Sunday, December 05, 2004

Population Futures

There has been much ruminating by Phillip Longman, Joseph Chamie and others in the last year, since the UN's revised population projections publication. The UN's projections suggest that this world's human population will grow from its 6.4 billion in 2004 to 9 billion maximum (by 2050?) and then settle back to the 8 billion range. The biggest concern is over below-replacement fertility rates everywhere in the world, both in industrialized and developing nations.

I'd suggest that its time to get excited about this challenge - the challenge of not having enough working humans to support the productive capacity of nations and provide the goods and services demanded by seniors. It is an invitation for technology to facilitate, solve and surpass this challenge. Japan's population is estimated to shrink for the first time in 2005 and it is no coincidence that the country is also farthest ahead on its government-supported program for robotic care and companionship of the elderly.

While there are many ways in which technology can and will further increase productivity and enable work and productive efforts, as well as take up formerly human-delivered responsibilities, a variety of expected and unexpected technological discontinuities will likely also aid in resolving the current fertility rate depression.

Discontinuities are not limited to but may occur in three areas: improving the child birthing and rearing process, shift to non-necessity of working to provide survival level needs and artificial intelligence of machines.

And we need to ask anyway, how many humans do we want and why, who should decide, what the purpose, cost and benefit is.