Sunday, February 18, 2024

Science Fiction Writers - Isaac Asimov

In the book Dream Makers Volume 1 by Charles Platt published in 1980, some of the writers interviewed offer their thoughts about what was then in humanity's future. Isaac Asimov had this to say about the explosion in population:

My feeling is that the chance of our surviving into the twenty-first century as a working civilization is less than fifty percent but greater than zero. There are several items, each one of which is sufficient to do us in. Number one is the population problem. If we multiply sufficiently, then, even if everything else goes right, we're still going to ruin ourselves. Unfortunately it's difficult to make people see this, but I imagine that the time will come very shortly in which a third child will be outlawed, by prohibitive taxation, or forcible sterilization after the second child. Only two things will prevent this. One: if nonviolent means of reducing the birthrate prevail; in other words, if human beings choose not to have too many children. Two: if the population problem overtakes us so that the world is reduced to chaos and anarchy before we can even try drastic means.”

I think this was the opinion of most “educated” people at the time and I think they were pretty pessimistic about the future unless, as Asimov said, something "forcible" was done. However, we know now that we did make it into the twenty-first and the population explosion has not only slowed down but has reversed in many countries. In China, Japan, South Korea, the US, most of the EU and others the population has started to decline. Some of the decline is masked by immigration but still, in general, world population increase is slowing and expected to stop growing later in this century.

The only forcible action taken, that I know of, was China's one-child policy. And as a result of this policy, China may be at the beginning of serious national decline as a result.

Now the "educated" worry about how to manage a modern economy with a falling birthrate. It would be interesting to see where this worry leads in the next forty years.

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