According to United Nations projections, our world population could increase to around 8.5 billion in 2030 and 9.7 billion in 2050. After that, the peak will be reached in the 2080s at 10.4 billion, and the decline will begin around 2100. According to a study from the University of Washington funded by the Gates Foundation, this forecast may be a bit exaggerated.
The thing is, with the world population exceeding 8 billion at the end of last year, the global population peak is fast approaching. But there is also the Singularity, the concept of artificial intelligence that is beyond human control and rapidly changing society. In fact, there are trends that suggest humans will reach that singularity in only 7 years. But will the singularity put an entirely different spin on population growth?
For starters, the world’s population is growing at its slowest rate since the 1950s. Blame the falling fertility rate for this one. “Today,” says the United Nations, “two-thirds of the world’s population live in a country or region where lifetime fertility is less than 2.1 births per woman, roughly the level needed for zero growth. In the long term, the population with low mortality”.
With low fertility levels expected to continue, this trend is only set to continue. John Wilmoth, director of the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, elaborates on the subject:
“The cumulative effect of low fertility, if sustained over several decades, could lead to a further slowdown in world population growth in the second half of the century.”
The University of Washington study points to a continuing trend of declining fertility and slow population growth. The study states that in 2100 there will be no more than 8.8 billion people on Earth.
Of course, if we allow AI to take over the world, that number could go down even further. And there’s no telling how many (or how few) of us will need our new robotic masters. What is clear is that you better get on the good side of your preferred algorithm.