World population

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World population

#1  Postby amorrow » May 03, 2010 11:52 pm

Do rationalists try to comment on issues of world population and possible population control? It is a subject that some have apathy towards and that some feel strongly about. While a world that is much more crowded that the one we have known is conveniently "not in our lifetimes", I would suggest that it is still worth having a sense of urgency about. Low infant mortality rates and high life expectancies are likely here to stay and a future world population of 10 billion or more strikes me as unsustainable. It is a tricky subject because some people feel very strongly about having children, and some even feel it is their right to have as many as they wish without any rational considerations for the well-being of those future generations.

Anyway, I recently came up with a basis for thinking about the problem that I think is helpful, but it is not the work of a creative genius. The core of my idea has a simple phrase: Infantile Lottery Sterilization (ILS). It simply urges our high-tech biotechnology sector to find very low-side effect pharmaceuticals or other minimally invasive techniques with which to effect reliable and irreversible sterilization. I think that a fair system would be for the state to operate a lottery and, if possible, sterilize newborns based on the results of the lottery. I happen to think that a population level by design is better than one where we do almost nothing effect and let the world population bloat up to 10 billion or more. I have a web site:

In my thinking about the problem, I see it as related to the Mutually Assured Destruction stalemate that the that USA and Russia seem to still be locked in. My web site is:

http://www.thermo4thermo.org/

I would be happy to receive some rational feedback, despite that reality that any effective solution for implementing real population control is about as controversial as religion.

I have previously mentioned this idea at http://forum.richarddawkins.net/index.h ... 7&t=107381
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Re: World population

#2  Postby LIFE » May 04, 2010 4:15 am

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Re: World population

#3  Postby amorrow » May 04, 2010 5:06 am

Minsky mentions population as an aside: most of his talk about is Artificial Intelligence.
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Re: World population

#4  Postby Durro » May 04, 2010 5:35 am

Wouldn't educating people around the world about the imperatives for population control and about the various contraceptive options available be a more humane, fair and practically feasible solution ?
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Re: World population

#5  Postby aspire1670 » May 04, 2010 6:13 am

amorrow wrote:Do rationalists try to comment on issues of world population and possible population control? It is a subject that some have apathy towards and that some feel strongly about. While a world that is much more crowded that the one we have known is conveniently "not in our lifetimes", I would suggest that it is still worth having a sense of urgency about. Low infant mortality rates and high life expectancies are likely here to stay and a future world population of 10 billion or more strikes me as unsustainable. It is a tricky subject because some people feel very strongly about having children, and some even feel it is their right to have as many as they wish without any rational considerations for the well-being of those future generations.

Anyway, I recently came up with a basis for thinking about the problem that I think is helpful, but it is not the work of a creative genius. The core of my idea has a simple phrase: Infantile Lottery Sterilization (ILS). It simply urges our high-tech biotechnology sector to find very low-side effect pharmaceuticals or other minimally invasive techniques with which to effect reliable and irreversible sterilization. I think that a fair system would be for the state to operate a lottery and, if possible, sterilize newborns based on the results of the lottery. I happen to think that a population level by design is better than one where we do almost nothing effect and let the world population bloat up to 10 billion or more. I have a web site:

In my thinking about the problem, I see it as related to the Mutually Assured Destruction stalemate that the that USA and Russia seem to still be locked in. My web site is:

http://www.thermo4thermo.org/

I would be happy to receive some rational feedback, despite that reality that any effective solution for implementing real population control is about as controversial as religion.


But babies are low in fat and nutritious, why not just eat your own babies? I know it's not a new idea but it would have the added advantages of improving the health of the hundreds of millions of obese US citizens and reducing their carbon footprint by reducing the market for methane producing beef and dairy cattle.
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Re: World population

#6  Postby epepke » May 04, 2010 6:30 am

Durro wrote:Wouldn't educating people around the world about the imperatives for population control and about the various contraceptive options available be a more humane, fair and practically feasible solution ?


That would only provide selection pressure against people amenable to contraception.

