Where we are in terms of demography

We all think of ourselves as developed human beings, and were likely told since the earliest childhood that we were part of a civilization. A civilization that allowed us to inherit years and years of development. To this extent, maybe we should consider ourselves lucky to be where we are, and not born 500 years ago. Or should we? How could we get an idea of how much +-50 years in our history would have changed our way of living?

Perhaps not surprisingly, the very same factors that enabled our species development are also dangers to our survival. It is the lack of control that the human species exerts over these that make them dangerous, and potential factors to our extinction. Speed vs. control.

The word “civilization” has become common, to the point that something ‘uncivilized’ is often used as a meaning ‘crual’. But the word civilization has an accurate meaning and refers to a specific developed array of elements for a complex grouping of individuals. The group of individuals is indeed deemed to be a civilization only if six elements appear:

a) symbolic communication forms (writing)

b) codified laws

c) a hierarchy of social roles also called social stratification

d) architecture and urban development

e) food development and techniques

f) a perceived separation from and domination over the natural environment.

This means that there are both physical and qualitative factors, related to feelings, art and communication. Quantitatively, it is generally agreed it should be possible to measure with data whether there is a common direction, a common goal. So what can we use, ie quantitatively, to measure the human species? First we will describe what may be considered as five metrics of development. We will see that surprisingly, the growth and achievements of each are quite recent.

1) Population growth and the relationship between numbers and space: speed or control?

It is said that a species makes progress when it can reproduce itself and grow, right? So did we make progress? A quick glance at our chart gives an obvious answer.

The first prize for population growth

Population data agreed by most sources (World Bank, UN Census, etc.) since beginning of human time

What do you notice? Well first that the x-axis is not right. This is because most sources have chosen to agree on specific dates in history. Hence we get a false impression of linear progression. What if we take only since year 0 and fill in the missing years? Yes in mathematics, we call is ‘exponential’.

Yes you are reading right. We were only 2 billion 1804, 2 centuries ago. 1.5 Billion in 1900, only one century ago. And we are now over 7 billion. Actually a table will help us here:

Can you imagine? We were only 1.5Bn people in 1900? To put it again in perspective: life on earth is 600 Million years old, we reached 1Bn in population in millions of years. And then a few thousand to reach 1900. Then suddenly, from 1900 to 2015+, in only 100+ years, the population was multiplied by 6x??!! Yes you are reading this chart well. If you were born 100 years ago, ie only 3–4 generations ago on average, you would be one in 1.5 billion human beings. Fast track 100 years later, you are on in 8 billion human beings. Gold medal for human beings in this period. But what happened? Did humans suddenly make more babies? Did they die less? Let s us remember these questions for analysis in the second part of this book. Also some first questions appear to pop. If our environment is a finite given, and our population grows, is there not a point at which there will be a limit? Ie our population exponential growth cannot go together with a finite environment.