Wednesday, May 26, 2021

58. Biosphere 2 and the Post-Nuclear Family ⸺ Demographic Doom Podcast Transcript

Below is the transcript for my Demographic Doom Podcast episode #58, released on 24 May 2021. The "home page" for this episode—with annotations, links, corrections and a place for comments—is the YouTube version (35 minutes). The audio version is housed at Podbean and is available on most major podcast platforms, including iTunes and Google Podcasts. The main website for this project is Twitter: @DemographicDoom. Glenn Campbell home page:

This transcript is based on the automatically generated YouTube transcript, corrected by me based on my memory of what I said. I have not checked the transcript against the actual broadcast. Editing consisted mainly of inserting punctuation and paragraphs and removing repetitive words and phrases. Passages in bold text are ones I consider particularly quotable. Items in [square brackets] are minor grammatical corrections. Items in {curly brackets} are factual corrections or amplifications. —Glenn Campbell

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography, or the study of human populations.

A couple of days ago, I saw a two-hour documentary while flying from Denver to Atlanta called “Spaceship Earth” about the Biosphere 2 project in the 1990s, where eight people were locked into a closed system in Arizona. They were locked into this utopian sort of spaceship in the Arizona desert to spend two years without any air or food coming into this system. Essentially, this was an experiment in an interstellar spacecraft, you could say. It just never left the ground. It's this very impressive architectural marvel north of Tucson. I've actually visited Biosphere 2 as a tourist. 2009 is when I visited, when it was already turned over to other parties. 

This documentary described the project from the point of the view of the participants—the bionauts {I’m not sure if that’s the proper term.}—who took part in it and the people who organized it. At the time, I just thought of it as a rich man's vanity project—the rich man being Ed Bass, a billionaire who funded this project, but I see from the documentary, there's also a rich human story here. 

The reason I want to bring this up and discuss it in this podcast is that it applies in some ways to my proposed project, the “post-nuclear family”, where you would take eight people, eight adults and in effect put them on a spaceship to raise a family together. I want to compare and contrast these two systems, and perhaps Biosphere 2 can give us some insight into how my system might work or might fail, because obviously the biosphere system failed. 

To cut to the chase, they were supposed to lock themselves into this closed system for two years without any air being injected from the outside, without any food from the outside. They would raise their own food. They would produce their own oxygen by all the plants they had in there with them. The project was seen as a failure because eventually they had to add oxygen to this system. It was not a closed system. The carbon dioxide just kept building up and eventually they had to inject oxygen into it. And sooner or later, the whole project collapsed. It became a cultural joke, and eventually the original plan was aborted, and it’s now just devoted to conventional research. {Correction: The original 2-year mission was completed, but later missions were apparently cut short.}

I found my own visit to be very fascinating. I have lots of photos, and if you look at the YouTube version of this podcast, in the description, I have links to my own photos of Biosphere 2, which is a fascinating visual place, and links to a lot of other things. This is a podcast that I'm not scripting. Most of my podcasts I write out before I do. [In] this one, I'm just flying by the seat of my pants, so you should also look at the YouTube description for any corrections I may have about Biosphere 2, any mistakes I may have made.

There's all sorts of ways you can say why it failed. I mean, you can talk endlessly about why it failed. It was a big, showy project—very expensive, $200 million, I think—to build essentially a giant greenhouse with many different biomes. It had a desert. It had a rain forest, and it was obviously for show. They had all their eggs in one basket in this one project. You could have taken $200 million and distributed over a lot of little projects that would have accomplished a lot more scientifically, but this was a big, extravagant, showy project, and it's kind of obvious from the beginning that it would fail. That's how I felt in 1991 when I read the news stories: that this thing is going to fail in some way. 

But the documentary put it all in a different perspective for me. I now see the human story of the things that led up to this project. It’s not just a rich man's project. It's a lot of little people, a lot of smaller people, who were engaged in this.

