population rises into the trillions and beyond. Any less would grossly limit our potential.


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#3
Yuli Ban

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Dear everybody on Futuretimeline forums,

 

I am just curious, do you guys have opinions on when the human population will peak? I personally believe that it will peak at about 12-13 billion before it stabilizes.

I believe so for a number of (optimistic) reasons:

 

1) By the mid-22nd century, even developing nations will have easy access to technology that ends aging and allows practical immortality. Because the concept of "death", "aging", and "life expectancy" will disappear, there will be no societal incentive to have new members born into it (as they will consume resources in their childhood, and nobody is "retiring" anymore).

 

2) A decline in "birth-positive" culture. In many East-Asian nations (ex. Japan, South Korea), cultural attitudes are shifting in that people in their late-20s and early-30s are increasingly going without children. Those who do have children are giving birth much later in their lives. Due to these two factors, Japan is already facing a population decline and other nations are expected to follow suit in several decades. I believe that this will spread to the rest of the world, and this will get rid of the personal incentive to have birth (as culture changes personal beliefs). For this reason, by the mid-22nd century, all nations will have reached this point.

 

Conclusion: Due to a lack of death and a lack of birth, I believe that the human population will stabilize at 12-13 billion in the mid-22nd century.

 

What are your opinions on the peak human population, if you believe there will be one at all?

Likely less than that. 11 billion is my belief. Maybe close to 12 billion a some point, but I strongly doubt we'll ever reach 13 billion biological humans.

 

Population growth decline is already happening much faster than expected. I think there are literally a very tiny handful of nations where the rate of population growth is increasing. In fact, the growth rate is slowing so rapidly that even immigration won't be able to change the inevitable. Take, for instance, India: India's growth rate is so shockingly low that it really surprised me when I first saw it. The only reason they're adding so many year over year is entirely because of their size. 

 

 

Once you bring in the question of simulated humans, the answer changes but it also becomes much more complicated.

 

 

Interestingly, the projections for when we'll reach "peak human" keep getting pushed forward. When I was young, I read that our population might peak in the late 22nd century or afterwards, with high-end scenarios putting the number of humans in the 100+ billion range by 2100. Now, there's growing consensus that we might reach peak human sometime this century. Even the high-end projections put it at less than 20 billion by 2100. But I've been seeing more and more articles claim that we might not even reach 10 billion.

 

I still think we'll cross that threshold, as long as there are no major disasters or plagues.


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#4
BlazingRocket

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Dear everybody on Futuretimeline forums,

 

I am just curious, do you guys have opinions on when the human population will peak? I personally believe that it will peak at about 12-13 billion before it stabilizes.

I believe so for a number of (optimistic) reasons:

 

1) By the mid-22nd century, even developing nations will have easy access to technology that ends aging and allows practical immortality. Because the concept of "death", "aging", and "life expectancy" will disappear, there will be no societal incentive to have new members born into it (as they will consume resources in their childhood, and nobody is "retiring" anymore).

 

2) A decline in "birth-positive" culture. In many East-Asian nations (ex. Japan, South Korea), cultural attitudes are shifting in that people in their late-20s and early-30s are increasingly going without children. Those who do have children are giving birth much later in their lives. Due to these two factors, Japan is already facing a population decline and other nations are expected to follow suit in several decades. I believe that this will spread to the rest of the world, and this will get rid of the personal incentive to have birth (as culture changes personal beliefs). For this reason, by the mid-22nd century, all nations will have reached this point.

 

Conclusion: Due to a lack of death and a lack of birth, I believe that the human population will stabilize at 12-13 billion in the mid-22nd century.

 

What are your opinions on the peak human population, if you believe there will be one at all?

Likely less than that. 11 billion is my belief. Maybe close to 12 billion a some point, but I strongly doubt we'll ever reach 13 billion biological humans.

 

Population growth decline is already happening much faster than expected. I think there are literally a very tiny handful of nations where the rate of population growth is increasing. In fact, the growth rate is slowing so rapidly that even immigration won't be able to change the inevitable. Take, for instance, India: India's growth rate is so shockingly low that it really surprised me when I first saw it. The only reason they're adding so many year over year is entirely because of their size. 

 

 

Once you bring in the question of simulated humans, the answer changes but it also becomes much more complicated.

