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I came across that list last week and as I was reading it, I thought about what a field day you would have with this list. I was totally amazed at what this supposedly learned group of individuals were concerned about. It felt like a parallel universe. Granted there were a couple that were concerned about depleting resources and maybe one I think mention the climate change, but for the most part it seems these folks were plucked from some neighborhood of ivory towers and whatever myopic fear they had, they wrote about. Very odd.

John D

Underpopulation a problem? Seems like the planet did just fine for eons when there were less than a billion of us.


John Brockman's Rolodex is as good a place as any to prime and detonate the Underpopulation Bomb.

I'd rather listen to Dave Cohen in a howling snowstorm than read the nauseating bathos that passes for intelligence at edge.org - but then I guess when very important people have their heads up their asses, the view is very parochial.


The basic problem is unsolvable. Civilizations expand to the point where they can't meet their own requirements and they either slowly decay, are conquered, or collapse. We're at the plateau period where diminishing returns are exponentially increasing. It's the end - and one of those three scenarios are our future no matter what we do. And we have a global civilization.

From a cultural and biological perspective, the human species seeks social status in the methods that that culture emphasizes. We are literally hard-wired to do so, and whatever a culture emphasizes for social status will determine its priorities. We live in culture that emphasizes material wealth, and so this the inevitable course our culture will take - ever-increasing attempts at maximizing material wealth.

Here is an interesting recent article:

We don't see the obvious because of our cultural assumptions. It's culturally right to accumulate and store wealth individually, it's right to claim resources from future generations whlie doing so - and there is no cultural requirement or significant social reward to share wealth with others. A person gets a pat on the back if they give to charity, or they can impress their neighbors and the opposite sex with how big a yacht they have. It's perfectly fine to lock wealth away from others - the wealthy earned the right to do so. All these things we assume to be natural.

Because the roller coaster of history has only gone up the past 200 years, our 'brightest' thinkers also assume that that's the natural course for the future. The assumption is that evolution leads in a straight line, instead of a twisting path with hills and valleys.


Re: mating market in China, leaving perhaps up to 15% of young men without mates.” He also notes that “cross-national research shows a consistent relationship between imbalanced sex ratios and rates of violent crime.

What effects if any can this demographic imbalance have on geopolitics? Can this male/female imbalance contribute to tensions between China and it's neighbors?


Too few humans, now *there* is a serious problem.

It's like drowning and wondering if you are going to have enough water in a week.

Mike Roberts

Well said, Dave.

I wonder where Kelly got his population figures from. The population today is over 7 billion (not 6 billion) and the latest UN projections don't show a peaking by mid century, at 9.2 billion. In fact, they show global population still increasing at the end of the century (I know, highly unlikely), albeit very slowly, and at over 10 billion by then. This stuff isn't hard to find, but Kelly's to even abreast with current numbers; it's like his essay was written at the turn of the century.


"Humans are a plague on the Earth that need to be controlled by limiting population growth, according to Sir David Attenborough."



When you have committed your life and feeling of self worth to one topic or area of expertise, it is impossible to admit after say 20 or 30 years that you were wrong. Better to beat the dead horse than to lose face or reputation, or ... GASP! ... your easy income. Besides, most people are too stupid to even notice.

You can only see reality when you have nothing to lose ... or are extrodinarily brave. Many have the former. Few are the latter.

Alexander Ač

Dave, another bat-shit crazy essay is the following:

The deep origins of economic growth are not entirely clear. One possibility is that the ultimate root of economic growth is something very fundamental within us; I remember once chatting with Nobel-winning economist Daniel McFadden about this topic, and he laconically observed—as an initial stab at an explanation—simply that "People like to shop."

Another possibility is that the straightforward, inexorable rise in population size is the key driver of economic growth.



Alexander Ač

Yeah, and no-one mentioned "peak-oil"... so no problem :-)



Ben / Dave - Did you see the response to Attenborough? I think they'll be handing out earplugs in Pittsburgh.




After reading this post, Dave, I checked out 'edge.org'. I decided against adding it to my (short) list of favorites.


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