We need to plan for the happiness of nonexistent people?


This is a bizarre article: titled Spare a Thought for the Billions of People Who Will Never Exist, subheading “As world population growth slows, the never-conceived are the ultimate forgotten ones.” I thought the anti-choicers were unbelievable with their nonsense about “unborn children”, but this takes it up a notch to “unconceived children”. Really? I have to give a thought to hypothetical people whose defining characteristic is that they will never exist? The author says we should consider this scenario:

A couple decides to have one child instead of two, or none instead of one. This happens all over the world. Billions of children are never conceived. How real is the loss of a life that never began? Is there a right to exist? Is there an ideal size of the world population?

There is no loss of a life that never began.

Things that don’t exist don’t have a right to exist.

The ideal size of the human population is a harder question. I don’t think there is an absolute, fixed size; it’s going to be variable, dependent on the environment, and also an “ideal size” is going to depend on your goal. Do you think the largest human population is ideal? Or do you think there should be some accommodation for non-human populations? I need to know your assumptions.

I’m unimpressed so far. It’s a lot of wrestling with abstractions. We should consider the plight of people who do exist before these kinds of weird hypotheticals. Apparently there is some serious philosophical work on this one, though.

The late University of Oxford philosopher Derek Parfit wrestled with the question of the world’s ideal population in an influential 1984 book, Reasons and Persons. He didn’t delve into the carrying capacity of the planet, and he stayed away from the issue of abortion, which occurs after conception and thus raises a different set of concerns.

In an abstract, theoretical way, the British thinker presented what he called the “Repugnant Conclusion.” Here’s how he stated it: “For any possible population of at least 10 billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better, even though its members have lives that are barely worth living.”

Fine. So if you’ve got X billion people living comfortably, could you handle X+1 billion people living slightly less comfortably? Which would be better? I can imagine this being a relevant concern if you are planning population policy — but the purpose there would be to figure out how to guide the reproductive choices of people who exist. The amount of thought you should give to people who don’t exist is zero. It’s very twisty to expect people to not forget the never-conceived, since there was no one to remember.

This is some real “every sperm is sacred” shit.

Comments

  1. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin suggests the next loony wobble, after the one in the OP, is to think of all the unborn babies except their mother would be too young! She smells a distinct whiff of barefoot, illiterate, and pregnant with the direction this is going…

  2. astringer says

    Marcus @1

    The great thing about imaginary kids, though, is that if you go forth and multiply them, there’s one less to worry about!

    (apols for nerdy maths joke)

  3. says

    The only time I can imagine being sad for someone who never existed is if I met them and sci-fi time shenanigans happened.

  4. brucegee1962 says

    As far as the ideal number, I’d assume that would be the same as in other species: “enough to maintain genetic diversity,” which would also be “a heck of a lot fewer than our current numbers.” We could probably do that with a tenth of our current population, easily.

    If we’re thinking of the other question — how many could the earth support in what we Americans think of as a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, that would depend a lot more on technology. If the next century moves heavily into robotics, which I think is likely, and we make enough progress on global warming that the earth doesn’t become a hellscape, which is wildly optimistic at this point, then I could see our population hitting its peak and starting to go down by 2100. The economic forces that have worked to create a comfortable class and a miserable class to provide them with goods and services might finally start to run in the opposite direction.

    If I were to imagine a science fiction utopia, I’d imagine a population half to a third of our current size, with most of the scut work done by robots, and the population drop fueled by sharply falling birthrates. I think with enough tech we might be able to make that sustainable. But again, this is wild optimism.

  5. R. L. Foster says

    If every sperm is sacred then I’ve blasphemed plenty in my life. Add to that my wife’s monthlies and the eggs that didn’t get to meet my sperm and we’ve got the dark shadow of the unconceived hanging over us. Is this really something anyone needs to fret about?

  6. robro says

    Given the source, Bloomberg Businessweek, I can see where this is coming from. There’s suddenly talk about declining birth rates affecting the economy which has come to depend on an ever increasing population. “Blue states”…whatever that is…are seeing declining populations and birth rates. China changed it’s one-child policy. I don’t buy it and the guilt winge in the article is inane.

  7. Pierce R. Butler says

    So this guy perceives a moral deficiency or worse in every woman who has fewer children than Michelle Duggar?

    I prefer to think how much better the world would be if certain philosophers would refrain from uttering every bizarre and destructive thought that caroms through their mental pinball machines.

  8. says

    The Repugnant Conclusion is a well-known subject in ethical philosophy. The point of the article, as I perceived it, was not to make a big political point, but to introduce an academic topic to general audiences.

    If you don’t like the Repugnant Conclusion, that’s nothing new, it’s right there in the name? A major source of interest in the subject is to find ways to reject the repugnant conclusion. I’m not sure that your particular objections would stand up to scrutiny though–or at least, the implications would require greater discussion.

  9. raven says

    We don’t even know the long term sustainable carrying capacity of the earth.
    In nature, populations often undergo boom bust cycles where they overshoot their carrying capacity and then have a die off.

    Long ago, I used to hang around with a group of deep time ecologists.
    They consider ecologies in terms of centuries, not years.
    Their big argument wasn’t whether we were mining the planet and due for an overshoot and die off, but when it would happen.

    We won’t know the carrying capacity of the planet, until we reach it.

  10. raven says

    As many people have already noticed, a lot of the “won’t people think of the imaginary people” group, have the usual agenda. Breed like rabbits so we can make more money.
    If you look, of course they only have 1 or 2 children. Because they have better things to do with their time and money than over breed.
    This is from Bloomberg news. Michael Bloomberg has…two children despite the fact that as a billionaire, he could afford many more.

    If your economic model depends on a continually increasing population, then your economic model is broken.
    It’s just plain dumb to keep doing something that isn’t working and won’t work.

  11. klatu says

    Right. Let’s not spare a thought to the billions who a going to be born into a dying nightmare world, forced to fight for scraps. Let’s instead pity the unconceived.

    People actually get paid to write this drivel?!

    And let’s not ignore the ever-present dogwhistle when it comes to appeals for more children: That’s it’s almost certainly a lack of “white” children being bemoaned.

    @Pierce R. Butler #10
    Agreed.

