7 trillion humans? The Scale and impact of population growth

overpopulated_earth17 trillion looks like a typo, but no, the maths shows that either by continuing the actual global population growth levels typical the 20th century, or achieving 2% per year or far less than what is currently happening in Nigeria, the maths produce this number in a relatively short time!

A key theme of this blog is that, while population growth is no longer the threat that it once was, economic policy has yet to adapt to the slowing in population growth.  While population growth has slowed since the 20th century, growth is not at 2% as some dangerous people advocate, and all the world is not like Nigeria, it is still worth understanding just how quickly things can escalate  and not take for granted the slowing population growth that is both happening, and needed, to avert crisis.

Does it feel crowded now?  Can you imagine Earth inhabited by not 7 billion (7,000,000,000) humans, as we have now, but 7 trillion (7,000,000,000). That would be one human for every 3.3 meters x 3 meters of habitable land on the planet (calculation below).  Around 10 square meters allocation per person to live, grow food all of one food and that is without allocating any wilderness for other living things or trying to allow space (corridors?) to move outside your own space.  This is a level we would reach if were able to continue peak 20th century population growth rates.

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How the ‘basic income’ proposal could change society

The current wealth distribution system is an already a broken system about to face severe attack. As discussed in Robots & Job Terminators, the role of employment is set to change.

canada20flagflagbigfinlandOn engadget, the post How will you survive when the robots take your job? outlines the ‘basic income’ proposal, as put forward by many in the tech industry and being experimented with in Canada, Finland and the Netherlands. This articles provides a great starting point and conveys the basic idea and if unfamiliar with the idea it makes sense to read that article first. This post is about looking further, in terms of thoughts about what else should change if a ‘basic income’ is introduced and what would be needed to make such an idea work. What would such a measure cost, and what would be the impact on society of a total package, of a ‘basic income’ together with a logical set of policies to create a total package? Continue reading

Is our wealth distribution system really broken?

pot_goldA first reaction could be: “ok, the people who voted for Donald Trump clearly feel it is broken, but I am not sure they are that smart”, or “I am doing ok, and I think the system is fair. Yes people like that Elon Musk character have ‘X’ times more than me but he is also ‘X’ times more clever than me so he deserves it!”.

But the system feels sufficiently broken to those who voted for Trump, that they were desperate enough to vote for him, and there appears to be some similarity with the ‘Brexit’ vote in the UK.  Something has to change, even if it is just perception or we are going to keep having to live with these kinds of election results.

Also, either Elon Musk is really clever, in which case we should listen when he is proposing that we need to make changes to wealth distribution (soon, if not now),  or, he is not clever, in which case he does not deserve his wealth.  Either way, we need to consider changes.  Continue reading

Australian Record Trade Surplus: good news, or a warning on automation?

skitched20truckAs explained by ‘Alan Kohler’ of the ABC, the record trade surplus is largely due to “A huge rebound in iron ore, coal and gold exports delivers a record trade surplus of $3.5 billion in December, providing a big boost to national income.”, with no proportional increase in imports.

I suggest an analysis of the impact on the Australian economy is reason for people around the world to consider the impact of automation.

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Convenience Arguments: The dangers of quick adoption

search1How do you sway others to support your heartfelt convictions, beliefs and causes when they don’t feel the same way?  One tactic is the ‘convenience argument’.  An ‘Convenience Argument’ provides a logical, and usually economically rational, reason for supporting actions a person already wants for an entirely separate heartfelt believe.

Convenience Argument: (definition).  An argument we champion because it supports a conclusion or belief we for reasons separate to the logic of the ‘convenience argument’.  A new, and accessory, reason to convince others to embrace or support our beliefs.

Refugee example: A classic example is people who feel compassion for refugees, trying to convince others to help refugees because there are economic benefits, even though the person presenting the argument is motivated by compassion, not economics.

We sometimes rapidly search for these ‘convenience arguments’ and then champion them, because we believe it will encourage the outcome we seek, even if not for the motive we embrace.   The danger is that we search for these convenience arguments to justify beliefs, the same way we search for something like car keys.  We stop searching immediately we find something and can easily pick up and do not care very much about what we find, as long as it seem to fill our need. There is an old joke that goes like this:

Why is it that when I have lost something, I only ever find it in the last place I look?  Answer: Is it because once you find what you are after, you stop looking?

But stopping the search as soon as we find an ‘convenience argument’ that justifies the actions we want for our own reasons ,is fraught with danger. Continue reading

How the wealthy become wealthy.

pot_goldIt was a reference to ‘trickle down economics’ that started me on this thought path.  The proposal that simply allowing the wealthy to become even wealthier could generate additional wealth that in a flow on process will trickle throughout the economy and result in everyone being wealthier.  Yes, even Wikipedia seems to largely discredit the idea, but it is still pushed by various politicians.  Cynics may point out those same politicians need to keep their wealthy backers happy in order to fund their re-election, but surely their must be some truth to the idea or we would not vote for them anyway?

Ok, here is my conclusion: the wealthy get wealthy by gaining a small share of wealth from each member of a large population.  To get wealthier, they require either a larger share from each individual, or a larger population. Continue reading

Inferno: How could we limit the population?

dantes_infernoThere is an argument that we currently have more people on Earth than ideal, but even if you accept that we have an overpopulation problem, the idea that a sudden reduction in the population would solve the problem is both absurd, dangerous and damaging.

The premise of the movie ‘Inferno’ is that a virus could randomly target and render infertile one in three humans as a means of population reduction. Inferno is a movie, and a suspense drama, not an actual plan.  But if you do accept that the earth is overpopulated, what would be a real appropriate response, and why are ideas, such that containing in the movie, so damaging? Continue reading