Re: Memes and War [was: Tomorrow is a new day]

From: Keith Henson (
Date: Tue Nov 09 2004 - 07:13:36 MST

At 09:03 AM 08/11/04 -0800, you wrote:
> > High tech western civilization has not exactly
> > escaped this model, but we
> > have by lower birth rates and high economic growth
> > lengthened the
> > cycle. It does not protect us from other parts of
> > the world where high
> > population growth has run ahead of economic growth.
>A significant part of the world now has below
>replacement fertility rates (2.1 births/woman - the
>extra 0.1 accounts for children who die young).
>A successful population model would have to explain
>why rich areas like Western Europe (fertility rate
>= 1.5), Canada (1.6), and Japan (1.4) have very
>low rates; while Eastern Europe (1.4), which is
>much poorer, also has a low rate; and the US (2.1)
>has a significantly higher rate.

There are things evolutionary psychology models can't do and this is one of
them. High wealth of the modern kind was not part of the environment of
evolutionary adaption, therefore you can't predict how humans are going to
react to it.

As EO Wilson said, we are just darn lucky that the birth rate goes down in
high wealth societies. It could have been quite the opposite.

>The highest rates
>in the world (all >6.0) are in Afghanistan, Chad,
>Congo, Gaza Strip, Mali, and Uganda. These are all
>very poor places.

That's true, and they are also places where the income per capita is
declining due to fast population growth and places where there is
considerable unrest if not outright wars.

>Wealth correlates with lower fertility rates, but
>there are other factors at work. Level of
>seems to be another major factor. Children are
>more expensive to raise in cities than on farms, where
>they can provide free labor. Level of education
>also seems to contribute. Former and current
>Communist countries that had good education systems
>tend to have lower fertility rates.

Significant points. On a related list I recently mentioned Cuba, a bright
spot on the population front in all of Latin America.

>In any case, the world's population growth rate is
>slowing overall, with replacement fertility projected
>for 2055 AD, at which time the total population
>(9.4 billion) will be less than 50% greater than
>at present (6.4 billion). Ignoring for a moment
>the possibility of a singularity occurring in the
>next 50 years, automation and productivity
>are far outpacing population growth.

That makes assumptions that might not be true. Some cultures could be
highly resistant to reducing their birth rate. If so, the part of the
total population in fast growth mode will increase. Consider the
Huterites, prehaps the most inbred group of people on the planet.

>So I would
>expect the general living conditions for mankind
>as a whole to improve.

Perhaps. Provided we can deal with the consequences of having to switch
energy sources. But according to this EP related theory that's *not*
enough. You are going to get serious problems when there is any
substantial sized group that feels *their* future looks bleak. That
unfortunately is the situation for a high fraction of the billion or so
Islamics. Even if only one out of a *thousand* gets involved in war or
terrorism that's an awful problem. Worse yet, it is hard to see how
Islamic culture could change enough to accommodate the rise in the status
of women needed for them to reduce the birth rate. For example, birth
control is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

>The real issue I see is the distribution of wealth.

The real issue as I see it is a rise in the number of people trying to
share out the wealth, resulting in a falling income per
capita. Distribution's a problem too as I mentioned in another post about
the US income distribution.


The subject isn't as far away from being on topic as I would like. All of
this and much more is going to be obvious to a high powered AI, friendly or
not. What entities more powerful than humans would do about this "human
condition" is something to wake you up in the night. What *humans* are
likely to do in the not so distant future isn't much better.

I am afraid that some cultures are going to have to change/be changed to
the point current members of them would say they had been
destroyed. That's not without precedent. The British wiped out an entire
culture/religion in India; the only thing left today is the word
"thug." Considering the population problem India has, wiping out a
predator might not have been the best idea in the long run, but at the time
it sure seemed like a good idea.

The whole subject is really depressing.

Keith Henson

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