 

 

Interestingly, the projections for when we'll reach "peak human" keep getting pushed forward. When I was young, I read that our population might peak in the late 22nd century or afterwards, with high-end scenarios putting the number of humans in the 100+ billion range by 2100. Now, there's growing consensus that we might reach peak human sometime this century. Even the high-end projections put it at less than 20 billion by 2100. But I've been seeing more and more articles claim that we might not even reach 10 billion.

 

I still think we'll cross that threshold, as long as there are no major disasters or plagues.

 

As someone who believes that human population must be artificially kept low to ensure that humanity can survive millions or billions of years on the matter that our local galactic group has to offer (I do not believe in FTL travel), I sincerely hope that you are right because I think that having too many people will allow the amount of time our species can live in absolute prosperity (see the 2200s and further sections of the Timeline for a reference) to decrease.



#5
BlazingRocket

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I for one fervently believe and hope that the human population rises into the trillions and beyond. Any less would grossly limit our potential.

I would personally disagree with that and believe that human population should be kept low (*Gurren Lagann, **cough, cough), as this will allow us to keep our "demand" for resources low while we harvest the large supply of resources the local galactic group has to offer us (I personally do not believe in FTL travel). As such, to ensure that our species can live in absolute prosperity for millions or billions of years, I believe that the human population should not exceed the tens of billions at the very highest.

 

In my ideal world, everybody who is alive in 5,000,000 CE would have been alive ever since 1965-2100 CE, with perhaps 0.001% of the population being born after this time period.



#6
Jakob

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I for one fervently believe and hope that the human population rises into the trillions and beyond. Any less would grossly limit our potential.

I would personally disagree with that and believe that human population should be kept low

Then you're one of the worst enemies humanity could ever face. Malthusian ideals need to be ruthlessly suppressed by society to prevent the collapse of civilization.



#7
Yuli Ban

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I for one fervently believe and hope that the human population rises into the trillions and beyond. Any less would grossly limit our potential.

I would personally disagree with that and believe that human population should be kept low

Then you're one of the worst enemies humanity could ever face. 

Right back at you.


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#8
Outlook

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I'm with Jakob in hoping that humans will reach a very high population simply because I think humans are the most beautiful and complex things in the universe, and I like to see just how fun we can get.

 

Whether it will actually happen, we have to question the position of humans in the modern nation-state. They are the hands and brains of the nation-state, they are the central substance in which everything of a nation revolves around, and the quality and quantity of these beings and their social structure is what determines the success of this nation-state. This is why growth is important, more people to make more better in competition with other nation-states. A nation-state, if it discovers a way to make more babies without reliance on the population's affinity to reproduce, will use this to increase their population due to the limitless escalation of "peaceful" competition. But of course, what about AI and their place in human society? I've stated before my belief that AI will be far far far more diverse and versatile than humans are, but at the same time rely on the basic principles of intelligence which we find in the philosophies of mind.

 

I'm not really that well read in that field, but I have my own thoughts on the topic. One of them is that humans always do things for pleasure, whether it be mental or 'higher' forms of pleasure like a meaning in life, or a care for someone else, to physical pleasures, like sex or food. Pleasures we've developed through nature, and a reliance on these actions. For example, mental pleasures have more to do with social interaction than anything. Trust and so forth is required to form tight social structure and relationships. It's why I think human goals are irrational, but our methods of getting there is rational. It's rational in the grand scheme of things, humans do things because it gives them pleasure, but from the first person perspective, "What's my meaning in life? What matters most in life?" These questions won't make sense. Nothing matters, and there's no meaning. The human does what makes him feel best the most. It's a subjective meaning, and not an objective meaning, which the latter is what a human searches for contradictorily.

 

But this comes to the question of contemplation. A human contemplates to decide on the pleasure that matters the most to them. If an AI can contemplate, and ask the question "Why should I make the world a paperclip factory? Why is a paperclip factory important?", then it will run into an existential crisis and will either become a philosopher or join a cult. It asks the question of whether a pleasure of meaning is required in intelligence, or that it's strictly a human thing. An intelligent being needs to question what it does, and why it does. If the goal of this AI is to make as much paperclips as possible, shouldn't it be part of its programming to decide which actions will bring it closer to its goal? Which sub-goal will bring it to its goal? If it installs a paper-clip machine that was better than a previous paper-clip machine, and wouldn't this give pleasure to its meaning of making as much paper clips as possible-- such as a child praying in church will make them feel pleasure in meaning, that they've done something that matters, or if a writer completes their writing goal, that they've done something that matters. It gives value to their reason for living.

