Re: Kardeshev is pre-Spike thinking

From: Robin Hanson (
Date: Tue Jun 06 2000 - 08:10:05 MDT

Robert Bradbury wrote:
>Robin, I'm curious as to how social science views the decline in
>birth rates that is expected to lead to balanced or declining
>populations in "developed" countries in the not-to-distant

"views" is bit too vague for me to respond to concretely.

>Is there any "law" of social science that says
>individuals must always reproduce?

No. I made an analogy to the physics claim of finding new
resources so bountiful that the resources we see would be
uninteresting. It is logically possible, but seems unlikely.
Similarly it seems logically possible that reproduction will halt,
as we know of no law that requires reproduction, but it seems
similarly unlikely.

>Is there any reason they could not self-impose a completely
>balanced population policy?

If they all want to they might. But if only most of them want
to it looks much harder. And the question is why they would
want to.

>If you assume that
>there are diminishing returns to expanding (due to increasing
>delays in thought times) and increasingly diminishing returns
>to reproducing endlessly (because most of the interesting
>combinations have already been tried and you have to think
>more and more to come up with interesting things to create),
>then it would appear that though you may have ever-growth, it
>may occur at increasingly slower rates over time.

I do not see that this conclusion follows from your assumptions.
Nor do I yet accept your assumptions.

>I think "social" science only works at scales that are not
>at the largest and smallest limits.

One might make a similar claim about physics, that all we know
is irrelevant because we haven't yet seen physics on the
smallest and largest scales.

>Past economic growth has relied on colonization of "larger"
>scales (e.g. the "new" world).

Attempts to find the economic growth impact of discovering the
new world have failed -- it seems to have not mattered much. See:
When Did Globalization Begin?
Kevin H. O'Rourke, Jeffrey G. Williamson
NBER Working Paper No. W7632, April 2000

>If you have arguments or sources that discuss how social science
>operates when it *knows* it is at the scale or efficiency limits,
>I would be interested in reviewing them.

Actually most economics models describe this situation, and it is
the exceptional models that explicitly consider changing technology.

Robin Hanson
Asst. Prof. Economics, George Mason University
MSN 1D3, Carow Hall, Fairfax VA 22030
703-993-2326 FAX: 703-993-2323

This archive was generated by hypermail 2b29 : Thu Jul 27 2000 - 14:12:33 MDT