  12. keinsignal says

    It seems to me that there’s an absurdity at the base of all this, which is that “happiness” is a measurable, quantifiable thing. As is so often the case, my first response is, “what are your units”? Who’s happier, a child receiving a much-desired toy on their birthday, or a castaway spotting a potential rescuer? Can we plot this on a chart?

    The “Repugnant Argument” here only makes sense to me as a way of pointing out a failing of certain rather blunt, mindless formulations of Utilitarianism, though I don’t know if that was really Parfit’s intent. Either way, the article’s author barely seems to have grappled with it in any meaningful way at all. I feel like this is the kind of guy who’d read Plato’s cave allegory and use it to kick off an article about mining regulations.

  13. stroppy says

    Reminds me of an interview I saw years ago, I think with Octomom (Nadya Suleman). She basically believed that it was her obligation not to waste any of her eggs and have as many babies as possible. I think the idea was that there were little baby souls in heaven lined up waiting to be born, and denying them life would be a sin.

  14. PaulBC says

    Spare a thought for the quadrillion+ population of sentient beings living in Dyson sphere or equivalent, somewhere in the universe. I mean, maybe not in this galaxy (Fermi paradox and all) but probably somewhere. Are they really happy? Maybe they wish they’d have been around before their solar system was transformed into something so artificial. Or maybe they are happy. I mean, they must have really gotten themselves together to have built a project of that scale.

    Or some other planet that’s about to get wiped out by a supernova just as things started to get good… or maybe one that’s been under millennia of authoritarian rule and most of the population is living as slaves under cruel conditions. Spare a thought for them why not? Sometimes I do.

    I mean, none of the above is really implausible (well, the Dyson sphere might be impossible, but consider equivalent feats of stellar engineering to support a giant population). At least I can commiserate or celebrate sentient beings that may really exist right now.

    I don’t think that carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, hydrogen, atoms, etc. really care if they’re part of a rock, a tree, a dog, or a human. So it seems like a very silly thing to worry about. While I like being alive, I honestly don’t worry a lot about not existing except to provide for my survivors and that death doesn’t come in some horrific way. Why should people who never existed care? What does that even mean? I “spent” billions of years as a “nonexistent human”, more than I have spent existing. Seemed like a piece of cake to me.

    It comforts me sometimes to think how insignificant the entire earth is relative to the universe. I mean, I hope we don’t screw everything up, and I am willing to help prevent it, but given the great likelihood that we will, sometimes I look up at the sky at night and think, well at least all that’s out of reach to us stupid humans.

  15. raven says

    I think the idea was that there were little baby souls in heaven lined up waiting to be born, and denying them life would be a sin.

    That is exactly what the Mormons believe and teach.
    Something about spirit babies and preexistence.
    The spirit babies are produced by our god Elohim having sex with his fleet of goddess wives, who are so important that we don’t know any of their names.

    This isn’t a typical xian belief though.
    It sounds for her more like a post hoc rationalization for irresponsible reproduction.
    She had no way of taking care of all those children she had.
    The US taxpayers ended up paying for them.

  16. PaulBC says

    Maybe we should engineer the minimum-size brain needed to be conscious and experience happiness. Then we could grow these in warehouses (bliss centers) and they’d be engineered to be happy in that environment. We’d take care of them very efficiently with nutrient fluid and maximize the sheer quantity of individual happiness possible with available resources. A few could be engineered with the ability to communicate their happiness to us, and maybe they’re also be able to assure us of the happiness of all the other brains. This seems a lot more efficient than leaving it to the vagaries of human birth and development.

    (And I’m sure this is not an original idea, but it is the one that pops into my head.)

  17. PaulBC says

    brucegee1962@5

    If we’re thinking of the other question — how many could the earth support in what we Americans think of as a comfortable, middle-class lifestyle, that would depend a lot more on technology.

    Given the number of Americans who think being comfortable and middle class means owning a military-grade arsenal, I think we could reach the limit very fast even with major improvements in clean energy and efficient utilization.

  18. raven says

    Paul BC

    Spare a thought for the quadrillion+ population of sentient beings living in Dyson sphere..

    That is good enough that you could be the head of a philosophy department.
    Why worry about billions of imaginary people when you can worry about quadrillions of imaginary people?

    Spare a thought for the Galactic Federation of a million inhabited planets.
    There are two possible futures here.

    .1. Humans invent space travel and colonize the galaxy of a billion stars.
    The galaxy appears empty right now and we could own it all even traveling at sublight speeds. In the history of the universe, a million years is nothing.

    .2. Humans overshoot and die off.
    We get it together again and once again overshoot and die off.
    Eventually the earth is so trashed out and mined out that the maximum carrying capacity is 500 million people at a low standard of living.

    Won’t someone think of the imaginary quadrillions of people of the imaginary Galactic Federation?

  19. hillaryrettig1 says

    The ideology is called “pronatalism” and it’s a helluva drug.

    It’s also a major prop for capitalism and it’s “constant growth” imperative, which may be why this appeared in a business magazine.

  20. PaulBC says

    stroppy@16

    I think the idea was that there were little baby souls in heaven lined up waiting to be born, and denying them life would be a sin.

    Any adult has to learn how to say no. “Sorry, you can’t have ice cream now.” or (trickier) “Sorry, they’re out of ice cream but we’ll have some another time.”

    “Sorry, looks like they’re all of out birth spots today, but we can play some singing games instead.” (I mean, I don’t want to be in that spot, but aren’t there like angels or some such that can do it?)

  21. says

    Well, if “uploading” becomes a thing, then everyone can immediately “upload” and get rid of their costly-to-maintain meatbag. It’d solve a lot of problems with humanity’s energy balance, and besides the planet may not be very nice anymore. Besides, once everyone’s uploaded to The Cloud, there’ll probably be a software glitch that wipes out humanity (though I would say that there is no humanity if they’re uploaded, but the metaphysics of uploading is something we, hopefully, will be spared. Besides, I think Iain Banks said most of what there is to be said on that topic)

  22. PaulBC says

    raven@22

    Won’t someone think of the imaginary quadrillions of people of the imaginary Galactic Federation?

    I think of them all the time.

  23. cartomancer says

    Just think of all the billions of books that could be written if people stopped doing other things and devoted their time to writing books! The crimes against literature are immeasurable! Drop whatever you’re up to and start scribbling now!

