The 20th century proved to be one of the most, if not the most, dramatic for mankind. This active century saw great wars, great victories, great losses, booms, busts, innovations, imitations, and everything in between. One particular human achievement of the era comes from our most primal of instincts: reproduction. The population nearly quadrupled to 6 billion people in the 20th century alone, no doubt aided by the leaps and bounds made in science and technology fields that have helped us live longer and more comfortably.
However, the earth is not without its limits. Experts estimate 10 billion to be the upper end of a sustainable population. Innovation may continue to expand this upper bound, though testing the limits of humanity’s carrying capacity is an experiment perhaps best not taken too lightly.
Population growth has since slowed down tremendously in the western world. Thus, no need to fret over scarcity of resources and all the struggles that come with an exponentially rising population curve. However, the west may instead soon be facing a new problem. Population implosion.
Today’s best and brightest are not reproducing. Quite the opposite, actually. Studies have shown an inverse correlation between reproduction and intelligence, religious involvement, and wealth. Those that are less educated, less well off, and more firmly rooted in religion statistically produce more children than their wealthier, more educated counterparts. This presents a problem; the population will inevitably replace itself, even if only partially, and not without consequence. In the past, the smarter and wealthier had a significant advantage. Now, as we enter the current climate of the world, the playing field is more level than any point in history.
Western civilization is most vulnerable to this development, as it is head and shoulders above the developing world in terms of wealth and education. The best and brightest in the West are statistically on average having much fewer offspring. Even with the reproductive activity of the lower socioeconomic classes, the greater western world is facing a population decline like never seen in recorded history.
If the future is to remain bright, and behaviorally trends do not self correct, a social duty to have kids may be necessary as Elon Musk suggests above. The West may need to create a social obligation to reproduce at this point, for the future without people is no future at all.