A human population of nine billion, going on ten billion, is seen by many as one of the greatest threats facing our planet over the next century. Where will the resources come from to support such a massive population? Others wonder what we might do to limit seemingly runaway population growth.
After all, there are examples from history of what happens when civilizations grow to large. The Mayans, for instance, were forced to convert forest into farmland in order to feed themselves. These emergency measures led to soil erosion, worsened drought, and eventually the collapse of Mayan civilization.
To avoid the same fate, the argument goes, we must all get used to consuming less.
The computer scientist Ramez Naam has a different take. Naam argues that forecasters who create models of populations and available resources tend to underestimate the power of new ideas to expand resources. “Human brains are the sources of ideas and ideas multiply all other resources and make your life better,” Naam tells Big Think.
And so, in Naam’s view, the more, the merrier. “Ask yourself this,” Naam says in the video below. “Would you be better off if fewer people had lived before you or if more people had lived before you? If fewer, maybe they would have used up fewer finite resources. But then fewer people would have come up with all these great ideas that enhance your life whether it’s antibiotics or the electric light or the Internet or television or radio or the automobile.”
Watch the video here:
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