    Of course, nobody would have any time to read them all…

  24. brucegee1962 says

    @15 keinsignal

    It seems to me that there’s an absurdity at the base of all this, which is that “happiness” is a measurable, quantifiable thing. As is so often the case, my first response is, “what are your units”? Who’s happier, a child receiving a much-desired toy on their birthday, or a castaway spotting a potential rescuer? Can we plot this on a chart?

    I try to avoid casually dismissing entire fields of study that I am largely ignorant of, and that is what it looks like you’re doing here, keinsignal. While it’s fairly pointless to compare the happiness of individuals, I know that there is a whole branch of ethnography that studies and publishes “happiness indexes” of various countries, based upon a combination of a number of different metrics. Here is one such: https://worldhappiness.report/

    What little I do know of the field (which also aligns with common sense) is that happiness tends to increase along with income until you reach a certain threshold, at which point it levels off. So a reasonable goal would be to strive for a population level at which everyone can arrive at that threshold.

    Rich people (speaking from experience) still have plenty of problems — they’re just problems that can’t be solved with money. But they are spared from a whole host of problems that poor people face that can be solved with money. A world where no-one has to deal with those problems might be the closest we could ever get to a sustainable utopia — but sustainability and a steadily increasing population are mutually exclusive, unless we manage to invent stardrives.

    @15

    I feel like this is the kind of guy who’d read Plato’s cave allegory and use it to kick off an article about mining regulations.

    Ha! Brilliant!

  25. says

    I’ve started telling people like this that they care about people that don’t exist more than me and other people who do exist so they are politically untrustworthy at best. It’s my parents I want to tell this to but they don’t have any courage and don’t want to talk politics, things that implicitly involve me. I can’t stand to be around them anymore.

  26. says

    There is a prejudice in favor of people who actually exist. I call it “existism”. Fortunately for the nonexistent, there is powerful agitation for Fictive Rights. Corporations and gods have their spokespersons. Unfortunately for the nonexistent, those spokespersons themselves exist, and therefore do not truly speak for the nonexistent. Even with reform, actually existing institutions are existist by nature. The rights of the nonexistent do not exist!

  27. springa73 says

    I’ve actually thought along these lines occasionally, silly as it may seem. I consider myself a humanist, and I consider human life to be worthwhile, valuable, even precious. Occasionally I find myself thinking that if the human life that exists is valuable, wouldn’t more of it be even more valuable? If one values human life, surely one should value creating the largest amount of it that is possible? I realize that there are several good objections to this line of thinking, but it still pops up in my mind sometimes. It occasionally makes me feel a twinge of guilt for never having children. Then again, I am capable of feeling at least momentarily guilty about almost anything, including my own existence.

  28. brucegee1962 says

    OK, I looked up the “Repugnant Argument” to educate myself, and it seems to pop like a soap bubble when you take the ethics of sustainability into account. Even if you go with a “more humans=better” philosophy, it should appear obvious that, on a planet with finite resources which are used at a steady rate by every individual, a smaller population that can last for millenia is better than a large population that goes extinct within a century.

  29. keinsignal says

    @28 brucegee1962 –
    I do understand that there are attempts to quantify happiness or quality-of-life, but as you say, those tend to boil down to actual, quantifiable things like income, access to health care, average lifespan – and it might make sense to base one’s philosophy of an “ideal society” on optimizing for some combination of these, more concrete, things. But the essayist here (and again, I cannot comment on the original work that he’s referring to) seems to collapse all this back down again into some undefined Happiness Variable, such that 10 billion people with 1 Happiness Point each is exactly equivalent to 100 billion with 0.1 HP, or 1 person with 10 billion HP.

    The original argument may be more subtle, and sounds to me more like a critique of certain naive versions of Utilitarianism, where I can absolutely see it having some validity. Any glibness in my response is meant to reflect the attitude of the person who wrote the article, who seems to have taken this argument in a very face-value, numbers-on-a-spreadsheet kind of way.

  30. lotharloo says

    Stuff like these makes me conclude that while philosophy is not useless, philosophers are.

  31. notruescott says

    In the book “This is the Way the World Ends” by James Morrow, after a nuclear holocaust the hypothetical people who were never born, the “unadmitted”, briefly pop into existence to put mankind on trial for genocide.
    So maybe that’s a consideration?

  32. ilr1950 says

    This is well and truly insane. But its the ‘sex should only be for procreation and every ovum should be fertilized’ mind set you find is some really radical religious fruit bats. And a lot of the ones with this mind set that I’ve come in contact with are Catholics.

  33. Rob Grigjanis says

    lotharloo @35: Well, some certainly seem to be useless.

    If there are 10 happy people at A, and 20 equally happy people at B, the idea that there is twice the happiness at B is absurd on its face. If one day 19 of the people at B decide, for whatever reason, to make one of their number miserable, is B now 1.9 times as happy as A? One could equally say that the group at B is now infinitely more miserable than the group at A (1/0). Yes, I’m a socialist.

  34. unclefrogy says

    the whole argument seems to be only possible to engage in if you take for granted that you exist and you willed yourself into existence and or had something to do with you existing in the first place. further it also comfortably ignores the questions of what is existence what or who is conscious and any implication of the nature of time. it is almost as bad as the street car “question”.
    I like to think about, in fact I can not escape thinking of all the “lives” that went before me and all the “lives” that will follow.
    when I was young my brother and I came up with “uncle born” our uncle who was never born it was very funny and that day was choked with repeating hilarity.
    @35 absolf’nutely
    uncle frogy

  35. KG says

    siggy@11,
    Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with mental masturbation, but like the physical kind, it should be done in private, or at least with only consenting adults in the audience!

    What about imaginary people? Don’t they have rights? – MarcusRanum@31

    About on a par with those of artichokes, I’d say.

  36. erik333 says

    A hundred million people world-wide seems a reasonable number. People complaining about ageing populations should really be cheering, it’s the only way down from the current population insanity. Let the wild retake as much of the earth surface as possible while maintaining a spacefaring economy.

  37. Rob Grigjanis says

    If there are to be ‘Happiness Points’, surely it would make more sense to include negative values, say from −10 to 10, where −10 means life not worth living. That, along with scrapping additivity, would vastly change the philosophical arithmetic.

  38. bcw bcw says

    @42 So if you are mentally or physically masturbating to imaginary people, it that rape? Or is it OK if I imagine their consent, except that with real people imagining their consent is the definition of rape? MY brain hurts.

