2014 October 16 Thursday
Inevitable World Population Explosion

If the human race continues to exist then the groups with really high fertility rates will eventually swamp everyone else and world population will keep growing and even accelerate in its growth. High fertility religious groups will swamp everyone else.

I expect Mennonites, Amish, ultra-orthodox Jews, the most tribal Afghan, and other high fertility groups to become most of the world's population. What could prevent this? War. Robot war. Biowarfare. Biowarfare wouldn't have to kill. It could work by reprogramming brains to eliminate the desire for children.

Selective pressure for higher fertility will have a large effect. Genes and religions that boost fertility will get selected for. A return to the Malthusian Trap awaits unless war in some form prevents this.

Update: A point that has to be addressed if you disagree with my conclusions: If a country's overall fertility is falling but some ethnic groups in the country are immune to the fertility-lowering effects of modernization then those groups will go thru population doublings until high fertility groups become the majority of the country's population. Now, you can hope that these groups will change. But selective pressure has made the Amish more Amish over generations. They are becoming more immune to modernity, not less. Other groups are under similar selective pressure.

I think a return to the Malthusian Trap is inevitable unless we get our numbers drastically reduced by some form of disaster or some portions of the world get put under dictatorships that tightly regulate reproduction.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2014 October 16 09:20 PM 

Jimbo said at October 16, 2014 10:24 PM:

A little targeted genetic engineering that sterilizes a quarter or a third of humanity would do fine. No suffering. No pain. All the fornication you want. Just no kids. Put it in the water or food of some of the more troublesome places. No birth defects that would need taking care of. Just no births. Do it at a young enough age (birth to 10) and it would be impossible to trace.

I don't know why some philanthropist isn't engineering this right now. Or perhaps he is.

Perhaps he could fund some basic research targeted at sterilizing feral dogs with some sort of bait. Or getting rid of some "invasive species, like rats in Guam, or those Mexican toads in Hawaii. No one would bat an eyelid over that. But the cover story would permit research into effective delivery vectors and genes that are particularly useful in reducing fertility. He would be championed as a hero, and could then (secretly, obviously) transition his team's research to humans. My guess is that it wouldn't take more than $50,000,000, of which a substantial chunk would be buying off the environmentalists and generating a relentless flurry of good press.

bob sykes said at October 17, 2014 5:17 AM:

For the last 40 or 50 years, the world's population has been following the UN's low projection. This is the one with the realistic demographic parameters like below replacement-level fertility in most of the world. This projection still predicts some additional growth because the world's age distribution is skewed young. However, the total world population is predicted to reach about 8.5 billion (1.5 billion more than now) by 2030 or so and decline slowly thereafter.

The other projections include unrealistic demographic parameters. For example, the median projection that is always and mindlessly quoted assumes that all countries have at least replacement level fertility. Recent scare reports predicting 11 billion or more by Century's end are asinine--mere Erhlichian nonsense. Remember the Great World Famine that set in in 1975 and the Club of Rome economic collapse due to exhaustion of resources?

The real problem is declining economic activity in declining, older populations. Old people buy less and produce less. A condition of permanent, ongoing recession seems to be the likely future. This will also be a period of very low innovation and discovery, some deindustrialization, and perhaps even a loss of skills in areas like manufacturing and engineering. The Singularity most definitely will not happen.

sestamibi said at October 17, 2014 11:47 AM:

I don't think a population "explosion" is in the works. Fertility rates for even the groups cited have fallen too. What matters is how those compare with all others, and from what I can see they will still be the last ones standing--and that's all that REALLY matters.

Daniel H said at October 17, 2014 4:01 PM:

>>The real problem is declining economic activity in declining, older populations. Old people buy less and produce less.....

That's a problem for bankers, politicians and guru economists, not the for the rest of us.

destructure said at October 17, 2014 4:38 PM:

Fertility rates aren't evenly distributed. The fertility problem in under developed countries is that people are having too many children. The fertility problem in developed countries is that people aren't having enough children. In particular, smart people aren't having enough children. Developed countries can't solve that by restricting their own fertility and opening the borders. That's simply population replacement and I don't care to be replaced. In fact, people whining that developed countries should limit their already below replacement level fertility really piss me off. Until other countries limit their fertility and ours start controlling the border I'll continue to have as many children as I want, thank you.

malthus_be_gone said at October 17, 2014 8:46 PM:

I don't see this problem arriving. Technological advancements are accelerating more rapidly, while population growth seems to be decelerating. Vertical farming & infinite energy will be part of our post-scarcity society. Low IQ groups that want to populate will be limited to certain territories, while higher IQ groups will urbanize into advanced mega-cities like the ones in East Asia. High IQ humans will evolve to the point that we'll be in space or in environments that low IQ groups cannot survive in (eg. colder climates, expensive urban areas).

James Bowery said at October 17, 2014 11:50 PM:

Civilization is dysgenic. That's why its social control mechanisms called "mass religions" always offer eternal life: To take people's minds off of the genetic damage being done by civilization's selective pressures. Transhumanism is merely the latest although it does at least deliver on part of its promise when it keeps people from dying a bit longer. In a dysgenic culture, every death is a loss.

What is interesting is how even though it is basically hopeless to reform civilization, eugenics is such a taboo. The reason may be the same reason that rich people haven't gotten behind SENS: They think that since they were successful by some artificial measure, that therefore civilization must represent a fair form of evolution -- so a death is not a loss as it makes way for the next generation of fair evolution. It would be "sinful" to interfere with such a fair form of evolution hence eugenics is evil.

Randall Parker said at October 18, 2014 11:39 AM:


If a group can maintain high fertility while living in a highly industrialized society (and several groups can) then their doubling rates will eventually swamp the groups with low fertility and the high fertility groups will become the majority. At that point population explodes.

It takes a religion that causes groups to isolate themselves and to put a high value on women being at home and pregnant. Then the baby making happens.


Technological advances are enabling high fertility groups to have more kids. The food is plentiful. The welfare state helps some of the high fertility groups.

Who is going to fence in the higher fertility groups? More likely that higher IQ and lower fertility groups will leave the big countries and create some island nations where they can isolate themselves from the exploding populations elsewhere.

Maybe the Chinese will fence themselves in with a new Great Wall and prevent rising populations elsewhere from getting into China. But the Chinese aren't going to let us into their walled-off country.

Nathan C said at October 18, 2014 4:50 PM:

I predict that what will happen is that these groups will grow exponentially, but be preventing by force from becoming the majority. Our current live and let live attitude will be the exception and not the rule. Look at the Amish. White, fast breeding, religious, traditionalist, pacifist, they are pretty much everything a liberal could hate. Sometime in the future, our tyrannical liberal government will start to force their assimilation. It will declare that an "education" in our public schools is a "human right," where Amish children will be exposed to our toxic "culture." They will soon make hate speech laws, criminalizing much of the Amish religion in the process. The particular economic arrangements of the Amish will be targeted for high taxation designed to force them into cities where assimilation will be easier. There they will be discriminated against, forced into the lowest-status occupations. Conscription might be restored, one more institution to enforce assimilation. Anti-Amish attitudes(paralleling current anti-White attitudes) will be introduced in schools and culture will convince many Amish to convert. Amish cultural life will be targeted by preventing Amish from living near one another in large numbers.(Through "anti-discrimination laws" and the like) Eventually the government may grow ruthless enough to simply imprison or expel them, or prevent them by force from having many children.

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