Hans Rosling Predicts Human Population to Level Off At 10 Billion

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

demographics map age

In Hans Rosling’s hands, data sings. Global trends in health and economics come to vivid life. And the big picture of global development—with some surprisingly good news—snaps into sharp focus.
Hans Rosling had a question: Do some religions have a higher birth rate than others — and how does this affect global population growth? Speaking at the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar, he graphs data over time and across religions. With his trademark humor and sharp insight, Hans reaches a surprising conclusion on world fertility rates.

Even the most worldly and well-traveled among us will have their perspectives shifted by Rosling. A professor of global health at Sweden's Karolinska Institute, his current work focuses on dispelling common myths about the so-called developing world, which (he points out) is no longer worlds away from the West. In fact, most of the Third World is on the same trajectory toward health and prosperity, and many countries are moving twice as fast as the west did.

Rosling's presentations are grounded in solid statistics (often drawn from United Nations data), illustrated by the visualization software he developed. The animations transform development statistics into moving bubbles and flowing curves that make global trends clear, intuitive and even playful. During his legendary presentations, Rosling takes this one step farther, narrating the animations with a sportscaster's flair.

Rosling developed the breakthrough software behind his visualizations through his nonprofit Gapminder, founded with his son and daughter-in-law. The free software — which can be loaded with any data — was purchased by Google in March 2007.

In this case, the data may not properly reveal the true path of human population numbers.  In Rosling's view, those aged 65+ will continue to die off at the same rate over the next century.  What this data does not take into account (potentially) is the increase in lifespans that will be made possible in the future.  Dramatically longer lifespans.

Proponents of extending human lifespan, such as Aubrey de Grey have long been predicting that such medical technologies would be effective.  According to de Grey:
The trigger for such a dramatic shift in public expectations (which are over-pessimistic today, of course) will be that the laboratory results will be on animals that are already in middle age before anything is done to them. The most likely scenario is that two-year-old mice that would normally live to three years old will instead live to at least five years old. That is, their remaining lifespan starting from when the treatments are begun will be trebled from one year to three. This will translate into about 60 years of extra life for people who are already about 60 when the treatment begins, and that may excite people a little, especially since all the extra life will be youthful. In fact, I think it’ll probably take at least 15–20 further years (until about 2020 or 2025) to get even 30 years for humans, but that’s only the start.*
For instance, a specific enzyme, called 5-lipoxygenase, plays a key role in cell death induced by microgravity environments, and that inhibiting this enzyme will likely help prevent or reduce the severity of immune problems experienced by astronauts during space flight.  Gene therapy has also recently been successful at extending mouse lifespans by 24%.  

Although demographic changes are slow, they are relentless and can have a tremendous impact over the long term. A population that regularly lives to be 110 or 150—in robust, active bodies—must confront some fundamental questions about how societies are structured. Economic issues of retirement, financial planning, and social security may be the most obvious, but basic questions about human relationships may be more profound.


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