There's a fairly easy and reasonably humane way to control population, and it works. What you do is have a technology-intensive civilization that includes universal education, including for women. Trouble is that people seem to hate the idea, even those who live in such civilizations.
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Re: World population

#7  Postby amorrow » May 04, 2010 6:59 am

If education alone could do the job, that would be great. It seems as important to provide females with education as anything, but it is not clear that such would be enough. What if it became quite clear that reducing world population back down to, say, 2 billion would be very beneficial? Then you would need a fair way to set and then achieve such targets at a sane pace. I think that a fair lottery tends to get the job done as well or more effectively than other approaches.
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Re: World population

#8  Postby epepke » May 04, 2010 7:06 am

It's already worked. The so-called "west" has negative population growth (excluding immigration).
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Re: World population

#9  Postby Delvo » May 04, 2010 12:33 pm

Occidental countries didn't get to a negative growth rate by education, though. They got to it by changes in economic factors, which occurred at about the same time as education improved. And their population wasn't already as dense at the time as it is now in the undeveloped countries we're talking about trying to educate.
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Re: World population

#10  Postby amorrow » May 04, 2010 6:57 pm

Delvo wrote:Occidental countries didn't get to a negative growth rate by education, though. They got to it by changes in economic factors, which occurred at about the same time as education improved. And their population wasn't already as dense at the time as it is now in the undeveloped countries we're talking about trying to educate.


In imagining how ILS might play itself out, it would most likely be adopted first by countries with the worst population problems and that wealthy countries would likely be the last to implement it. A country would have to impose it upon itself and then have a law-enforcement infrastructure or tradition and set of doctors or midwives that could, to a reasonable degree, enforce it. Sure, some might succeed in dodging the lottery, but some succeed in dodging the draft during times of conscription (which is typically also done by lottery). It would be great if education and otherwise elevating the lifestyle of all people to, day, Western Europe, could be expected, but that seems to be a more complicated and demanding task. ILS is focused to address what I see as one of the most important specific problems that a country might face. I tend to see ILS as a careful plan that might indirectly help to avoid some wars.
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Re: World population

#11  Postby Emmeline » May 04, 2010 7:11 pm

amorrow wrote: I think that a fair system would be for the state to operate a lottery and, if possible, sterilize newborns based on the results of the lottery.
:shock: Is this a joke?
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Re: World population

#12  Postby amorrow » May 04, 2010 10:25 pm

Jan wrote:
amorrow wrote: I think that a fair system would be for the state to operate a lottery and, if possible, sterilize newborns based on the results of the lottery.
:shock: Is this a joke?


No, it is a serious proposal to "be prepared" in order to avoid excessive world population. The thing that I find so scary about excessive (e.g. non-sustainable) world population is that it is destabilizing and hard to fix in a slow, orderly fashion because people tend to panic in the style of the "rats in a box" psychology experiment and in a desperate attempt to ensure that individuals have some sort of progeny. My attitude is that a properly-engineered solution might be the basis for a long-term remedy to the risk humankind faces in excessive world population. I see such a solution as highly analogous to safety belts or a thermostat for a reactor that might otherwise has a runaway process. Provided that very low side-effect pharmaceuticals or low-tech, or minimally invasive surgical techniques can be developed, then I do not see the idea of sterilizing infants as a moral disaster. We all won, as Dawkins refers to it as, "the lottery of birth" and if some other simple "lottery of fertility" to significantly increase untreatable infertility (or otherwise reduce birth rates to sustainable levels population by providing citizens with a correct psychological cue) then I do not see such as a tragedy. I do not see it as a violation of individual human rights as long as the lottery is fair. I see it as a rational effort towards sustainability *by design* and as a proper investment in the future.
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Re: World population

#13  Postby Durro » May 05, 2010 4:19 am

I see your motivation and have some empathy with the goal, but the suggested methodology is repugnant IMO. It is intrusive, abusive and totalitarian in nature. I'm all for offering and even encouraging contraception or permanent sterilization that is cheap, accessible and equitable, but I would not step over the line towards what on face value appears to be some nightmare that the Nazis would dream up.

Sorry, try another approach.
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Re: World population

#14  Postby amorrow » May 05, 2010 5:40 am

Durro wrote:I see your motivation and have some empathy with the goal, but the suggested methodology is repugnant IMO. It is intrusive, abusive and totalitarian in nature. I'm all for offering and even encouraging contraception or permanent sterilization that is cheap, accessible and equitable, but I would not step over the line towards what on face value appears to be some nightmare that the Nazis would dream up.

Sorry, try another approach.


I would rather think that with a high-tech makeover, even ILS could come to be viewed as tolerable. it is not trivial because, of course, you create a two classes within the society, but we already know that infertile or otherwise childless people cope with their situation well if they know early in life that they will have no children. What I think is important is that they have no other living person to blame. If world population really was brought back down to say, 1 billion people, I would think that humanity (those 1 billion people) would deeply appreciate the long-term foresight and proper earth-stewardship of earlier generations. I do not think that it is a stretch to associate sex-drive (the will to leave a progeny) and war-like aggressiveness. Something like ILS, while not beautiful, effectively deals with the subject in a surprisingly drab and blazé fashion. Is that not what rationality is all about? In any case, I am fairly confident that any effective solution to stabilizing world population and bringing it back down to a sanely sustainable level is going to have a component that looks something like ILS. I do not expect that there is any super-feel-good solution to the problem and the problem is very real. Effective and fair (and peaceful) solutions to such "human life cycle" problem do not come along all that often. If it were some other species on some other planet and you somehow heard that the fixed the problem without war, you would say to yourself "Wow! I am really impressed. They really figured out a solution to a very difficult problem. What long-term foresight and benevolence. What rationality. I gotta get me some of that."