It was born basically in a commune in the 1960s. The group cohered around this one charismatic leader, and one of their first projects was to start a commune, essentially, in the desert of New Mexico. And from there, their projects just grew bigger and bigger and bigger. At some point, they hooked up with this Ed Bass, an oil billionaire from a rich Texas family, and he funded their expeditions. 

Their next expedition after the communal farm was to build a boat. They built a ship themselves, obviously funded by somebody, probably by Ed Bass, and they sailed around the world in this sailing ship and engaged in all sorts of profit-making projects. One that comes to mind is they designed and built a hotel in Tibet (or was it in the Himalayas? Could have been Nepal.) so it wasn't entirely socialist. It was a Capitalist endeavor, to go around the world and engage in these innovative businesses. They learned how to execute big projects and eventually it grew into this giant Biosphere project.

Of course, it failed, and everybody went their separate ways. It's just very amusing to hear each individual story of the bionauts and the people who organized this thing. Obviously, many people chose not to participate. There's no interviews with Ed Bass himself. Some of the bionauts apparently didn't participate, but it's still a riveting story, and I'm kind of glad I was trapped on this two-hour flight where I just had just enough time to see this documentary.

So how does this compare to my proposed system? My proposed system as discussed in other podcasts is called the “post-nuclear family”. I'm trying to address a demographic issue, in that mankind, the developed world, does not seem to be able to produce enough babies, and it's obviously because, for individual parents, babies are not a profit-making enterprise. It's very expensive, very risky, to raise a child in the modern world, and my proposal is to distribute the risk by having a number of adults joining forces to raise children together.

My initial group of adults would be maybe eight adults, maybe four couples, which is a lot like the eight bionauts who entered Biosphere 2. I want to compare how my system, which hopefully would succeed, compares to this Biosphere system, which obviously failed.

I think the Biosphere failed because it tried to do too much. It tried to do everything all at once, instead of doing a lot of little experiments that would have added up to some scientific progress, they chose to focus on a single big, massive, showy project where they tried to do everything. They assembled everything of Earth under this dome and went around the Earth to decide what sort of plants and animals they're going to bring into their system. It was just too big. It had to fail. If it wasn't carbon dioxide, it would have been something else.

So that's the first lesson I would apply to my system: Don't make it too big. Don't try to do too many things at once, because if you do, it's just going to be too heavy. It's going to be too big. If the system is too complex, then some part of the system is going to fail. In my project, I'm just making little baby steps.

Right now, we have what is called the “nuclear family”. Where a man and a woman—or two men and two women—get together romantically and decide to raise kids. They raise one kid; maybe they raise two kids, but at that point, you're pretty exhausted, and the vast majority of families these days don't go on to three or four or five kids. So these few people who do produce babies, they're not producing enough of them.

My first step would simply be: Instead of four couples raising their children separately, maybe these four couples should join forces and raise their children together in one house. My whole system flows from that one concept, because once you decide to do that, it raises all sorts of questions, and I have to answer those questions as best I can. How are you going to organize these eight people? And how are you going to keep these eight people from killing each other—which the bionauts were on the verge of doing. At some point during their two-year project, as carbon dioxide built up in the environment, so too did tensions among the crew members, where they wanted to strangle each other and strangle their handlers in the outside world.

So how do you prevent that? First of all, these eight people would be cooperating on this one project but not necessarily anything else. What my project holds the promise of is that you can be a parent one day a week instead of eight days a week. When you have eight adults and can distribute the responsibilities among eight adults, then in theory, one adult can be on duty in the family on any one day, and the rest can go off and do whatever they want. 

I'm not imposing any restrictions on what these people do in their private lives. It's a lot like a community church, where people come in for Sunday services or community events, and they all participate in the upkeep of the church, but when they're not in church and not participating in community events, they're off doing their own thing. They're pursuing their own careers. They have their own private and personal lives that do not have to mingle with the lives of the other adults.

