The population of the world is thought to have increased by more than fourfold time since you were born. Mind you, I’m not holding you personally responsible, but there has been that magnitude of growth. Is there a point where the biggest existential threat to humanity is the growth of the population and humanity?
If so, how do we discern when that point has arrived?"
Well, that’s an interesting subject. If you’d look at the way things have happened in the past, you would have concluded like Paul Ehrlich did that the world is headed for an absolute population disaster. But what actually has happened is quite different.
What’s happened is that as the world has gotten more and more prosperous, including in places like China, the birth rate has gone down, down, down, down. And so there’s actually sort of a population shortage in a place like Japan. So the prediction of all the great experts based on extrapolating the past graphs, they turn out to be totally wrong. It now looks all the world’s population in the advanced countries will sort of self-limit.
I mean, that kind of puts you in the same camp with Elon Musk. He has made some of the same arguments that it’s really shrinking population that’s a bigger threat to humanity.
Well, as I said, he’s a smart man — (Laughs) — sometimes. Sometimes. Like all the rest of us. (Laughs)
The threat of humanity is not overpopulation but population decline.