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Transcending Overpopulation With a Bionic Future
B. J. Murphy   Feb 18, 2016   Medium.com  

Recently, in response to the article, “Humai’s Vision of the World of Tomorrow,” I was asked an excellent question by Jaspreet Saluja; he asked: Why would the govt. want to allow HUMAI, given the unsustainable population that it will bring given that nobody dies?

This is a question that is asked all too often. It certainly has some merit to reality, given the constant bombardment of the topic by global media outlets. Unfortunately the conversation which surrounds the topic of overpopulation is flooded with both hype and misunderstandings.

So I’m hoping to address the question in this brief blog post, which will look at both overpopulation and how Humai’s vision of the future will actually address the problem forthright.

Population Bomb Myth

Firstly, one of the biggest misunderstandings about overpopulation is in the idea that it has everything to do with population size. Fact of the matter is that it rather has everything to do with the means of which we can accommodate the population size with available resources. Thus the fear of overpopulation has an unfortunate Malthusian side-effect to it — that is, the fear of overpopulation has a subsequent fear of losing resources.

This idea was originally devised by that of 18th century cleric and scholar Thomas R. Malthus. He believed that, as populations increase, resources will then decrease as a result. Even to this day neo-Malthusian scholars, such as Paul R. Ehrlich, have perpetuated this “population bomb” myth. What Malthus and his followers didn’t accommodate, however, was how science and technology would not only proliferate our access to previously acquired resources, but would subsequently develop newer resources which would replace one or more previous resource in both access and efficiency.

A great example of this would be the discovery and development of graphene. Graphene is an extremely low-weight, one-atom-thick transparent sheet of pure carbon that is nearly a hundred times stronger than steel! Using this resource alone, previously used resources such as steel and glass will become moot in our very near future. And despite its hefty price tag of $1,200 a piece at the current moment, researchers are already developing new methods which could eventually drop the price tag down to just over $1.

 

Population Growth vs. Fertility Rate

Secondly, while the global population is certainly increasing — the 21st century witnessed the population grow up to 7 billion people — what the media doesn’t seem to talk about that much is the fact that the rate of population growth is actually declining quite dramatically.

This is what is known as the fertility rate. It’s the rate of which a population continues to grow and replace itself over time. A population can continue to appear to grow, but the fertility rate determines the speed of said growth over a period of time. And as you can clearly see in the chart provided above, the global population has been going through a steep decline over long periods of time, and is predicted to continue declining up to the point of which we no longer replace ourselves.

Why is this happening? There’s actually a really good and simple reason for this: increasing socio-economic conditions. During periods of low economic growth, families tend to increase the amount of children they have in order to increase the amount of income going back into said family. Similarly, as we continue increasing socio-economic conditions throughout the world, and thus increase the lifespan of people, the far less likely people will be increasing the population size via sexual reproduction.

In other words, the best solution we have to addressing overpopulation would be to increase prosperity and living conditions for every single human on this planet — a fact that is directly opposed to the Malthusian “solution” of population control.

Humai’s Bionic Future

Thus brings us to how Humai’s vision of the future will not cause a detrimental effect to the general population base, i.e. increase it beyond our control.

I believe we can all agree that the human biological substrate requires a great deal of resources in order to remain healthy. Not only does it require specific nutrients to keep the organs alive, but it subsequently requires water, shelter, etc. This fact becomes increasingly worrisome when we take into account natural disasters which leave people without any of these necessary resources for them to benefit from. A great example of this would be the unfortunate circumstance that California currently finds itself in in terms of access to clean water. As a matter of fact, Flint, MI currently finds itself in a similar predicament due to greed and governmental bureaucracy.

But what if the human biological substrate were to be replaced for artificial, bionic systems which would no longer require the resources needed to keep the human body alive? Through various technologies, such as bionics, nanobots, gene-editing, etc., we could transform the human biological substrate into something of which is both self-sustainable and increasingly efficient via gradual updates (similar to today’s smartphone).

While Humai certainly adheres to Morphological Freedom — that is, each individual will be given the right to decide the length of their technologically-enabled enhancements at their own behest — just imagine how much space we’d create in terms of resource access if the entire global population of 7+ billion people were to replace their entire biological substrate for an artificial system? The world of tomorrow would be radically different from the world of today. Issues like poverty, greenhouse gases, water depletion, and, yes, overpopulation would become an irrelevancy — a facet of society of which no longer attains a detrimental grip on its general populace.

So fret not! The world of tomorrow will certainly be strange, but its strangeness won’t be without its benefits — the end to poverty, the end to finite resource-reliance, and the end to overpopulation. Rejoice!

B.J. Murphy is a Technoprogressive Transhumanist activist within the East Coast region of the U.S. He's worked with the asteroid mining company Planetary Resources as a member of their Planetary Community Vanguard, helping campaign funding for the ARKYD 100 Space Telescope, an open-source means of space exploration. He is a Writer, Editor, and Social Media Manager for SeriousWonder.com and runs his own blog called The Proactionary Transhumanist. He's a co-author of both Longevitize!: Essays on the Science, Philosophy & Politics of Longevity and The Future of Business: Critical Insights On a Rapidly Changing World From 60 Futurists.



COMMENTS

I’m skeptical of the claim that bionic bodies will be less resource-intensive than current human bodies.  High-technology devices (like computers and robots) require things like a global transportation economy, mining, high-temperature/energy manufacturing processes, chemicals (often toxic) and so on to build, plus concentrated electrical energy to run.  A human body can run on lettuce and carrots plus the occasional chicken.

Not that immortal bionic robo-bodies wouldn’t be cool (assuming they don’t have issues like Blue Screens of Death, constant forced restart-update cycles, spam and other unwanted advertising going directly into your mind, etc.), but they’re not likely IMO to be the solution to resource limits.

I usually get 2 standard questions about living forever:
1. Who wants to?
Once I explain that it wouldn’t be in the body of a 100 year old some people are tempted, but this almost always triggers the next question:
2. Where will everybody live?
Although the fertility rate is falling, and could easily drop below a maintenance level given current life expectancies, if we start living forever even a fertility rate of 1.0001 means we will eventually fill up the planet.
Are you confident that the fertility rate will drop fast enough and/or technology will improve quickly enough to prevent unsustainable population growth? Let’s say for example if the age curing pill was released in 10 years time?

Save us from the future dead

@Live Forever Adrian

Yes, I’m quite confident the fertility rate will drop far enough to accommodate a relatively large portion of the population who don’t die. But even if this weren’t the case, we’d also have two very important “backup” plans: ocean and space colonization.

Space colonization will likely take the longest, especially when we consider the extreme likelihood that we’ll have to genetically modify ourselves to accommodate the conditions of deep space that are detrimental to our biological substrate over time - micro-gravity and radiation exposure. So then we’ll likely start with ocean colonization efforts (or at least will make the most progress of the two in a short period of time), which is a region that takes up over 70% of the entire planet.

In other words, once we begin developing underwater cities and homes, we’ll have an extra +70% of untapped Earth that we can begin using to help accommodate the extra baggage of the human population.

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