Winning The Future, Globally—The UN`s New (10 Billion) Population Projections
May 11, 2011, 05:01 PM
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The United Nations has released new population projections. Instead of peaking at 9 billion, as had been predicted, world population is now expected to exceed 10 billion in 2100.

Judge Richard A. Posner writes:

On May 3, the United Nations issued its 2010 Revision of World Population Projections, which, according to the media, predicts that the world's population, expected to reach 7 billion by the end of this year, will be 10.1 billion by the end of the century. But the media reports have tended to be imprecise. The UN report offers three predictions-a high, medium, and low-depending on different assumptions. The high is almost 16 billion and the low 6.2 billion (which is actually lower than the current world population) ...
The fall in population in countries with birth rates below replacement levels is expected to level off, which seems plausible, but what mainly drives the 10.1 billion 16 billion predictions of total population at the end of the century is the assumption that birth rates will continue to be very high in the countries (mostly in Africa, Asia, and South America) that currently have high birth rates. ...
But suppose world population will reach 10.1 billion by the end of this century. Would that be a good or a bad thing? Arguably a good thing, on several grounds. ... Third, the more people there will be, the more high-IQ people there will be ...
Not necessarily.

Thumbing through the U.N.'s graphs is an eye-opening experience. For one thing, the U.N. puts their 2010 projections (in red) alongside their 2008 projections (in dashed blue), so it's interesting to see that, in some cases, not only is the future not what it used to be, but neither is the past. For example, Afghanistan recently found more people had been living in the country than had been realized for the last 20 years. (And I'm sure Afghanistan's 2010 numbers were collected with scrupulous accuracy.)

So, your actual mileage may vary.

Nonetheless, Judge Posner's optimism about "the more people there will be, the more high-IQ people there will be" seems a little overconfident. When I was a college sophomore, it was common to debate whether George Orwell or Aldous Huxley would turn out to be the more accurate prophet. Judging from these graphs, however, the prophet most respected by 2100's college sophomores may be Mike Judge. Of course, that assumes there will still be college sophomores debating Big Questions, or colleges.

For example, the population of Afghanistan is projected to rise from about 12 million in 1990, after the Recent Unpleasantness with the Soviet Union, to 111 million in 2100. Swell!

Afghanistan's national slogan will be modified to: "I against my brother, my brother and I against our 110,999,998 cousins."

Let's look at some other highlights from the U.N. population projections:Guatemala: From 5 million in 1970 to 46 million in 2100. Do you think they'll stay there?Japan: not plummeting in population quite as fast as thought!Mexico: Now expect to peak around 145 million instead of 130 million, as was expected back during the American Housing Bubble. Perhaps there's a connection?Here's the Big One: Nigeria is heading for about 390 million people in 2050 and 720 million in 2100. Fortunately, all those new Nigerian astronautical engineers that Judge Posner's logic foresees should have the human race well on its way to colonizing Alpha Centauri by then. If you don't believe me, I've got an email that proves it.Noam Chomsky typically books his worldwide lecture tours two years in advance. Host organizations ask him: what should we put on our schedules as the tentative title off your talk? He always replies: well, I like to stay topical and talk about what's in the latest news, so you can put down "The Crisis in the Middle East." Looks like Professor Chomsky can book those 2100 A.D. lectures right now.Yeah, yeah, I saw that Orson Welles movie, too. The Swiss have only given us cuckoo clocks and chocolate. That, and minding their own business.Don't tell the neocons that Tanzania is expected to have well over 300 million people, or they'll start running worried conferences about the Emerging Threat in East Africa.Due to rapid population growth, America will stay larger than Tanzania.

U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!