Worried about overpopulation? Don’t be…
A new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggests that global population will peak at around 9.7 billion people in 2064, and then fall to 8.8 billion by 2100.
This has enormous economic and societal implications: fewer people overall means fewer workers, and older people will make up a greater percentage of the population.
It also creates massive opportunities for innovation.
In this blog, I’m going to discuss two critical needs related to global population decline:
- A healthcare system that’s more effective AND far cheaper
- A more productive workforce
Let’s dive in.
We need healthcare that’s personalized, preventive, accessible -- and cheaper
Population growth is calculated using a metric called total fertility rate (TFR) -- it measures the average number of children born per woman. For a population to remain stable over time, it must have a TFR of at least 2.1.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation study projects that the global TFR will drop to just 1.66 in 2100.
One consequence of this decline in TFR is that there are going to be more elderly than young people. In 2100, for instance, 2.37 billion people will be older than 65, while only 1.7 billion people will be younger than 20.
This means increasing global longevity that will drive a need for better healthcare for an ever-aging population.
Exponential technologies will help our healthcare system meet this challenge. As described in my previous blogs, we are heading towards a future in which all of healthcare is focused on making medicine personalized, preventive, and accessible. Ultimately making you the “CEO of your own health.”
Most of what we think of as healthcare today is what I call sick-care.
Our current healthcare system tries to take care of us after we’re sick by treating symptoms. But it doesn’t prevent the root causes of our sickness.
As the global population continues to decline and 100 years old becomes the new norm, we will increasingly depend on the convergence of exponential technologies such as AI, sensors, robotics, and 3D printing to help demonetize and democratize both diagnostics and therapies (e.g. surgery, CRISPR and gene therapy) everywhere, all the time.
Ultimately, technology will be constantly monitoring our health through wearables, implantables, and consumables that feed data to our personal AI assistant that is watching and optimizing our health. The use of such technologies will allow us to remain productive for many more decades, making retirement optional not necessary.
Exponential technologies enabling our future workforce
Declining populations -- and in particular declining, aging populations -- mean fewer workers. Fewer workers mean less productivity and economic output.
For example, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation study projects that the populations of 23 countries (including Japan, Thailand, and Spain) will shrink more than 50% by 2100.
How will these countries remain economically productive with smaller populations?
Part of the answer will come from AI and automation taking over more tasks that previously belonged to people.
One recent example of AI’s relentless march is OpenAI’s GPT-3 model, which is capable of creating web apps and writing a fully AI-generated blog that fooled thousands of readers.
But the largest increases in productivity will likely come from human-machine collaboration and upskilling.
Here is the kind of future I want to see:
Rather than people taking jobs because “It’s the only job available and I need to feed my family,” what if individuals take the jobs that most excite them? Jobs they do not for the money, but instead for personal fulfillment.
Imagine a future where each of us can partner with AI and robots to augment our knowledge, our skills, our senses and abilities.
Ray Kurzweil predicts that by 2029 (just 9 years from now) we will have “human-level AI” available to all of us.
Ray goes on to predict that by 2035 we’ll be able to connect the human cortex to the cloud. Just as we are seeing today in its earliest form with Elon’s Neuralink and Dr. Mary Lou Jepsen’s Openwater, we are on the verge of implementing a brain-computer interface (BCI).
A future with human-level AI and affordable BCI is a future where any of us can master almost any skill we desire, and a future in which a smaller, older human population will be all we need to fulfill our human destiny on and off the Earth.
Global population decline represents a clear challenge with a rough time frame.
At the same time, it offers us a historic opportunity to build technologies that help us lead healthier, more fulfilling, and more productive lives.
This is a future of Abundance and a future of exponential technologies. A future in which we can make our grandest dreams come true.
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