Population: What’s your number?


The chart above is a screen capture from this BBC website, which allows you to calculate your approximate place in humanity’s march based on your birthdate. According to the supplementary explanation,

Both numbers have been calculated using UN Population Division figures. The first is an estimate of how many people were alive on your date of birth. It is one possible value based on global population figures and estimates of growth rates over time. Data before 1950 is less accurate than figures after that date. The second number includes calculations based on the methodology of scholar Carl Haub, who estimated how many people had been alive since 50,000 B.C. His calculation has been amended by the UN to include additional points in time.

What I find intriguing is that the population of the earth was estimated at being relatively stable between 1500 and 1750, at a level of 500,000,000 people. Naturally there is no way to empirically verify population figures for that time period, but this was the best shot based on Haub’s calculations (see the link above).

Five hundred million is a number that sticks in my mind – it’s the first declaration of the Georgia Guidestones:

  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.


The English face of the stones.


The stones showing the English and Russian faces.[1]

If you’ve never explored this arcane bit of Americana, it might be worth your while just to learn about them. Erected in June of 1979 by an unknown individual working under the name of R.C. Christian, the stones offer ten suggestions for the success of humanity:

  • Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  • Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  • Unite humanity with a living new language.
  • Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  • Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  • Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  • Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  • Balance personal rights with social duties.
  • Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  • Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

While these are evidently the ideas of a single individual or perhaps a like-minded group, there is nothing in here that I could remotely take issue with. I especially like the idea of avoiding “petty laws and useless officials.” Naturally, no one advocates culling 93% of the world’s population, but it seems like a reasonable number to allow the Earth to regenerate its resources faster than they are consumed. At the rate we’re going, humanity will collapse under the weight of its burgeoning numbers before technology is developed sufficiently to sail in and save us all. It gives one pause.

Like Kryptos, another conundrum erected for the amusement and edification of mankind, someday we may know the full story behind the Georgia guidestones… but perhaps we won’t. Whatever the case, I think they stand as an interesting monument to one man’s desire to build a better world.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] One can see that the stones have been defaced by vandals, and then cleaned as well as possible. The Russian stone says “хуи вам мы хотим жить,” which appears to mean “You dicks, we want to live.” This, more than anything, stands as silent witness to the fact that we could certainly do without certain members of society. While everyone has a right to live, it is clear that as population increases, the percentage of people who fall into the edges of the bell curve increase proportionately as well.



The above bell curve is generic, and could be applied to just about any trait of society – intelligence, political spectrum, or whatnot. If we label the graph “humanity,” in the sense of how apt a person is to desire a world that works for everyone rather than just themselves, we can see that the number of jerks we have to deal with increases proportionately. Our schools would do well to balance academic education with social education.

One response to “Population: What’s your number?

  1. love this post 🙂 we could certainly do with fewer people….i can think of many who’s exit would make this world a better place.
    I was the 4,603,120,747th person alive on earth!

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