ILS is not completely original: we already do such to our pets and farm animals (although we just do a cheap castrate/neuter because such makes them more docile). We do it so that we do not have to euthanize so many later on. If if you are other solutions for humans and this planet that are effective, I am all ears. Even though they are all ugly, I am starting to think that ILS will win the "beauty contest". Think about it: the solutions are not easy and we are just now in an epoch when a decade or two of high-tech research would, I expect, produce effective treatments with surprisingly low side-effects. It also has to be something that is easy to administer so that it can be deployed in poor countries, which is why I generally ignore surgical solutions.
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Re: World population

#15  Postby Mantisdreamz » May 05, 2010 6:04 am

amorrow wrote: What I think is important is that they have no other living person to blame.

But this engineered idea is constructed and would be brought into action by humans. There would be a living person/people to blame... that is the people/government that keeps this system in play.

Erm, this idea is a bit tactless. I think education is the most moral way to go about rectifying an increasing population.
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Re: World population

#16  Postby amorrow » May 05, 2010 8:22 am

Mantisdreamz wrote:
amorrow wrote: What I think is important is that they have no other living person to blame.

But this engineered idea is constructed and would be brought into action by humans. There would be a living person/people to blame... that is the people/government that keeps this system in play.

Erm, this idea is a bit tactless. I think education is the most moral way to go about rectifying an increasing population.


I would still suggest that a measure like decent, free education for children might alone be too little, too late. If the wisest/most trusted planners in some nation declare that worthwhile benefits would accrue if a nation reduced its population by, say, 30% in 40 years, how would you get there? It would be loathsome if a system like ILS with a high lottery "win rate" was the only technique used, but when you have a "tactless" system like ILS in place, then people finally get motivated to make a decision to have one or zero children when they otherwise might have had significantly more. If people just did the most benevolent thing, then the "win rate" on the lottery could be lowered. It might be tactless, but it effectively closes the loop in an elegant and flexible fashion. A more typical term for the imposed infertility is "compulsory sterilization", but I have never heard that term associated with a lottery before. Yes, the lottery becomes "the system" and the people who implement the system are simply doing their job for the sake of future generations. I realize that it is very foreign idea, but I would suggest that you give it some time and try to acclimate to it, again, perhaps for some other species on some other planet, if that helps.
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Re: World population

#17  Postby redwhine » May 05, 2010 8:47 am

Durro wrote:I see your motivation and have some empathy with the goal, but the suggested methodology is repugnant IMO. It is intrusive, abusive and totalitarian in nature. I'm all for offering and even encouraging contraception or permanent sterilization that is cheap, accessible and equitable, but I would not step over the line towards what on face value appears to be some nightmare that the Nazis would dream up.

Sorry, try another approach.

(My bold/underlined/italic.)

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Re: World population

#18  Postby Durro » May 05, 2010 9:36 am

Godwin ehhhh ?

You learn something new every day, thanks Redwhine.

But in this instance, I feel that the comparison was valid and didn't detract from my intent or my argument. The mandatory sterilization of people by the state certainly is reminiscent of a totalitarian regime's tactics.
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Re: World population

#19  Postby amorrow » May 05, 2010 9:57 am

It is funny you should mention Mike. I had communicated informally with him previously but I met him back in February at the EFF 20th anniversary up in San Francisco. I think we both find his "law" to be rather trite. I suppose that ILS might be like a colonoscopy: it is not going to win any beauty contests but it is looks are not everything. I think that ILS can be developed into a system that at least a few countries might eventually come to appreciate the existence of and actually implement. I realize that it is scary to think that the State and law enforcement would be involved in trying to keep people from dodging such a lottery, but I think that almost all countries now recognize the benefits of legitimate law and order as long as it is fair. Really, ILS might be able to packages and promoted such that it is viewed as the diet that people individually do not have the willpower to go on but that might be effective as a group effort. I realize that there is a little bit of Goebbels in this wordsmithing, but man had some talent. If that is too tactless, well, then, try Edward Bernays. It is a matter of packaging such a program until most people see the long-term benefits that might otherwise seem to be just wishful thinking or waiting for some sort of miracle to happen.
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Re: World population

#20  Postby Durro » May 05, 2010 10:18 am

A pig in a dress is still a pig.
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