  39. erik333 says

    @42 Rob
    Well, reasonably life isn’t worth living at any negative number… also, you’d have to account to whatever negative happiness effect you have on the people around you.

  40. says

    But what about the right to not exist? Existence is sufficient to cause a lot of problems and necessary for literally all of them. If you bring a child into the world, you’re ensuring that it will face countless days of misery and hardship. Aren’t parents responsible for that? Or is it just the god excuse again; “everything good is thanks to me, everything bad is your own damn fault”?

    Seems to me there’s at least as good an argument for why it’s unethical to have children at all.

  41. davidc1 says

    “WILL NO ONE THINK OF THE ,,don’t not what to call them .
    At the risk of someone shouting Godwin at me , Mr’s Hitler lost so many children in infancy ,makes you think how the world would have turned out if you know who had died while an infant ?

  42. PaulBC says

    I think there may be a utilitarian argument against depopulating the earth through successive generations of lower birth rates, though it isn’t an obviously bad idea.

    First, briefly, an argument in favor is that we’d be happier if there were few enough people to live like modern middle class suburbanites without ravaging the earth’s environment (as would happen very rapidly if 7.7 billion people attempted it right now). With sufficient automation, we might be able to deal with the labor shortage and all “live like kings” in a suburban utopia with roomba-like robot lawnmowers and android butlers handing us refreshing summer beverages.

    But it depends on how much you believe increased innovation depends on a larger population with a proportionately larger number of creative minds. (And that you accept the utilitarian value of innovation.) I am not sure I believe it, but I would consider, for example, that more Nobel laureates come from the US than from Luxembourg, not because of any inherent disadvantage for an individual born in Luxembourg, but because there are just a lot more Americans doing whatever it takes to have some probability of receiving a Nobel prize. On the other hand, China and India aren’t beating out the rest of the world. Well, maybe they would if their populations had higher living standards and more eventually distributed access to education.

    My gut reaction is that we would do well to reduce the world population somewhat, but the current population could also be sustainable at very high standards of living as long as we don’t define a standard of living in terms of the amount of bulk material we “own” or manipulate in some way. Maybe we could even go a lot higher with giant, dense cities, though I’m skeptical. Even if just 10% of the world population wants the suburban lifestyle, it will eventually be unsustainable.

    It’s ludicrous, though, to talk about the rights of the unconceived. We’ll destroy the earth if we go for higher population without planning for higher density, and I don’t think most of the people pushing Americans to reproduce more have any intention at all of scaling back their impact on nature.

  43. Rob Grigjanis says

    erik333 @45: Most people who are tortured, kept at near-starvation, forced to do hard labour, etc don’t actually kill themselves, so you can call that positive if you like.

    My main point, admittedly implicit, was the absurdity of the whole exercise. If I can modify the ground rules, with arguably equally valid definitions, and come to radically different conclusions, what does that say?

  44. PaulBC says

    keinsignal@34 If Elon Musk is very very happy than just imagine how high the average world happiness can be. Maybe the key is to identify an elite capable of getting the most happiness out of billions in wealth and optimizing their happiness.

    (Nvm… I think we already do.)

  45. PaulBC says

    I think the right goal is minimizing the number of people deprived of their “pursuit of happiness” either through poverty or decreased liberty rather than maximizing “happiness” as an aggregate.

    E.g. most people agree, I think, that having a lottery for designated organ donors is unethical, though it could eliminate shortages of a commodity we have no control over right now. It would be a violation of rights, though those harmed may be fewer in number than those who benefit.

    Increasing aggregate happiness is rarely the right goal, though reducing misery probably is. Having much funnier sitcoms and better video games for the tens of millions is not a solution of the much smaller number of terminal cancer patients.

    And of course, people who do not exist at all are incapable of either (and never to have been born is the most enviable condition for the risk adverse). This is simply a non-starter.

  46. naturalistguy says

    Having seen fruit flies happily multiply in a jar until they all die, I think non-existence has an upside worth considering.

  47. unclefrogy says

    But it depends on how much you believe increased innovation depends on a larger population with a proportionately larger number of creative minds.

    interesting question almost always is limited by which percent of the population is considered.
    The quickest way to increase the absolute number of such people would be the elimination of all racism sexism and classism. Such an increase in the desired creative people would be substantial. That phenomena of irrational discrimination is not confined to any country it is a worldwide condition that is in the end self destructive
    China for example could help their aging work force if they stopped all the structural discrimination there would be plenty of workers. I will not be holding my breathe!
    uncle frogy

  48. nomdeplume says

    I try hard to consider philosophy a serious and worthwhile field of study, really I do. I suppose the discipline would be ok if there were no philosophers.

  49. John Morales says

    Heh.

    We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?

    ― Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow: Science, Delusion and the Appetite for Wonder

  50. springa73 says

    Rob @#38

    If there are 10 happy people at A, and 20 equally happy people at B, the idea that there is twice the happiness at B is absurd on its face.

    I may be missing something obvious, but I can’t think of a reason why that would be absurd. It makes perfect sense to me.

  51. birgerjohansson says

    If some nutter starts talking about the rights of unborn children, shut him down with an assurance that they all exist in some alternative branch/world line of the multiverse.

  52. PaulBC says

    JM@57

    We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?

    Well I don’t, but it seems a leap from that point to consider a combinatorial space such as possible DNA sequences as tantamount to non-existent people to be pitied (though I’ll go out on a limb and suggest that Dawkins doesn’t lose much sleep over them either).

    I mean, speaking of the sand grains of Arabia, just imagine if all that silicon were transformed into a superconscious computer capable of thinking deeply about existence and perhaps feeling some profound philosophical satisfaction. Screw all the unrealized DNA sequences. There is so much unrealized potential. It would be godlike!

    Or all the computer programs that have not been written. Just strings of 0s and 1s. So many strings, so little time. I weep for the infinitude of the unrealized. Will no one weep with me?

  53. klatu says

    The truly utilitarian solution is to to simply kill all the unhappy people.

  54. Rob Grigjanis says

    springa73 @58: It was a trick scenario! A and B are actually parts of C, and I arbitrarily drew a line that has 10 people one side, and 20 on the other. In what remotely useful sense could you say that B is happier than A? Because it has more people? How would you use that data? Does it tell you B works better than A? Does it tell you you’d rather live in B than A? What?

