!!Disclaimer: No solutions are being endorsed. This is just a list of known possible solutions. Deciding on a solution will require the work of leaders and the consent of everyone else!!
Like insects, humans have a problem controlling a population. Unlike insects, humans also have a lifestyle that increases and decreases resource consumption. When lifestyle and population are high, then the total resources need to be increased. If the total resources available are less than the required amount, then the system will collapse.
Smile. Don’t worry so much, because there are solutions to this problem. As seen in the insect problem there are solutions. Those insect solutions work for this human problem as well, which I will list at the end.
Human Solution 1: Birth Control
A simple solution that is politically unpopular. Humans use government, companies, and organizations to solve a lot of problems. Why not solve the problem of the number of resources we consume? One way to do this would be to create rules and enforce the rules of the number of offspring a person could have.
Some might be offended by just the thought of this. Modern humans see it as a right to decide to reproduce and the number that we can reproduce. The tradeoff to keep this freedom, though, might be the complexity of society. We can not have a complex society with absolute freedom. We already give up freedoms by living in a society.
When I was 18 years old, I had to enlist in the military draft or face harsh financial penalties. I was giving up my freedom to not participate in a war that my group deemed essential to be part of the group. Likewise, we make these tradeoffs all the time, some unknowingly. Social media is a current example. We receive a free service to communicate and to be entertained, and we trade our rights to privacy for it. I’m not saying these are right or wrong but that we currently make these tradeoffs.
This solution could be done in a consensual ethical way.
One way to implement this solution is by choice. The Netflix series the 3% in a way has implemented this solution. People who are eligible are given a choice. The choice is to live on an island where all needs are taken care of and to be a meaningful member of society. However, you can not have children. Members of this society have a device in their arms that prevents them from reproducing.
Currently, universal basic income is being proposed. A similar system could be incorporated with reproduction. People, when given a choice whether or not to be part of a program. The program would pay participants enough to cover their cost of living and would require participants not to reproduce by contraception.
Human Solution 2: The Lottery – Euthanasia and Consensual homicide
In high school, I was obsessed with Shirley Jackson. I read many of her works. A strong statement from someone who has problems reading. Her most famous one was The Lottery. The story is about a town that conducts a ritual. They conduct this ritual every year and have been for a long time. They write down the names of everyone in the town and put them into a box. Someone draws a name from the box. The person’s name that was drawn from the box is killed by everyone else by stoning. A grim story. The person may not agree with the random outcome of the lottery, however, everyone puts their name in the box. Everyone decides to live in the group. Everyone decides to throw the stone.
Unlike the first human solution, where the group decides how many new people are made, in this solution, the group decides how many people die—a price to pay to live in sustaining a complex society.
The example used in the lottery is a grim one. There is another story that uses a system of killing its members to keep its population in check, the story is The Giver. The Giver by Lois Lowry is about a society. In the society, people have three stages of life: childhood, adult, elder. A child learns and prepares to be be an adult. Adults take on a needed role of the society and raise children given to them by the society until they are an elder. An elder lives in a nursing home for a set number of years until they are killed. Almost all members of the society die at the same age. The society also kills babies if there are twins, or too many. Some might argue that it is horrific that a society chooses to deliberately kill members. Someone else might argue that societies that do not make this choice are killing their members just unknowing and unintentional. A third person might argue that in both cases that members give consent by being part of the group.
Human Solution 3: Religion
Why have a government or society regulate birth control when you can have religion do it? This solution is already being used. Religions activity tell their members the desirable number of children. In this solution, the solution of not having too many children and not living a large lifestyle are incorporated into the religion. By being in the religion members conduct behaviors that ensure that humans don’t run into the problem.
Behaviors might include: having two children per family and giving wealth to people and causes that need it.
For the past few hundred years, religions have played an essential role in solving this human problem. Recently many are turning away from religion which decreases the effeteness of this solution. To address this religions need to adapt to modern times, or new religions need to be created.
Humans still have a need for meaning, and religions historically have been a way to fill that need. One of the most ironic arguments I have seen is by Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche argued that everything is meaningless. But Nietzsche also had a solution for the fact that everything is meaningless: Religion.
Religion could provide humans with both meaning and a path to solve the human problem. Keep the population in balance with nature.
However, when religion is weaponized, used by some to exploit others or commit violence, then it causes a crisis in the solution. The use of religion as a solution for humanity is limited by how we use it and our past history of religion does not provide confidence that we can do that for the long term.
Human Solution 4: Kaczynski’s Solution
Technology is what enables us to increase the carrying capacity. Without technology, human population would be regulated by predators, diseases, and availability of wild food. With technology, we have created weapons to kill predators, medicine to prevent diseases, and agriculture to grow food. If we destroyed technology, then humans would once again be regulated by these factors.
This is the solution that Ted Kaczynski thought of. What do you think? Some people don’t know that name, but they know him by his nickname, the Unabomber, or UNABOM.
Kaczynski was so convinced of his plan that he used violence. He attacked professors and companies.
One way to implement this solution is that at a set period of time or at a random interval, all technology humans have is destroyed. The surviving humans would then have to rebuild and rediscover the technology.
Without technology, humans would be forced to live more with the changes of nature. Population influence by nature (Food, predators, etc). People often look for meaning. Rediscovering this technology could provide that meaning to people.
A possible problem with this solution is that if discovering technology is part of a person’s meaning would they delete it when the time came? Also, if the collapse is large enough, humans might fall into the default solution, losing intelligence or “returning to monkey”.
Human Solution 5: Supreme Intelligence Regulation
Here we go here is your technological solution you have been asking for. Humans aren’t we all tech apes anyway? This solution is to build a system the controls our population for us. A system like this might be done through artificial intelligence.
The Ricks Must Be Crazy is an episode in season 2, episode 6 of the television show Rick and Morty. In the episode it explores what it is for something to be a god. There is a car that is super intelligent. Rick, one of the main characters, commands the car to keep Summer (another main character) safe. The quote: “Keep Summer safe”. Through out the episode the car creates and conducts a number of solutions all to keep Summer safe. Everything from murder, to blackmail, to brokering a peace deal between two groups.
Similarly, if we constructed an artificial intelligence system or one developed on its own and looked to solve this human problem, it would create a number of unusual solutions until an acceptable one was found. Solutions that no human could ever think of.
I will throw out one solution that I have been thinking about; hiding knowledge.
A solution to some problems is to hide knowledge, a secret. However, this only works as long as the information is a secret when it is discovered the solution no longer works.
An entity with superior intelligence could hide the problem from humans and create a system that encourages incentives for humans to carry out a plan that solves the human problem.
Through trial and error insects have already discovered a number of solutions to this problem:
- Social insects – Caste system
- Seen in social insects such as some bees and ants
- Hibernation – Waiting for the environment to be favorable
- Seen in cicada and locust
- Parasitoids – Regulation from prey or predator population
- Seen in wasps
- Cannibalism – When density is too high
- Seen in spiders
Anyone or a combination of these solutions could be used to solve the human problem.
Solutions in Pop Culture:
- The Lottery by Shirley Jackson
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- 3% a Netflix Series
- Rick and Morty season 2 episode 6 (Ricks Must Be Crazy)
- Time Machine by H.G Wells
- The Matrix film franchise