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What is hazarded is not our life - but our quality of life. As any insurance actuary will attest, we are governed by statistical datasets.
Consider this single fact:
About 1% of population suffer from perniciously debilitating and all-pervasive mental health disorder, schizophrenia. At beginning of 20th century, there were 16.5 million schizophrenics - nowadays there are 64 million. Their impact on friends, family, and colleagues is exponential - and incalculable. This is not a merely quantitative leap. It is a qualitative phase transition.
Large populations lead to emergence of high density urban centers. It is inefficient to cultivate ever smaller plots of land. Surplus manpower moves to centers of industrial production. A second wave of internal migrants caters to their needs, thus spawning a service sector. Network effects generate excess capital and a virtuous cycle of investment, employment, and consumption ensues.
But over-crowding breeds violence (as has been demonstrated in experiments with mice). The sheer numbers involved serve to magnify and amplify social anomies, deviate behaviour, and antisocial traits. In city, there are more criminals, more perverts, more victims, more immigrants, and more racists per square mile.
Moreover, only a planned and orderly urbanization is desirable. The blights that pass for cities in most third world countries are outgrowth of neither premeditation nor method. These mega-cities are infested with non-disposed of waste and prone to natural catastrophes and epidemics.
No one can vouchsafe for a "critical mass" of humans, a threshold beyond which species will implode and vanish.
Luckily, ebb and flow of human numbers is subject to three regulatory demographic mechanisms, combined action of which gives hope.
The Malthusian Mechanism
Limited resources lead to wars, famine, and diseases and, thus, to a decrease in human numbers. Mankind has done well to check famine, fend off disease, and staunch war. But to have done so without a commensurate policy of population control was irresponsible.
The Assimilative Mechanism
Mankind is not divorced from nature. Humanity is destined to be impacted by its choices and by reverberations of its actions. Damage caused to environment haunts - in a complex feedback loop - perpetrators.
Immoderate use of antibiotics leads to eruption of drug-resistant strains of pathogens. A myriad types of cancer are caused by human pollution. Man is victim of its own destructive excesses.
The Cognitive Mechanism
Humans intentionally limit propagation of their race through family planning, abortion, and contraceptives. Genetic engineering will likely intermesh with these to produce "enhanced" or "designed" progeny to specifications.
We must stop procreating. Or, else, pray for a reduction in our numbers. This could be achieved benignly, for instance by colonizing space, or ocean depths - both remote and technologically unfeasible possibilities. Yet, alternative is cataclysmic. Unintended wars, rampant disease, and lethal famines will ultimately trim our numbers - no matter how noble our intentions and how diligent our efforts to curb them.
Is this a bad thing?
Not necessarily. To my mind, even a Malthusian resolution is preferable to alternative of slow decay, uniform impecuniosity, and perdition in instalments - an alternative made inexorable by our collective irresponsibility and denial.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain - How the West Lost the East. He is a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, and eBookWeb , a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory Bellaonline, and Suite101 .
Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com