  55. springa73 says

    Well, I guess the main conclusion that I would draw from that scenario is just that more happy people means more overall happiness. I can’t see how it could be otherwise.

    As I mentioned above at #32, I’ve sometimes had the thought that if I consider human life valuable, then I should support the maximum amount of human life that would not lead to a collapse of human population. This isn’t the same thing as the example that you gave, since I am thinking more of the value of human life rather than happiness, but it still follows the principle that if a certain amount of something (such as human life or human happiness) is good, a greater amount is better. In reality, I know that there are at least several good reasons why this might not be true, but it’s a thought that sometimes bounces around my mind.

  56. VolcanoMan says

    Yikes. Lock these loonies in a room with all of the anti-natalists and let them finish each other off.

    Like…honestly, how can two groups of people come to such diametrically-opposite conclusions? One one hand, you have people arguing that no matter what happens in your life, you are always worse off having existed, since pain and suffering are a part of life, and the best that can be said is that if you’re lucky, the good parts of life cancel out some of the bad. And the other guys are essentially spewing the toxic idea that the privilege of human life is such a gift that it is practically criminal for people to not have as many children as they are possibly able to. Like…wut?

    Of the two, I naturally tend towards the anti-natalists conclusions…but not for their reasons. How many prospective parents give serious consideration to the idea that maybe it’s not such a good thing to have kids? That maybe, especially here in North America, where culture and colonialism have made it so that even poor people consume far more resources than people of average wealth in the global South, it’s not such a great idea to add more privileged, entitled people to the world?

    Also, the current state of the world should absolutely be a consideration when choosing to reproduce. It is ludicrous to suggest that never being born is always better than anything a human life could bring an individual, but as the world becomes more divided, with the fight for resources more intense and the prospect of climate change throwing gasoline onto all of the existing fires that humanity hasn’t had the intelligence or compassion to put out before now (I’m torn over whether we actually started the fires or if they were an inevitable consequence of our humanity, but considering we have the capacity to improve things and continually choose not to, that’s almost as bad as if we’d started them), life is just going to get worse and worse for more and more people. So, even if your progeny are lucky enough to avoid the brunt of the issues created by our downfall, they will nonetheless contribute to it, and thus contribute to the unnecessary suffering of millions of other people.

    Conclusion – if you want kids…adopt them. Or become a foster parent (side note: I have never understood the drive to create genetically-similar beings to oneself…people always said, “wait until you’re older and you’ll want kids” but I’m turning 40 this year and I have never wanted kids LESS than I do now). And maybe work to dismantle the global capitalist economy, so that existing parents the world over can better provide for THEIR progeny. Once the world is a freer, more equitable place, maybe having kids can be an ethical choice. Right now though…it’s not.

  57. consciousness razor says

    keinsignal:

    It seems to me that there’s an absurdity at the base of all this, which is that “happiness” is a measurable, quantifiable thing. As is so often the case, my first response is, “what are your units”?

    Not quite hitting the mark. The complex numbers are certainly quantities, but they can’t be given a linear/total ordering, like you can do with the reals and so forth. The point is, if you suspect that it doesn’t make sense to talk about someone being “more” or “less” happy, then okay I guess — kind of a weird thing to suspect if you ask me — but it’s not actually a feature of numbers as such that they must all fit into that type of scheme.

    As for your question about units, well…. Do you think there’s something contradictory about the idea of units of happiness? I mean, why couldn’t we just use those? If there is a contradiction, then don’t beat around the bush. I’d like to hear what it is.

    (And won’t anyone think of all of the potential and not actual contradictions that I’ll never hear about at all?)

  58. PaulBC says

    As I mentioned above at #32, I’ve sometimes had the thought that if I consider human life valuable, then I should support the maximum amount of human life that would not lead to a collapse of human population.

    How about looking at it a different way? Happiness as a global aggregate is not that meaningful, since it’s not typically experienced that way. While an individual could be happy imagining themselves part of a happy population, that kind of vicarious enjoyment is weak, in my experience, compared to our own happiness, i.e., the fulfillment of some desire.

    I am of the view that any sentient being with a will is worthy of consideration. It doesn’t mean they always get what they want, but decisions that pit one will against another are the ones with moral impact. Say we’re on a lifeboat with a reasonable estimate to rescue time and only enough water to keep one of us alive that long. We both want to live. Some people would try to make an argument of who is more deserving. Some people might draw lots. Some people might try to keep each other alive in denial of their predicament. There are different approaches. But the moral impact comes from the conscious entity with an expressed will to live. None of it matters without the conscious entity who experiences the outcome.

    I feel the same way about animals. We treat rats in the house as pests, but they just want to thrive too. They see a source of exploitable resources the same way we do when we cut down a tree for lumber. The idea that we “worked for” the goods in our house and the rat didn’t is a little absurd. The rat is doing its best at being a rat. Still, if it’s my house, I will win and the rat will lose. I’d prefer if the rat never entered my house in the first place. I feel bad about killing a rat that thought my house was a nice place to live, but I don’t feel any responsibility at all for the world’s rats outside my house. Nor do I think there should be more rats and more food for them, though I believe that rats are sufficiently sentient that a well fed colony of rats would feel a kind of simple happiness. I just don’t see that as something worth optimizing.

    When it comes to human beings, my view is that we’re responsible for the ones here already, and personally responsible for the ones we bring into the world ourselves. It is unacceptable for anyone to be living in unmitigated misery without any escape, and there’s a lot about our world that’s unacceptable that way. Beyond that, happiness is something people seek individually, and it’s what they want, not something that adds up to be worth anything. If there were no sentient beings at all in the universe, it would just be a universe with no sentient beings, and what of it? Most of the universe is like that already. It’s only when a sentient being exists already and can express its will to life and be happy that its happiness has any ethical import whatsoever.

    It reminds of something Carl Sagan said where I disagree, that intelligent life is how the universe understands itself. Who said the universe needs to understand itself? It does just fine acting obliviously. It is only we little self-aware knots in the vast complex system that care about understanding anything. And because Carl Sagan or anyone else might care about understanding the universe, and can feel some empathy and would not want to get in their way. But the universe as such does not care at all. We need the universe more than it needs us.

  59. PaulBC says

    The idea of increasing happiness by bringing nonexistent people into existence reminds me of the old joke “we lose money on every sale, but make it up in volume.”

