Malthusians are wrong

published Mar 24, 2024

A short explanation by Devon Eriksen.

Malthusians are wrong

Overpopulation is not a global problem and the Malthusians are fractally wrong.

This is because they don't actually understand humanity's basic paradigm for survival and prosperity.

They think of humanity as bacteria in a petrie dish. If the bacteria divide every second, and it takes 1 hour to fill the dish 100%, then at 59 minutes and 57 seconds, the dish will only be 12.5% full.

That's what I was told in primary school, and it's an excellent description of geometric growth, but it utterly ignores the obvious fact that humans are not bacteria.

Humans don't survive by dividing and consuming all available resources over and over again, in the exact same way, until they die.

Instead, humans survive by conquering and mastering nature and the environment. They do this by inventing new ways to obtain resources, and new ways to use them.

This process has always occurred faster than running out of resources, and there's a systemic reason for that.

It's because there is a positive correlation between population and innovation. It has to do with the number of innovators.

Humanity is divided into:

  • Innovators: people who come up with new ways to obtain and use resources.
  • Imitators: people who can employ these new techniques once an Innovator comes up with them.
  • Idiots: these people can't be taught complex ideas, don't understand "per capita", and are basically useless. But it's immoral to kill them.

What humanity does to master nature is to breed, produce a tiny amount of Innovators, and a large number of Imitators, and have the latter copy the former.

The beauty of this system is that while only one man may be brilliant enough to invent the steam engine, every man basically smart enough to learn from him is now functionally that man, because they can use the steam engine just as he does.

But humanity needs Innovators to copy. And Innovators are born, not made. And only a tiny fraction of humans are Innovators.

So by now, anyone reading this who isn't an Idiot will realize what modern humanity's baked-in solution to resource scarcity is.

Modern man overcomes resource scarcity by breeding. When you make more babies, you produce Innovators who create technological advances, and Imitators who implement them, at a faster rate than you run out of stuff.

But Devon, Earth itself has limited resources!

So what? We haven't even scratched the surface yet, and who said we were limited to Earth?

But Devon, space is hard and expensive!

Sounds like a job for Innovators and Imitators, then. Better get breeding and make some.

You want to gamble humanity's future on unpredictable technological progress?

We have done that every day since we learned to bang the rocks together. It's how we survive. It has literally never failed. Humans evolved to chase antelope on the savanna. We ran out of "enough antelope" and "enough savanna" thousands of years ago, yet we are still here.

Breed and innovate, or die