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The End of Exponential Growth, A Theory

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  • The End of Exponential Growth, A Theory

    I've been thinking about this for a while and hope to get your opinions:

    All of our economic models we like to use for retirement are based on the most incredibly unique century in all of human history.

    In the last 100 years, the global population grew exponentially, from < 2 billion people, to around 7.5 Billion people.

    The world went from largely horses, boats, & steam powered trains for transportation, to planes, cars, and even space flight.

    The world went from electricity being a unique curiosity for lighting in some cities, to the foundation of all society and the internet.

    Even antibiotics weren't used for all of human history until the 1940s.


    Demographic models show massive demographic/population collapse in many countries: China, Russia, Europe, Japan among others. It's very likely that the world population will peak in our lifetimes and then start to decline.


    If the demographic decline happens, do we still experience the same economic growth in the 21st century? Is our financial planning being done through rose-colored glasses, since our data is from the most unique time period EVER?

    It's an open question, and I don't entirely know the answer. Increasing technological developments may lead to continued exponential growth. But it's hard to fight the realities of biology.

  • #2
    I bet every century would say the same thing about the previous/future century.

    Comment


    • #3
      I have wondered this myself.
      The only place with sustained population growth is sub Saharan African. Latin America is generally at replacement level, as is India.
      Will robots somehow increase growth?
      Or will we end up, globally, like Japan?

      Comment


      • #4
        Exponential growth is a concept that I think that most people fail to appreciate. Just think of the difference between the average house or street in the year 2000 vs 1900. If you were born in the 1500's, your great grandparents probably used the same tools as you, had the same quality of life, and used the same weapons that your great grandchildren would be expected to use in wars. If you were frozen for 100-200 years back then, you would wake up and find the world pretty much as you left it. It is difficult to imagine what our children or grandchildren's lives will be like. No one could have anticipated having computers more powerful then the ones used at NASA used to control the spaceships being in most people's pockets these days. I don't know if it will continue to be a logarithmic growth scale or more of a S-shaped curve leveling off at some point when we reach a certain level (ie there is only only so small a microchip can shrink to). I think that we are beginning to see some signs of things leveling off due to natural resource limitations (eg it doesn't matter how advanced your chip is if you don't have the materials to make new ones anymore). I think that the next jump in advancement will have to wait until we figure out how to burn clean energy through some sort of back-to-the future style cold fusion machine. Then we launch things into outer space to mine whatever minerals that happen to passing by. A limited supply of energy probably prevents us from advancing as quickly as we could. It's similar to how high gasoline prices are considered a "drag" on the economy. I may just be thinking about that because I just spent $70 to fill up my tank though.

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        • #5
          “In the last 100 years, the global population grew exponentially, from < 2 billion people, to around 7.5 Billion people.”
          This.
          https://www.visualcapitalist.com/ani...rowth-history/

          Some serious minds noted this problem long ago.
          https://www.plannedparenthood.org/fi..._FactSheet.pdf
          Planned Parenthood used to be all about birth control. During the 60’s and 70’s population control was taught in schools, governments jumped in with incentives, regulations and restrictions. Population control in numbers and gender have so many ethical an cultural issues that remain. Probably the most divisive problem that needs to be addressed. The causes that enabled exponential growth are known, but the solution will not be pretty.
          Economics used to be a factor in the western world and part of the eastern. No expert here, but the issue has not changed in 70 years. No clue what the next 100 years will bring.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by CordMcNally View Post
            I bet every century would say the same thing about the previous/future century.
            The issues were different. But each generation does note change and uncertain about the changes for the next generation.
            Same song, different verse.

            Comment


            • #7
              listen to the freakanomics podcast on prediction.

              Comment


              • #8
                Completely agree. It will be interesting to see what happens as the baby boomer demograhic retires. They are a massive chunk of our population and perhaps the hardest/longest working generation. I read somewhere that starting now to 2025, the vast majority of them were expected to retire. Lot of predictions but not sure anyone knows how this mass retirement will affect the economy.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Do people think that with boomers needing more medical care and with boomer doctors retiring theres going to be a real problem with the number of healthcare "providers" out there and the amount of work that will need to be done? All i hear about with rads for example is how the volumes are unsustainable and i imagine it will only get worse?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    i never quite get it when people talk about ZPG or below as a bad thing.
                    historically the reason for having as many children as possible was 3 fold:

                    1. no access to birth control
                    2. women had absolutely no say in their own reproduction
                    3. you hoped enough children survived to care for you after your teeth fell out at age 42

                    all of this adds up to a horrorshow, especially for the women.

                    industrialized countries w/ declining populations strike as one of the most hopeful signs of human progress in history.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by MPMD View Post
                      i never quite get it when people talk about ZPG or below as a bad thing.
                      historically the reason for having as many children as possible was 3 fold:

                      1. no access to birth control
                      2. women had absolutely no say in their own reproduction
                      3. you hoped enough children survived to care for you after your teeth fell out at age 42

                      all of this adds up to a horrorshow, especially for the women.

                      industrialized countries w/ declining populations strike as one of the most hopeful signs of human progress in history.
                      Also, farming

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Demographic models show massive demographic/population collapse in many countries: China, Russia, Europe, Japan among others. It's very likely that the world population will peak in our lifetimes and then start to decline.
                        agree. Demography is destiny. Africa is the lone growing demographic. Immigrants out of Africa are repopulating Europe, but the BCP technologies will halt even African growth. Declining populations are deflationary.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Great topic. It certainly looks like global population is going to crest and then decline. What then happens to countries like the US that are already below replacement level, but rely on immigration for population growth? In terms of sustainability, an initially declining population is a great thing. As more countries develop, their citizens are going to demand more resources that are already quite limited. Economically, reduced demand via reduced population seems superficially bad, but in every other respect it seems positive. Less strain on the environment, less destructive competition, etc.

                          Economically, I think there will have to be some kind of reckoning. With advancing technology, especially in the realm of AI and automation I don't think our material output as a species will necessarily decrease along with the population. The question is how can a system built around endless growth and consumerism adapt to more of a steady-state reality?

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by MPMD View Post
                            i never quite get it when people talk about ZPG or below as a bad thing.
                            historically the reason for having as many children as possible was 3 fold:

                            1. no access to birth control
                            2. women had absolutely no say in their own reproduction
                            3. you hoped enough children survived to care for you after your teeth fell out at age 42

                            all of this adds up to a horrorshow, especially for the women.

                            industrialized countries w/ declining populations strike as one of the most hopeful signs of human progress in history.
                            you left out a huge one: Less = more
                            4. fishing will get better. Seriously, less consumption of natural wildlife and land and more parks. More efficient farming + smarter ecological policy (hopefully)
                            If people just would get rid of the nets, and leave the little fish. Also grow gardens instead of grass and fish with rods and only take a little……..too hopeful?

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Turf Doc View Post
                              Do people think that with boomers needing more medical care and with boomer doctors retiring theres going to be a real problem with the number of healthcare "providers" out there and the amount of work that will need to be done? All i hear about with rads for example is how the volumes are unsustainable and i imagine it will only get worse?
                              It is not only numbers of healthcare “providers” and the amount of work that will need to be done. Yes, policy premiums have been paid. They are covered by “insurance”. Guaranteed by the federal government. The problem is that the unfunded liability is carried by the workers currently working .

                              More services paid for by fewer workers . The amounts are mind boggling.

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