    I mean, my personally experienced happiness is only meaningful relative to my experience. I’m the producer and the consumer of it. Unless these new people are definitely adding to anyone else’s happiness, it’s at best a break-even proposition.

  60. consciousness razor says

    PaulBC:

    I am of the view that any sentient being with a will is worthy of consideration. It doesn’t mean they always get what they want, but decisions that pit one will against another are the ones with moral impact.

    I’m not of that view. It’s unnecessarily restrictive, and it just doesn’t match up with what moral concerns are generally understood to be about.

    It matters that the beings are simply sentient, because satisfying that condition means they can feel, including pleasure and pain, obviously (or anything else that is literally sensible). Without that, reasonable moral concerns vanish. You’re talking about a rock or whatever, so such concerns would definitely be misplaced.

    But lacking a “will” to some extent or other (when for example they’re comatose or an infant or what have you) doesn’t make such concerns go away. That doesn’t make the being in question the moral equivalent of a rock.

    Of course, having a will could indicate that they can make moral decisions. But we’re talking here about what may happen to that being (and how this affects them) on the basis of others’ decisions, not which ones they themselves can make (at that particular time or at any time). As somebody once put it — I forget who — they may not be moral “doctors” who should try to treat others well, but they can still be moral “patients” who should be treated well.

  61. hemidactylus says

    Given life can be really sucky for most people with trials, tribulations, disappointments, anxieties, pains, and nagging fear of death plus that it often entails suffering during the process, it might be best to forego having children for their sake. Probably not the greatest encapsulation of antinatalism, but one doesn’t need be a sourpuss like Schopenhauer to see life as a vale (or veil) of tears. So reduce the amount of suffering in the world by opting out of procreation (voluntary extinction is the extreme).

    Good rationalization for being child-free, though not having children is ironically its own reward which kinda rug-pulls the antinatalism thing.

    Be a self-absorbed cheapskate and enjoy life by not having kids. Have a cat or dog instead. They merely pee on the rug, not bankrupt you with tuition.

  62. hemidactylus says

    Somewhere out there in podcast land is a debate between David Benatar (antinatalist) and Jordie Peterson. I’m not saying anyone should listen to it, but that it is “out there” (double entendre). That someone could potentially listen to such a podcast is argument enough against bringing children into this world.

  63. PaulBC says

    hemidactylus@69

    Given life can be really sucky for most people with trials, tribulations, disappointments, anxieties, pains, and nagging fear of death plus that it often entails suffering during the process, it might be best to forego having children for their sake.

    I have sometimes heard people express the idea that they would never want to bring children into such an awful world (and possibly really headed to disaster, e.g. with global warming). I just don’t feel it. I mean I’m here and I want to see how turns out. Maybe I can even do some good, but that too isn’t really the point. As long as I’m not suffering horribly, being here to see what actually happens sounds more interesting to me than not being here. My kids may need to be braver than I am. Who knows? People are resilient and they’ll be better adapted than I am.

    I remember running through a little science fiction scenario in my head. What if the Large Hadron Reactor really had created a mini-blackhole that was about to swallow the earth. My kids were preschool to elementary school age when that was in the news. I thought, gee what if I helped bring them into the world and I had to tell them sorry, we had a good run but it looks like it’s going to end. It need not be different from any purely personal tragedy. We’d experience it the same way as a fatal car crash, probably with less pain.

    I mean, there has always been the possibility of suffering. It’s a gamble, and I knew that already. I think there’s a chance of an upside too, plus they seem content with their own existence and don’t resent coming into this world with all its faults.

    But apart from that, it’s not a good or evil question to me. For most people having children is a drive. They want to have genetically related offspring. I think it’s cool that some people are happy adopting. I doubt I’d have wanted to go that route. I like having my own kids and I think the onus is on me to take care of them and put in a best effort to raise them to do more good than harm. If you wanted to stop me, you’d have had to make it illegal. I was not going to forgo raising kids in deference to an abstraction.

    And sure, if people don’t want kids, that’s cool too.

  64. PaulBC says

    CR@68

    I’m not of that view. It’s unnecessarily restrictive, and it just doesn’t match up with what moral concerns are generally understood to be about.

    I’ll grant I was oversimplifying. I am still not going to worry about the happiness of people who are purely imaginary.

  65. lochaber says

    All this worrying about imaginary things, and I’m reminded of Roko’s Basilisk

  66. kris michael says

    This is relevant in the region of the USA I live in because our economic prosperity is entirely dependent on growth. People moving to the region bringing their $, investing it in new roads and infrastructure, cutting down trees, building new housing developments, and creating more jobs. It’s not good for the salmon, whales and other wildlife. It’s not good for the streams and rivers and wild places which are full of more and more pollution and people. Forests are now suburbs, fertile farmland is now warehouses and strip malls, and the food for the growing population is increasingly shipped in from further and further away.

    I don’t want to brush aside the benefits of a good economy, it’s nice to not have to worry about money all the time. However the growth does diminish the quality of life, noticeably for those of us who remember what it was like with a smaller population but lots of fishing and fresh air. The stronger economy isn’t good for everyone, inflation means a $ is worth noticeably less then it was 5 years ago. This doesn’t affect the people with good jobs but the elderly and disabled find their savings and fixed incomes worth much less and the poor, as usual, don’t have an easy time. And of course it’s unsustainable, at some point the wave will crest, property prices will crash leading to migration to the next booming region of the country or world. But I’m getting away from the topic here, the idea that we need to worry about the unborn billions..

    It seems to me the people who are pushing this idea that ‘every sperm is sacred’ are also the people who think they will benefit from an ever-growing population of consumers. There’s other stuff mixed in this, fear that the demographics of the USA and world are changing leading to the white race losing their grip on power. People who worry about the birth rate of developed (European or East Asian) countries are often the same people who consider their culture and ethnic group to be better then all the other groups.

    Because of this idea of superiority they don’t worry about finite resources getting ‘stretched’ because they think
    they control the majority of the resources and don’t believe they or their descendants will have to share in the future. Especially if there’s a population boom to ‘catch up’ with the poor countries that have higher birth rates. Obviously there’s a gap between how these people think the world works and how it really works. I don’t think it’s worth much efforts going deep into the nuts and bolts of how it would work if they gain power. (which seems possible) I’d imagine something similar to other insane totalitarian schemes leading to massive suffering and ultimately self-destruction of themselves and as many others as they can take with them..

