Friday, September 2, 2022

Long-Range Forecast Revised

Long-Range Forecast Revised


There is a global baby bust in progress. Birth rates are falling all over the world. The reproduction rate is less than replacement all over the developed world. It is still above replacement in Africa but will fall below replacement soon. Therefore global population will peak before the end of this century, probably around 8 billion, and then fall.

Why is this happening? I speculate that the baby bust is caused by ecological distress transmitted to humans via price signals. Economic pressures drive urbanization; and in an urbanizing world, children are expensive, but not useful, and therefore demand for them falls. That is “Gaia’s Revenge”. The biosphere is shutting down human reproduction; this control is done via market mechanisms.

 The Gaia-triggered, market-mediated disinclination to breed manifests in many ways, depending on the culture.

 In East Asia, young adults take a Daoist path, and allow themselves to be losers at reproduction. In Japan such young men are called “Grass-eaters”. They stay at home, work little or not at all, and forsake cars, houses, love, marriage, and family. In China, young people “lie flat”, or “let it rot”.

 In America, young adults prefer individualism. They fail at reproduction (as the biosphere signals to them via the market) by succeeding at some other game. Therefore the popularity of gender minorities, all non-breeder. Gays and lesbians are almost conventional; now we see deconstruction of gender itself, including, tellingly, asexuality.

That’s on the cultural left; the cultural right also hates kids, because America hates kids. America aborts them pre-birth, and shoots them post-birth. So there are no “pro-lifers” in America. Everyone agrees on the need to get rid of unwanted humans; so the debate is about when and how; pre-birth, by abortion, or post-birth, by guns. I call it the ‘guns-vs-abortion-debate’. It’s about a detail of timing. The aim in either case is population reduction.

 Note that over 60% of all gun deaths in America are suicides. This reveals the true heart of American gun culture; it’s not about self-defense, it’s about self-slaughter. Sometimes it involves others, such as massacres, or suicide by cop. All of it very much in obedience to Gaia.

 Some resist Gaia’s call, but do so in impractical ways. In particular, forced-breeders want a free lunch: an expanding population without a sustainable economic basis. They seek this aim by state power, the ‘Ceausescu strategy’; but the biosphere controls human behavior via market mechanisms, and the invisible hand of the Market is quicker than the all-seeing eye of the State. Are you for 86? War on abortion pills will do no better than the previous wars on drugs. 

 An honest pro-natalism would subsidize families with less environmental impact. The New Deal was pro-natalist, until we reached our ecological limits. To expand those limits, pro-natalism needs family-friendly investment in clean sustainable technology; a Green New Deal.

 This could ensure that the baby-bust population decline of the latter half of the 21st century will converge, from above, to a sustainable 500,000,000 global population, as suggested by the Georgia Guidestones. They also recommend rule by reason. However, the Georgia Guidestones were blown up by persons unknown. I would like so rational a resolution of our Malthusian limits; but I expect more ‘natural’ behavior from humankind.

So I have revised my long-range forecast. I blow off a stable demographic transition, from below or above. Instead of an ecologically unsustainable population explosion, or a terminal population collapse, or convergence to peaceful stability, we will instead experience all-too-natural population chaos. There will be overshoots, like half of last century and the first half of this, alternating with undershoots, like the second half of this century and half of the next. These vacillations will be unpredictable; they will have sensitive dependence on initial conditions; small causes will have large effects. I speculate that we are witnessing only the beginning of the population chaos, lasting perhaps for thousands of years.

Population chaos will put humankind and nature under stress; this will force both to evolve quickly. Humankind’s overshoots will increase variation for humanity and selective pressure for nature; humankind’s undershoots will increase variation for nature and selective pressure for humanity; put variation and selection together and you get evolution.

 Therefore the extinction event that we’re causing has only begun, but the rebound will be swift and innovative, as it was after the last five mass extinctions. The next ecology will be based, in part, on our pests and weeds: the species that live with us and survive all of our attempts to exterminate them. I foresee an ecology evolved from mice, rats, feral dogs and cats, raccoons, coyotes, crows, pigeons, flies, ants, roaches, crabgrass, dandelions, poison ivy, and kudzu.

 For ourselves in the long run, I have good news and bad news. The good news is that far-future humankind will have superhuman powers. Our distant descendants will be superior to us in their intelligence, creativity, resilience, wisdom, health, empathy and cunning. Their immune systems will shrug off cancer, airborne Ebola, and radioactive fallout. They will be poets, artists, musicians, athletes, acrobats, and lightning calculators from childhood. They will have profound spirituality, superb sales resistance, and a magnificent sense of humor. That’s the good news. The bad news is that they will need all of those superhuman talents, and more, to survive long enough to reproduce.



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