[This] is a great contrast between with the Biospherians. The Biospherians were trapped with each other. They couldn't escape from each other, and in my system, I propose that there is an escape. As long as you perform your duties in the family, which might be 10 or 20 percent of your life, the rest of your life can be devoted to anything you want, without any restrictions. You can have any relationships you want. You don't have to spend all your time with the other adult participants. Maybe in this group of eight people, there are couples who choose to live with each other, choose to be married to each other, but you don't have to be. People can get divorced from each other and still support the family.

So that's my Number One lesson of Biosphere 2: Don't make it too big. Whatever utopian plan you have, you got to ease into it, step by step, you can't do too much at once. You can't take on wholesale changes to your life. You can only take on small changes. Small changes can add up over time. This system 50 years after it starts could be radically different from how this thing started, but you have to ease into it. There has to be a gradual evolution into this new way of life.

One of the ways that Biosphere 2 failed is that it tried to find solutions for all of humanity. It tried to be a model of sustainability for all of humanity, and I don't think the post-nuclear project should try to do that. The world has huge demographic issues. We're facing economic and political ruin because of our demographics, [but] it's not the job of any one family to fix society. One family should only try to achieve its own goals and fix its own society.

The reason you would want to participate in a family like this is because it serves your own needs, your own need to build something for the next generation and pass your wisdom on to the next generation. It has nothing to do with trying to save the Social Security system or save your country. You're trying to save yourself and the community you feel you belong to. That's the only reason to engage in this project. If you don't feel strongly enough about it—about saving some of yourself for the next generation—then you simply don't participate. This has to be a self-motivated project, [and] it has to be a self-funded project, because we can't count on an Ed Bass being able to fund this thing for us. We have to fund it ourselves.

So when these eight people get together and decide “We want to raise our children together,” that should be all you need. You don't need any government support. You don't need any permission from anyone else. You just need to find these seven other people that you're close enough to, that you trust enough, that you could engage in this project with. That's probably the single most difficult challenge of this project: how to find these other like-minded people who you trust and are willing to essentially engage in a lifelong commitment with.

You know, marriage is a lifelong commitment between two people, and the post-nuclear family would be a lifelong commitment between eight people, so there's a huge challenge there. How do you anticipate all the conflicts you're going to have in the future? 

If you choose good people to start this project with—people who believe in certain principles of conflict resolution, certain principles of how children should be raised—and you make a good selection at the beginning, that's probably the most important thing for the success of the project on the long term. If you make bad choices, just like a bad marriage, things can turn horrible very quickly. 

So if you think finding a good romantic partner is difficult, imagine trying to find seven good partners. The only saving grace here is that you don't have to be in perfect sync with your seven partners on everything. You don't have to live with your seven partners, you only have to agree on this one project. You only have to agree on the childrearing project and the essential philosophy of childrearing and the essential philosophy of dispute resolution. Other than that, you can go on and lead your own life, develop in your own way, change in your own way, as long as you continue to maintain and support the family.

The post-nuclear family should be guided by ideology. There should be a set of principles that you coalesce around, but they should be very simple principles, because the risk is if you embark on something that's too radical, that's too ideological, there's the risk is that your children, once they grow up, they don't want to do it anymore, because it's just too hard. It's just too strict, which has been the demise of many a religious group and religious cult. In the kibbutz system of Israel, for example, which raised children in its own way, it was just too hard, and the children themselves, once they became adults, didn't want to do it.

So whatever your ideology is, it's got to be simple. There should be, like, 10 commandments, 10 principles that children can recite and everybody can look at as guiding the family—certain principles of fairness and intellectual discipline and things like that, all boiled down to about 10 commandments that everyone has to live by and that can stand the test of time even as the world changes—because I see this family as something that should last forever, should last for hundreds of years.

