At 51 years old, Elon Musk He has been a father up to ten times. His last daughter, named Exa Dark Sideræl, was conceived through a surrogate womb along with his current partner the singer Grimes. This prolific paternity has a “very scientific” explanation. The technology tycoon, who is now back at the center of the hurricane after announce for the umpteenth time that you want to buy Twitter for the original offer, he is obsessed with the declining birth rate and the long-term consequences it may have.
The owner of Tesla has expressed on several occasions through Twitter his concern about the low birth rate and the aging of the population. Musk assures that prolonging this situation could pose a threat to the human species, even he has come to affirm that “it is a much greater risk to civilization than global warming that could cause demographic collapse.” The richest man in the world believes that we need to increase our birth rates to counter an aging society. Are his claims true? Demographers disagree with the tycoon.
Musk believes stagnant birthrates are an existential threat to the entire planet
The low birth rate has historically been one of the main concerns of humanity. But the truth is that neither the First World War nor the Second nor the different epidemics and pandemics that have appeared throughout history have caused a collapse of civilization due to the drop in birth rates. However, now Elon Musk has reopened the debate.
The tech tycoon believes stagnant birthrates not only represent a crisis for specific, mostly Western, countries, but an existential threat to the entire planet. “Assuming there is a benevolent future with Artificial Intelligence, I think the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse,” Musk said at an AI conference in August 2019. “The collapse of population due to low birth rates is a far greater risk to civilization than global warming,” he tweeted in 2022.
His apocalyptic vision of the future of humanity if the birth rate does not increase has provoked the reaction of several demographers who disagree with his fatalistic predictions. Rather they say the opposite of Musk. Tomas Sobotka of the Vienna Institute of Demography, says in a statement to wired that with 8 billion people on planet Earth we are not headed for collapse, “it is not even projected”.
The most pessimistic projections say that in 2100 the world population will be around 8.8 billion. “This figure is below the agreed UN estimate of 10.4 billion,” says Sobotka. Most predictions agree that the world population will peak sometime in the second half of the 21st century and then gradually stabilize or decline. Framing this as a collapse “is probably too dramatic,” Patrick Gerland, head of the United Nations Population Estimates and Projections Section, told the same outlet.
According to the UN, the only region that will decrease in population between 2022 and 2050 will be East and Southeast Asia. But regions like sub-Saharan Africa will almost double their population by 2050. India will grow by more than 250 million. “For most of the world, population decline is not an issue to worry about, now or in the next 1,000 years,” says Gerland.
Most experts agree that what we should really worry about is avoiding any risk that could end humanity: nuclear wars, pandemics, climate change…
Musk and his world view
The world is very big, and there are many realities, and Musk’s reality is perhaps very different from that of countries where the declining birth rate is not a problem, such as India. More than half of all global population growth to 2050 will be concentrated in just eight countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Egypt, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, and Tanzania. For that same year, the proportion of the world’s population over 65 will be 16%, the highest percentage ever.
Result: while some countries will find it difficult to adapt to the aging of the population, others will continue to grow rapidly, increasing the world birth rate.
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Why Elon Musk is wrong when he predicts the collapse of humanity due to low birth rates