Watch this cutting-edge presentation on world population

Originally published at:


we have actually begun to conquer the problems of rapid population growth and extreme poverty.

… by creating more of it. Gotcha.


Roger That!


When the powers that be discuss extremes today it’s all about concentration, not only at the top but also at the bottom. Extreme poverty in their view is literally dying of starvation or exposure. Otherwise you’re just bog standard poor, so pull up those bootstraps.

Between the extremes a more prosperous society tends to be one where families have fewer children, because it’s more expensive to raise one middle-class kid than it is to raise two or three poor ones. At the extremes it really doesn’t matter.

This is all complicated by factors like: TPTB still trying to force economic reality into their ideal neoliberal model; the need to keep 80% of the population under said model placated so they don’t revolt; the racial and ethnic and nationalist anxieties of half of that 80% regarding immigration; the fact that the 2-child average implies a lot of people with no-one except perhaps a low-wage immigrant to take care of them in their old age; medical advances extending that old age; the inability of the planet to carry all those humans enjoying at least a 1950s lower-middle-class level of prosperity; and many others.

Anyhow, that is one cool 3D projection system. Shiny!


While Hans Rosling’s presentations are great, his visualizations creative and informative, his Blair-esque storytelling about the state of the world (“quit complaining, everything is fine, the poor are doing so much better according to these statistics”) leaves much to be desired - like, it makes me desire chucking his presentation in the bin along with Steven Pinker’s latest book.


Couldn’t disagree more. He just says: Look at the data. And the numbers tell us extreme poverty is on the decline. That doesn’t mean everything is peachy. For those living in extreme poverty life is hell. In the worst possible way. But there is a big difference in 4 bn or 1 bn victims. Bottom line: don’t shoot the messenger for his choice of words. The man has a point.


Agreed. I don’t see what’s wrong with a little positivism based on facts. Accepting that the current state of the world isn’t as bad as our gut tells us doesn’t stop us from striving for better. Maybe it encourages more effort since we can see evidence it’s not wasted.


and he was a great sword swallower - (around the 8:00 mark) -

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As a guy who looks at data for a living, I can tell you that people who say “look at the data” as if that proves everything are liars of the worst sort. Data is not a fact, it is a story; it is a metaphor. What data is being presented and how influences the story that is told. This is precisely my complaint about Rosling - he assures us that the data is unambiguous and tells a given (rosy) story, while in fact different data - or a different view of the same data - might tell a different story. (For example - does the definition of “extreme poverty” vary across the dataset?)


This is exactly what stops us from striving for better - sticking our heads in the sand and assuring ourselves there’s no problem, nope, it’s fine. People are not going to be motivated to solve a problem they don’t believe exists. This is exactly the goal of the “it’s all fine” people (e.g. Pinker), as well, they want us to stop spending on helping out the poors because, look, they’re really doing much better anyway, so why bother?


May have time to watch this later, but the description sounds like it’s referring to the demographic transition with respect to population growth. While important and a key rebuttal to Malthusian panics such as China’s One Child Policy, it’s actually been known for almost a century.

Poverty, while related, isn’t as straight forward. You can have general increase in the wealth of a nation contribute to a DT while at the same time income disparity, regressive taxation, concentration of capital, regulatory capture, rentier legal regimes and lack of worker protections resulting in an ossified class system which stalls class mobility and creates an abysmal standard of living among the working classes.

In other words, population decline and the trends that can lead to it don’t automatically translate into general welfare.


Where do you get the idea that Pinker wants people to stop helping? Is that just your interpretation of what he’s saying or does he literally say that somewhere? I’ve never heard that argument from him myself but I confess I haven’t read that much by him.

And I don’t agree that the universal reaction to good news of this nature is to step back and stick your head in the sand. As I said in my first post I think a lot of people will see that the goal is even more attainable than before and be motivated to help because they have evidence it does make a difference.


An important point I didn’t hear - admittedly I didn’t have time for the full lecture. Number of babies does not equal number of adults in the next generation. Looking at averages obscures the huge importance of infant mortality.

Europeans in the 17th century had scads of children because so many of them perished before puberty. If you factor them out, the average number of adult children is a whole lot smaller. Likewise, infant mortality skews the numbers on average lifespan. Now that whooping cough doesn’t carry off all our brothers and sisters, we no longer feel the need to knock up each wife ten times. This might also be a plus for women.

He covers that in this one, right at the start:

His argument in this is not “11 billion is easy”. It’s “11 billion is what we’re getting, so y’all better figure out how to cope”.

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Over the past several centuries, since at least the 18th, there has been a slow and uneven (but continuing and relentless and ongoing) “improvement” (if that’s the right word) or movement toward equalization in the subjective value placed by the luckier portions of advanced societies on those who are “unluckier,” whether domestically or abroad. Those who were unconsciously written off as less than human have been, slowly and unevenly, accepted as more and more fully human and worthy of acceptance as people like “ourselves.” This process is still of course ongoing and has quite a way to go over the next several centuries. It’s relevant, however, to this discussion because just that improvement in subjective status increases the pressure we feel from those others, near and far, who previously could be and were ignored as not fully human, and now are slowly turning into full human beings with valid claims on our empathy and concern. In other words, the psychological “pressure” exerted on us by one billion “real” human beings who are suffering could well be substantially more than that exerted by two or three (or five or six) billion less-than-human beings who it was permissible to ignore. This is really what’s driving Trump voters crazy. And what Rosling’s stats cannot account for since it’s subjective.

From what I understand, birth rates drop in proportion with the cost of living. As your country or area advance to a more economically productive state, the cost of having and raising kids in creases. That is why the panic in the UK and other areas the immigrants will out breed them in 3 generations is bogus, as their birth rate will match the host country within the first generation.

And in relation to your comments, it is pretty crazy to think that places like London for the longest time had a negative birthrate. People were going out due to disease and the like faster than they were coming in birth wise. It was only the influx of new people coming in that allowed the city to grow.

I hope to listen to the whole thing today at work. If 11 billion is his high mark, I think that is doable, but I also thing we may actually settle out lower. Already we are seeing negative birth rates in some countries. I think ultimately we will be fighting to have people have more than 2 kids to replace themselves.

I did my part and only had one so far…

This is probably due to a lack of contraception (because of legality, cost, availability, education) and the treatment/status of women in that era…

…since they didn’t have much of a choice if men decided they wanted sex or heirs. Unfortunately, these are problems too many women still have today.

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OK listened/half watched. Pretty informative. I espeically learned something about the growth curve even if the birth rate is stable.

As for the question on whether Africa will begin to crawl out of poverty like Asia, I believe YES. China is already starting to INVEST in certain areas in Africa. It is thought they will soon see a manufacturing boost, but China is using it as a new potential market. They are totally right.

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