Thursday, September 24, 2009

The More the Merrier: Population Growth Promotes Innovation

Bring on the babies!

The director-general of Unicef has been quoted as saying, “Family planning could bring more benefits to more people at less cost than any other single technology now available to the human race.” And one of the benefits of reduced population, it is claimed, is reduced carbon emissions and therefore mitigation of climate change.

This statement takes technology for granted, yet technology itself depends on population.

Especially important among the sources of technical progress — discoveries — are trial and error, and incentives. Reasonable people can disagree about the relative importance of these two, but both are stimulated by population.

The more people on earth, the greater the chance that one of them has an idea of how to improve alternative energies, or to mitigate the climate effects of carbon emissions. It takes only one person to have an idea that can benefit many.

Plus, the more people on earth, the larger are the markets for new innovations.
Read the whole thing.

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thinking said...

Like anything else, it's a balance. There can be too little or too much population growth.

thinking said...

I think the author of that post vastly oversimplifies the issues and does an injustice to the director general of Unicef.

Family planning is indeed a tremendous boon to the human race, esp. when brought to 3rd world nations. Family planning prevents poverty, malnutrition, the spread of AIDS, abortions, etc.

More malnourished babies does not make for much innovation.

The comments to that post on the NYT have some great responses.

By the writer's thesis, China should lead the earth in innovation. Indonesia should far outperform Japan or Germany.

I will say that this actually could function as a persuasive argument for universal healthcare, as more people having access to healthcare will save lives, and some of those lives will produce useful innovations, not to mention those lives saved will be consumers who will enlarge the market.

Those 45,000 per year that die due to lack of health insurance in the US...some of those could make radically great contributions.

As another thought, taken from one of the responses, empowering females with equal rights the world over and giving them equal educational opportunities will enlarge the pool of scientists, innovators, etc. Women makes great scientists, engineers, doctors, etc...and if we can give them equal opportunities, we double our pool of innovators without even increasing the population!