  67. kaleberg says

    They also argue that more people mean more Mozarts. We could double the number of Mozarts and the like just by offering equal opportunites for women. We could have even more if we let more people participate in the search for excellence.

    There are people who like to argue that populations need to grow indefinitely. They usually just claim they mean that it just needs to grow a bit, but when one calls them on it, they change the subject. They can only take one logical baby step at a time and can’t seem to understand that if one takes enough steps one can move quite far.

    You would imagine that there would be a field of economics searching for a population stable economy, perhaps with generational cycles, but without need for infinite growth or the end of the human race. There isn’t. It goes against the narrow ideology of the field. It’s a pity. It’s also something we really need.

  68. tuatara says

    As an indigenous person of the South Pacific I have been taught that the unborn are like the stream of thought inside my head, much of which should remain so, never to be delivered into the world via my mouth (or keyboard).

    The author of this article shoud have left it unborn. Just look at the mess it has made in its diaper.

  69. benedic says

    To 73
    I agree. It is like the medievals who supposedly spent their time arguing about how many angels could be accomdated on a pinhead.

  70. birgerjohansson says

    Roko’s basilisk can bugger off, I have Nyarlathotep on speed dial.

  71. KG says

    The complex numbers are certainly quantities, but they can’t be given a linear/total ordering, like you can do with the reals and so forth. – consciousness razor@65

    Yes they can. Order lexicographically with the real part first, for example, so that 6+7i precedes 7+5i. They can’t be given an ordering that creates an ordered field, but that’s a diferent matter.

  72. imback says

    If personhood starts at meiosis, backing up our identities to our early haploid selves, then abortion would be mundane, as each month women would generally abort one while most men would abort billions. Men being solely responsible for nearly all abortions could trigger some patriarchal soul searching.

  73. klatu says

    @VolcanoMan #64
    Your thoughts on the issue mirror mine exactly, which is depressingly rare.

    Especially this part stands out to me:

    Conclusion – if you want kids…adopt them.

    I’ve been thinking this for a while now. That’s it’s actually kind of icky how people insist on having bio children. Why go through the financial stress of in-vitro fertilization when you could simply adopt an existing child? Especially in a heavily overpopulated world. How much is your love actually worth if it’s reserved to only beings in your direct genetic neighborhood? It’s all very weird to me. I’m not blaming parents for stumbling into parenthood. But I also think the creation of another human being is probably the single most important ethical action the average person can take in their life. But this notion is not going to win you many friends, for some mysterious reason…

  74. brucegee1962 says

    The antinatalists who use protecting the earth as an excuse to avoid children don’t make a lot of sense to me from a political perspective. If the people who care about the earth stop having children, and the people who don’t care keep having them at a furious rate, that isn’t going to end well…and may also help to explain 2016.
    People who adopt from similar motives have my respect. But if you’re young, and you’re listening to people who tell you how children ruin your life, just remember that ymmv, and only you can tell whether or not you would be a good parent. My kids are both in their twenties now, and I can unequivocally say that raising them has been the most rewarding and fun experience of my life, and I have never regretted the decision to become a parent for a millisecond.

  75. Craig says

    However, if we follow the theology espoused in the movie “The Seventh Sign”, the guf – the well/hall/treasury of souls – may already be near tapped out anyway, so we can lay off the procreation.

  76. Stuart Smith says

    I think they are overlooking a serious problem here. See, for every actual baby that we create, we slaughter a whole nine months worth of potential babies who could have been conceived if only that woman hadn’t selfishly gotten pregnant already. Every child is born a mass murderer of potential siblings, whose unbirths were necessitated by their birth. I think it is quite clear that the moral balance always lies on the side of not being pregnant. The certainty of one child is more than outweighed by the increased probability of existence enjoyed by all the children that child would prevent them from conceiving.

  77. anat says

    brucegee1962 @82: Re: How to reduce human environmental impact if only those who don’t care have kids? It is called education and cultural change. You definitely can’t achieve reduction in human environmental impact by outbreeding the ones who don’t care. (In my immediate family, the only one likely to have grandchildren is the one who least cares. My hope is his kids will eventually learn better.)

    Regarding the rest, yes, YMMV. Not everyone is cut out to be a good or even a half-decent parent. Which is why I hope we (as a culture) stop pressuring people to have kids, and more of them.

  78. PaulBC says

    anat@85

    Which is why I hope we (as a culture) stop pressuring people to have kids, and more of them.

    We should absolutely not pressure people to have kids, but I think most people have kids because they want to.

  79. Rob Grigjanis says

    KG @79:

    They can’t be given an ordering that creates an ordered field, but that’s a diferent matter.

    It’s not a different matter. An ordered field has to have total ordering of its elements. The complex numbers don’t have total ordering, which is what cr said.

  80. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    This sounds like another “the map is not the territory” moment.

  81. Azkyroth, B*Cos[F(u)]==Y says

    All this worrying about imaginary things, and I’m reminded of Roko’s Basilisk

    I agree. It is like the medievals who supposedly spent their time arguing about how many angels could be accomdated on a pinhead.

    It actually reminds me of that silly omgwhatif about a hypothetical AI that wants to process the entire observable universe into paper clips. Except apparently “maximizing paper clips” is a Very Serious position taken by, or shamefacedly–subject-changed-away-from-because-they-can-tell-there’s-something-wrong-with-it-but-can’t-quite-figure-out-what by, certain Very Serious philosophers.

  82. stroppy says

    “They also argue that more people mean more Mozarts.”

    They should pay more attention to the human potential being destroyed right under their noses through prejudice, poverty, exploitation, and so on.

    More people also means more Trumps and other assorted ass wipes. Given that it’s easier to destroy than create, that can’t be a good thing overall.

  83. Rob Grigjanis says

    stroppy @90: There’s a scifi story I read years ago, about an Anglo-Saxon serf looking up at the stars and wondering…

    Anyone know the story and author?

  84. stroppy says

    Rob Grigjanis @91
    Doesn’t ring a bell. Google isn’t helping me track it down.

  85. says

    I think it’s utterly selfish and disgusting to pay the equivalent of several complete college educations on IVF when there are actual, born children waiting for a family. We need to do away with the notion of family being defined by blood relations.

  86. says

    Before I even finished the first paragraph, I had “Every Sperm is Sacred” playing in my head. Glad you included it at the bottom!

