Saturday, June 21, 2008

Nine Billion Shades of Malthus

I've read (or read mocked) too much lately about the demographic pressures facing successful people. It seems like a cultural meme these days, with any number of authors sweating about the breeding patterns of the unlettered brown hordes, the perceived crises that threaten everything from economic growth we're all banking on to the integrity of the culture. I don't really understand this stance: isn't reduced fertility a good thing? In an earlier article, I wondered aloud whether there's a managable population ceiling for this fine globe, or whether some horrible Malthusian catastrophe will correct the numbers for us. For the record, I think agricultural independence is a wonderful way to live, and the idea that consumption patterns can approach zero sum, that is, that my habits can directly take food out of someone else's mouth, is deeply unsettling. (All the indirect consequences are bad enough.) Do we really want to get to the point where there's only so much to go around?

Read the rest on quiblit

[an addendum: when Arthur C. Clarke wrote Nine Billion Names of God, was playing with any established theological notions or just making stuff up? As I read about demographic predictions, expected to peak at nine billion or so if we're (less un)lucky, it was hard not to remember that old story. Nine billion names? I'm thinking doomsday cult as a way to get rich, and quick. I'd feel kind of guilty making money off of a pseudo-religion based on a 1950s science fiction story, but, well, I wouldn't be the first one.]


twiffer said...

damn it keif, you have to stop writing stuff that i want to respond too. too freakin' busy.


Keifus said...

Gee, I sure wish I could turn that sort of thing on at will. last weekend, hankering for some summery fruit after that exchange (and not venturing beyond the crappy walkable liquor store), I ended up choosing something called "blueberry lager." Big mistake: it was like no lager I've ever tasted and the blueberry flavor was about as authentic as Bubble Yum. Really, really awful. I'd warn you what exactly it was, but I've scrubbed it from my mind.