[extropy-chat] Solutions to Overpopulation

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Wed Sep 13 18:14:25 UTC 2006

On 9/13/06, Michael Anissimov <michaelanissimov at gmail.com> wrote:
> Recently written blog post on how the Earth could hold 100 billion
> individuals:
> http://www.acceleratingfuture.com/michael/blog/?p=174

Haven't read it.  But isn't this already largely covered in Nanomedicine
Vol. I Sec. 6.5.7 on the global hypsithermal limit?

A 10E15 W limit with 1x10^14 allocated to vegetation gives you 9x10^14 for
humans.  9x10^14 / 10^10 gives you 9x10^4 W (90,000W per person) which I
think is well beyond normal consumption (even in the U.S.).  At 10^11 that
gives you only 9,000W per person which may be cutting things a bit tight.
An average house is wired for 200 amp service which is 20,000W.  That
doesn't take into account non-home fuel and electricity use.  So there are
some serious energy consumption, sustainability & conservation issues that
need to be addressed.

But humans are only 100W machines so 9x10^14W allows for the possibility of
9 *trillion* people without exceeding the hypsithermal limit.  Of course if
you cut that to heads in a vat, the brain only requires about 10W so you
would be up to 90 trillion brains.

But of course this all depends on how efficiently one can convert the solar
energy into nutrients humans can run on.  (Plants are doing 1-2% - to
glucose, while solar cells are going to be pushing 40-60% to electricity).
Switching from "ancient-tech" to "modern-tech" (*no* 'nanotech' required)
would decrease the inefficient energy harvesting of the current system and
allow a better coupling of incoming energy to computronium to waste heat

Of course it goes without saying *why* would you want 100 billion, or 9
trillion human bodies (or 90 trillion brains) running around?  They *aren't*
exactly the most efficient machines one can think of.  I am not sure how
many fertile women there are on the planet -- perhaps 1.5 to 2 billion?  So
even if you forced them to have a child every year (*highly* unlikely) it
would take you 30-40 years to reach a population of 100 billion.  (What are
the current estimates for when we would reach 100 billion? I suspect they
are late in this century or the next century.)  Given the rate of technology
progress we will reach zero population growth for humans and accelerated
population growth for AIs or uploads.  So any exercise discussing 100
billion OEM "humans" on the Earth has to come up with an entirely fictional
reality to justify such a discussion.

Of course, we could probably boost our carrying capacity even more by
> hollowing out the crust or sucking up the mantle and making towers,
> but I'm trying to write for a pre-SL3 audience here.

Why bother?  Convincing people that something is possible that will never
happen seems like a rather pointless use of time, intellectual energy and
audience attention span.  Go design a nanopart instead.

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