Demographic Collapse around the World

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Well produced, and covers a bunch of thorny issues, but the host remains in utter denial and suffers severe cognitive dissonance. In the closing discussion, he affirms that no one “owes” their country any babies, but just demonstrated in great detail how young people are needed to support senior pensions and healthcare. The latter presented as entitlements, of course, complete with imagery of youth crushed by that obligatory burden.

Meh.

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Also, there is little or no discussion of the objective fact that the recent rapid rise in global population has been accompanied by an even faster increase in GDP per capita—the pie is growing larger despite its being cut into more slices. Of course (all together now!) correlation isn’t causation, but it may be equally the case that a shrinking population will be accompanied by an even faster decline in wealth, resulting in a collapsing standard of living unrelated even to the costs of supporting an aging population. This may be particularly the case when our technological infrastructure is supported by vast division of labour into a multitude of specialities which, as population shrinks, there may not be enough people to fill and/or train successors.

See also the 2023-08-28 post, “What Does a Declining Population Mean for Economic Growth?” for an argument why declining population can reach a steady state in which technological innovation comes to a complete halt and economic growth shifts into decline, leading to an Empty Planet scenario.

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Not to worry. The declining population is driven by the fact that, with the widespread availability of birth control and abortion, people who do not want children are by & large not having them. (There is a distortion in Western economies due to government subsidies meaning that getting pregnant can be a career choice for single young women – but the approaching economic debacle will put an end to that).

So what we are seeing is Darwinism in action. Those among the current population who do not have the parental gene and the desire for intact families are being weeded out. The remaining smaller population breeding stock will be comprised mainly of people who value children – and thus probably also value multi-generational families which care for their own aged members.

All things considered, declining population is a Good Thing.

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Genocide* hides behind such sophomoric tropes. Another is that “Choice of Turing machine renders the Algorithmic Information Criterion for macrosocial model selection arbitrary hence no criterion at all.” We can blame Popper, Kuhn, Jonathan Haidt, Yan LeCun, Judea Pearl (I could go on) for contributing to the genocide of heritable economically valuable characteristics such as individualism.

Bottom line: No one in power wants to stop this because to do so would disrupt the culture – aka artificial selection regime – in which they were found by “nature” to be “fitter than thou”. This applies especially to “philanthropists” who ride their ill gotten wealth to social status without doing anything about the artificial selection regime that causes them to achieve high social status.

Worse, no one wants to know what the causal structure of this genocide is because self-deception is key to their feeling of social status.

It’s one thing to lie to others. It’s quite another to lie even to one’s self while in power.

*And don’t give me any shit about “genocide” requiring “deliberation”. Self-deception is an act that, while one might argue is not “deliberate” is nevertheless something for which one must be held accountable. I would argue that the bromide “Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to stupdity.” is another genocidal meme when the statement “Never attribute to mere stupidity that which can be attributed to unenlightened self-interest.” is more appropriate.

If you can’t take the heat, get out of the hot seat of power.

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Concur that we’ll end up that way if we can make the transition to it. Big IF.

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Or maybe it’s parasitic states, meddling into people’s family lives, taking kids from parents to put in mandatory education/indoctrination – makes people tired of paying this extra tax.

Such ideologies are subject to Darwinian selection.

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Robin Hanson has a dark post on this topic on his Substack site, “Turn the Ship, or Abandon It”. Emphasis is mine.

I’ve often mocked science fiction stories set centuries in the future, yet with stable tech not much more advanced than our own, especially when they have big successful subgroups who resist innovation. I’ve also mocked stories (and actual plans) wherein some small group purposely cuts itself off from the larger world, and then expects to beat that larger world in a fair fight. (Like Captain Nemo or Bond villains.) Don’t they know that tech has consistently accelerated for at least a million years, is changing fast now, and is expected to change even faster soon? Or that it has long been the whole world that is powerful together, not small isolated parts?

I now see that the joke is on me. While previously my default vision of the future was a standard economists’ rapidly-growing socially-integrated world, my default vision now has a several century economic decline and innovation pause starting in ~40 years. Global population will fall, only to rise again due to the growth of insular high-fertility subcultures (e.g., Amish, Orthodox Jews) who suffer little for resisting absent innovation. Much like how fertile Christians came to dominate a declining Roman Empire. Such insular subcultures will likely discard many values and innovations that we now hold dear. Yes there are off chances that we’ll develop strong longevity or human level AI before this tech pause, or that world elites will see and fix fertility problems.

Most elites today are vaguely aware that fertility is low, and that population will soon fall as a result. But I don’t think most get how a declining economy will bring innovation to a halt, or just how deeply low fertility is embedded in our world culture. While a great many cultures in history have faced such low fertility, and seen it as a big problem, pretty much all failed to fix it once it got this bad. And the creation of lasting insular high-fertility subcultures is a pretty rare thing.

Some love this stark choice - mostly folks eager to burn down the world and rebuild it from scratch. But I am more horrified. I fear that the sort of thoughtful dispassionate analysis that I am good at is quite inadequate to this problem. I need to either join a large coalition of world elites prestigious enough to move world culture, or convince a fanatic insular high-fertility subculture to see me as a loyal enough member to include. Alas, neither prospect seems at all likely.

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JW quoting Robin Hanson’s come to Jesus moment:

The Amish are and have been for some time under attack – most egregiously in the form of official interference in reproductive practices such as Midwifery. I live around them and see it up close and personal as well as indirectly via motion pictures that portray insular Christian sects as gang raping their women – the most recent example is the new motion picture “Women Talking”.

How many movies have been made about young women being seduced into going to college to have their brains scrambled by “Studies” courses in exchange for acquiring a mortgage sized debt that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, thereupon seduced into moving to New York City where income is high only to find the cost of living is high and they can sell themselves to pay down the debt but then acquire AIDS and are kicked the hell out to return back to their small midwestern town with purple splotches of Kaposi’s Sarcoma creeping up their necks and down their arms despite wearing covering blouses?

Gonna get lots of volunteers from Hollywood Moguls to finance THAT movie, aren’t ya?

And people wonder why so many are praying for the destruction of civilization.

Sortocracy offers a refuge but is most-often attacked with the supremacist aphorism “Ignorance must be confronted.”

No one understands the difference between evolution of virulence and evolution of symbiosis primarily because the virulent have overtaken education and must “confront” symbiosis wherever it may be taking root lest an immune response develop.

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The “More Births” 𝕏 account posted a mega-𝕏 (1500+ words) in response to the question, “Do any investments do well when populations are in decline?”. The post examines the case of Japan, where the working age population peaked in the 1990s and has been declining ever since,

What has happened in the markets and the economy? Also, a peak and then a decline. In the 1980s, most people were in the asset-buying stage of life, and assets were bid to very high levels. But from the early 1990s onward, there were fewer buyers of assets and many more retirees, who were net sellers of assets.

The post goes on to analyse investments in real estate, government debt, stocks, gold, art and collectibles, and children. On the latter:

Through most of history, children were the primary way that one invested in the future. Long before there were stock markets, to invest meant to pour one’s resources into feeding and raising children, and a person with a big clan would be much better off in old age. Financial markets have disconnected us from the original form of investment.

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Trophic Cascade has denuded the human ecology of its primary production by valuing the market over the biological individual where the biological individual is most represented by a young man prepared to fight for his place to make a stand and take it easy as the song goes.

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