 

Shouldn't that mean certain pleasures are required in any intelligence to be complex? Complex intelligence being an intelligence that can utilize language to abstract the universe to a limitless level, and so can hold the potential to understand anything and everything. Things like having a reason to exist is seen in every society and culture in the form of religion, philosophy, for some it's answered simply and moved aside for the more physical pleasures, and simple natural pleasures like power, social status, ownership. But wouldn't their meaning then move behind those pleasures? Living a happy life, attaining a woman, making as much money as possible, and failures in those meanings.

 

I don't know. My head is hurting now and I'm getting sleepy. I'll just say that I like humans, and the more humans in this modern world means more human beings to learn and question and interaction and make the world a more interesting place, because humans are the most interesting things to me. I do care about conservation and preservation, but I don't think having a lot of humans, and a preserved ecosystem is mutually exclusive. 


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#9
BlazingRocket

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I'm with Jakob in hoping that humans will reach a very high population simply because I think humans are the most beautiful and complex things in the universe, and I like to see just how fun we can get.

 

I don't know. My head is hurting now and I'm getting sleepy. I'll just say that I like humans, and the more humans in this modern world means more human beings to learn and question and interaction and make the world a more interesting place, because humans are the most interesting things to me. I do care about conservation and preservation, but I don't think having a lot of humans, and a preserved ecosystem is mutually exclusive. 

 

I guess this makes two (or four?) of us who have headaches thinking about this question.

 

It never occurred to me, but I do have a Malthusian approach to the future of humanity (now provided, I am talking about a future on a timespan of billions of years- not what most people think of as the "future' (the next 5-200 years or so).  

 

However, as you have mentioned earlier, I have not thrown in AI into the equation, which have a far less demand for resources in matter (they would only require some metal and electricity, rather than the complex food, entertainment, etc). Likewise, we have not thrown in the possibility of converting existing humans into AI (like seen in Halo).

 

There are a few clarifications/additions I would like to in my argument though:

 

1) I would like to see to see the low "ending" human population to be a voluntary thing (not forced by some fascist policies)

2) If humans could be converted into AI or if we find a way to increase the pool of resources we can use (ex. find FTL travel, rearrange subatomic particles in matter (matter replication) without creating devastating nuclear fusion/fission explosions), we may be able to increase the "upper bounds" of the maximum human population required for billions of years of human survival OR even get rid of the concept of an "upper bound" (and make it so that my idea isn't Malthusian anymore)



#10
Erowind

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/\ Slightly off topic, but relevant to your thoughts Outlook. I err that reducing something as complex as humans to hedonistic pleasure formulas is probably as equally fallacious as reducing us to Hobbsian cost-benefit analysis formulas and asserting we are inherently selfish. I agree there are some things we have inherent pleasures towards. Fore example taking pleasure in being the cause as 20th century psychologist Karl Groos demonstrated while studying human play. However, just as we take pleasure in enacting our will we also self destruct in the most unpleasurable ways and the fact that it can be a rational decision to commit suicide throws a lot of these very black and white philosophical theories into question. People who've been on the verge of committing the act don't think of suicide as something nice, it's utterly terrifying, yet people at times still genuinely want to end their own existence. We can can probably point to abuse of some sort driving 99% of people who take their own life, but what of the cases where it's a perfectly rational and non-reactionary act? (As in, not a self-defense response to avoid further abuse.) There are still many things we don't know or understand about ourselves. These older philosophical models whether they paint us as selfish, hedonistic or altruistic are too simple and try to reduce the complex human subject to a fault by forcing a being with many varied motivations into a model with only one or a few motivations. 


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#11
Outlook

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/\ Slightly off topic, but relevant to your thoughts Outlook. I err that reducing something as complex as humans to hedonistic pleasure formulas is probably as equally fallacious as reducing us to Hobbsian cost-benefit analysis formulas and asserting we are inherently selfish. I agree there are some things we have inherent pleasures towards. Fore example taking pleasure in being the cause as 20th century psychologist Karl Groos demonstrated while studying human play. However, just as we take pleasure in enacting our will we also self destruct in the most unpleasurable ways and the fact that it can be a rational decision to commit suicide throws a lot of these very black and white philosophical theories into question. People who've been on the verge of committing the act don't think of suicide as something nice, it's utterly terrifying, yet people at times still genuinely want to end their own existence. We can can probably point to abuse of some sort driving 99% of people who take their own life, but what of the cases where it's a perfectly rational and non-reactionary act? (As in, not a self-defense response to avoid further abuse.) There are still many things we don't know or understand about ourselves. These older philosophical models whether they paint us as selfish, hedonistic or altruistic are too simple and try to reduce the complex human subject to a fault by forcing a being with many varied motivations into a model with only one or a few motivations. 