    While I haven’t given this any truly deep thought (and have no particular expertise in the topic), it HAS come into my mind numerous times over the decades. Ultimately, I feel we could do with a few billion less people. Not targeted for any particular group, just that zero or even slightly negative population growth for a couple generations wouldn’t be a bad idea. Until we can properly house and feed everyone on the planet, we have too many people. Either not enough food, not enough infrastructure, not enough social systems, whatever – the reasons will vary, but if we can’t GET the food to everyone who wants it, we have a problem and fewer people can’t hurt in the resolution of that problem. Of course, as long as we’re strongly driven by tribalism, most folks will likely be okay with OTHER tribes reducing their populations as long as their own tribe continues to grow. Again, this isn’t my field of expertise, so I acknowledge that the analysis is very shallow.

  87. blf says

    Rob Grigjanis@91, Blast, that does ring a very faint bell — more sort of a few taps on broken triangle, actually — but I’m also at a lost for the author, title, or much of anything else…

  88. anat says

    PaulBC @86:

    We should absolutely not pressure people to have kids, but I think most people have kids because they want to.

    The question is how they came about wanting children. Not everyone just wants children with no outside input.

  89. PaulBC says

    anat@96

    The question is how they came about wanting children. Not everyone just wants children with no outside input.

    (1) It’s instinctive. (2) Most people are raised by parents who wanted children, so even if has to be learned, this is very likely to happen by default.

  90. John Morales says

    PaulBC:

    (1) It’s instinctive

    Is it? I must be lacking that instinct, then. As does my wife.
    As do some of my friends.

    (The instinct to fuck, that I have — you sure you’re not confusing the two?)

    (2) Most people are raised by parents who wanted children, so even if has to be learned, this is very likely to happen by default.

    “Most” presumably being >50% of the population.

    Maybe.

  91. PaulBC says

    JM@98

    (The instinct to fuck, that I have — you sure you’re not confusing the two?)

    Nope, no confusion. You might have noticed that people continue to have kids despite very reliable means to avoid it.

    Is it? I must be lacking that instinct, then. As does my wife.
    As do some of my friends.

    I never said it was universal, just very common.

  92. John Morales says

    PaulBC:

    Nope, no confusion.

    Mmm hmm.
    OK, you think there’s an instinct to want to have children, quite separate from the instinct to engage in sexual congress.

    (Do you accept that numerous people apparently lack that instinct?)

    You might have noticed that people continue to have kids despite very reliable means to avoid it.

    Point being, one has to opt out. And work at it assiduously.

    (The fear of having progeny is good motivation!
    The joy of menopause!)

  93. PaulBC says

    OK, you think there’s an instinct to want to have children, quite separate from the instinct to engage in sexual congress.

    Yes. And not only in humans. Animals also show nurturing behavior that has nothing to do with their sex drive. I’m not saying there’s no connection at all. Obviously, not all biological children are intentional.

    Point being, one has to opt out. And work at it assiduously.

    No more assiduously than you have to work at avoiding food borne illness by cooking food and washing your hands. But people are pretty good at avoiding food poisoning. They’re not working really hard at avoiding pregnancy (for the most part) and getting annoyed that they were tricked into having a kid. It does happen, but I pity children who are born under such circumstances.

    Forget about humans for a second here. Non-human animals have a sex drive. They also nurture their offspring. If their offspring were purely a burden that results accidentally from sex, then they would have the option of abandoning them (which they might do, and in fact humans also do in times of famine or other distress). There are two distinct drives, even if they are admittedly connected.

    To put this in a personal context, I really had no interest at all in having kids until I completed grad school and was in my early 30s. Before that, I had relatively little money and more personal ambition and research goals. Once I was working, it was clear that I had surplus income but nothing really big I was working for. Having the means to provide for someone else and relatively little else on my plate made that into a more interesting proposition than, say, collecting the worlds biggest ball of string in my garage. It had almost nothing to do with sexual urges, which have their own ebb and flow.

    The question of raising an adopted child is interesting, because I guess I would get almost exactly the same satisfaction out of it. I still like the idea of biological offspring better. I’ll concede it’s selfish. So what? How about people who think they need to do a single-person commute in an enormous SUV. I mean, WTF, we live in a selfish society. I did not say my choice to have children is good, just that it’s something that brings me satisfaction in a way I can explain easily, and nobody had to trick me into. Raising kids is a total blast. It’s a headache sometimes too, but I would do it all over again.

    (Do you accept that numerous people apparently lack that instinct?)

    Yes. Is there anywhere I suggested otherwise?

  94. John Morales says

    PaulBC, thanks. It’s now apparent to me that you and I don’t share the same definition of instinct.

    (behaviour, not desire)

    It does happen, but I pity children who are born under such circumstances [unwanted].

    Unwanted is not tantamount to unloved.

    Many people wholeheartedly embrace responsibilities they did not seek.

  95. PaulBC says

    John Morales@102

    Many people wholeheartedly embrace responsibilities they did not seek.

    No question, though coming into the world this way a lot like “depend[ing] on the kindness of strangers.” (Even intentional parents are strangers, but they’ve at least made a commitment ahead of it.)

    Planned birth is a social norm in modern industrial society to the extent that people may pretend even if the pregnancy was not intentional. Even historically when it was not, babies were expected as inevitable and generally welcome. (To be clear, I wasn’t claiming it is universal and I take you at your word that you are uninterested in kids.)

    “Instinctive” may not be the correct word, but there are a lot of things that drive people to rework their entire lives around child birth and care, and I don’t think it’s “taught” the way someone might learn how to follow Feng Shui in furnishing their home and care about it only after know what it is. The relative infrequency of abandonment (though deadbeat dads are real enough) suggests people actually want their kids.

    You could leave it open whether they wanted their kids ahead of time, but historically, it’s been a social expectation. Few people beyond their teen years are thinking “OMG, how the fuck the that happen? What are we supposed to do with it?”

    I would still assert that most people have kids because they want to have kids and this is not the result of artificial “pressure” but something natural to any reproducing species. It may not be enough to get replacement rate births, but probably don’t want that anyway. (We need to develop a concept of the economy that’s not a Ponzi scheme at core, but that’s a different topic.)

  96. DanDare says

    Yesterday
    Apon the stair
    I met a man
    Who wasn’t there.
    He wasn’t there again today .
    I wish that man
    Would go away.

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