 

 

I have thought deeper into the whole "everything a human does is for pleasure" more than I've stated/explored in my post that might answer some of your criticisms and thoughts on it. The thing is though it's rough, and I'm still answering a lot of questions.

 

I'll give you the core questions and ideas that led me to it. One of which was that how can an intelligent creature exist without a goal, if an objective meaning doesn't exist? If things just are, and a human being realises that life has no meaning, shouldn't they stop functioning once they realize all goals just are, all things just is, that any action they commit serves no purpose but to be an action that commits? No, because we do things selfishly, to receive something.

 

At its bare minimum, what is the structure of a human action? The first is the percieved pleasure, which is what a human wants. The second is the want, which is the desire to experience the pleasure. The action is something a person commits to recieve the want. If somebody commits suicide, they expect pleasure out of this, whether that pleasure is in the form of a pleasure of relief from pain. If somebody is given definitive proof that killing themselves will place them in eternal physical and mental pain and torment, and convinced of it, then that person will not commit suicide. I think people who commit suicide do it with the perceived idea that it is nothing, or even worse, like sleep, where there is a notion of pleasure because falling asleep and staying asleep is pleasurable.

 

But I've not even gone into the idea of what constitutes a conscious and unconscious want, conscious and unconscious pleasure and whether a pleasure can be wanted without having experienced the pleasure (and the application of ideas of other forms of pleasure, into a pleasure one hasn't experienced before), and the idea that a human can commit a single action, and whether that creates a competition, intermixture, or value in wants, and what the action of contemplation is, which is a decision between wants, as in, what does the action of contemplation want?

 

It's very convulated, and I've stopped thinking about it because I've gotten frustrated and always felt like I've been missing something, and that I lack the required skills to form the idea. Knowing that I've never seriously read modern philosophy of minds, and that I've barely studied logic makes me hesitant.


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#12
Maximus

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I'm with Jakob and Outlook on this one. Outlook put it very well; having humanity reach its maximum potential as an interstellar civilization shouldn't mean we leave a trail of destruction in our wake. If we can use technology to minimize our impact on the environment, I don't see a reason why reaching a population in the trillions is a bad thing. Of course, those who propose explosive population growth in our current state of high dependence on fossil fuels, are in fact a menace to civilization.  I'm not a supporter of Malthusianism, in that I believe technological progress allows us to continually raise the "upper limit" of human population. However, at any specific stage in civilization, there is clearly a limit to how many people can exist without ecological and societal collapse. It's clear that right now we're pushing environmental collapse; because of this, I would support measures to limit human population for the time being. I don't mean one-child policies, or anything draconian like that; rather, improving education and human rights is central to lowering the birth rate in many developing countries. Improving recycling and efficiency is also hugely important. If we can transition to a more sustainable model, allowing us to avoid environmental catastrophe, we have a very good chance of going on to develop technologies such as fusion power. Once we have that, I would support a huge increase in human population, especially if we find a way of getting to other habitable planets. 

 

When it comes to discussing overpopulation, some people are simply scared to have human population reach something like a few trillion, sort of like this huge number would make the individual insignificant. This is irrational however. We reached 7.7 billion people this month; as an individual, you already are insignificant compared to this number.  Seriously, you account for 0.000000013% of humanity. As a decimal, you are 10 orders of magnitude smaller than the human population. That's a tiny number. If humanity were a meter stick, you would be a fraction of a nanometer--practically non-existent. In your life, you might meet a few thousand people; you will get to know some of them, and the ones that matter to you will be a tiny fraction of those. What I'm getting at is that it shouldn't make any difference to you personally if there are 10 billion or 10 trillion people; at these scales, numbers lose meaning. 

 

I don't think these numbers are depressing. Rather, it's kind of poetic--sort of like the vast insignificance of existence itself is what lends significance to the the individual. There could be billions or trillions out there, but there is only one of you--your life, your dreams, and your experiences are unique among the storm of human experience.


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