Once you start a post-nuclear family with between 9 and 18 kids, you keep it up. You make sure there's always between 9 and 18 kids. Actually, 9 is my long-term target. So in the post-nuclear family, it's essentially just a big family like we have today. There are families with 6 kids, and that's not too uncommon in human history, to have 6 kids or 8 kids. And I'm proposing 9 kids, evenly spaced in age from 0 to 18, who do a lot of their own self-care. We have a lot of internal care, where older kids are taking care of younger kids, and we have an organizational system that does things like clean house and gets the meals made. This is all part of the family culture that you build over time. And you don't want that family culture to just vanish as kids age out, so as one kid becomes an adult and leaves the family, you bring in a new baby. You just keep the family going forever, even as the founding adults age and die. There will be new adults that were born in the family. 

The ideal is to just keep this thing going, like a sort of spaceship. Think of it like an interstellar mission where it takes multiple generations to get to your destination. How would you organize it? And this is the way I propose organizing it.

A funny thing about the Spaceship Earth documentary is it never mentioned children. Not even once did it mention children {that I recall}. It was all about environmental sustainability and not one word about demographic sustainability. I suspect that the group just figured, since it was born in the 1960s when we thought there was a population explosion, I think the philosophy of the group would have been, you know, just no babies at all. In fact, in the entire two-hour documentary I saw only one glimpse, a two-second glimpse of two children playing. Other than that, it was all adults. Although they had obviously given a lot of thought to environmental sustainability, they didn't seem to give any thought to demographic sustainability, which I think is more important in the long run—that you have children to take over for you. 

Of course, if you believe that the human race has no right to exist, that we are just a pox on the planet, then you don't care about having children, but if you do believe that humanity is worth something and it should be continued, then you have to find a way to do it. You have to find a way to bring new children into the world.

Right now, we're focused on the problems of nations—nations that have too many old people and not enough workers—and I see that problem is really unsolvable because nations can't do anything to encourage or force people to have more children. If it doesn't make economic sense to people, you can't get them to do it, no matter what tax credit you give them or what incentives you give them. It's just not going to work. So I'm not trying to solve the problem of nations, and this family should not try to solve the problem of nations. It should just try to solve its own problems, the problems of its eight founding members, who want to preserve something into the next generation.

One of the things I enjoyed about the Spaceship Earth documentary is it was very subtle. There was there's no narration. It's all the story is told by the participants, and there's little details here and there. For example, when the when the Biospherians were locked into their cocoon in September of 1991, there was great drama. It was a big press event where they walked into this portal and closed the door. The way the press portrayed, they just closed the door and sealed them in, but of course the door didn't close just right. We see them monkeying with the door, trying to get it to close, and from there on, of course, it just kind of…

Things were wonderful in the beginning. It was euphoria in the beginning, but then various problems would crop up. Of course, there was the carbon dioxide problem, too much carbon dioxide building up within the dome which deprived people of energy. They couldn't run anymore. It's like being at a very high altitude. They couldn't exert themselves. There was also not enough food. They were growing their own food, and they just weren't producing enough of it. And this was further hampered by the doctor.

The oldest member of the team was this 60-year-old doctor who had some ideas about longevity. He felt that people could live to be 120 if they just restricted their caloric intake. He was 60 years old, and he personally planned to live to 120, but he did not participate in this documentary because he died of natural causes at the age of 79. {He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease, which I consider “natural causes”, because everyone dies of something.}

So not only was there not enough food, but they were being restricted by their doctor. The doctor was deliberately trying to restrict their caloric intake to try to extend their lifespans when they were just trying to survive {in the moment}. Not only did they need to survive and produce enough food, but they had to obey all these dietary restrictions. There couldn't be any refined sugar. [There were] all sorts of things that they had to do because it was a project that had to do everything all at once. [They] had to not only survive but have this perfect diet.

Eventually, as carbon dioxide rose and the food supply dwindled, of course everyone shriveled up, lost weight and they were snapping at each other, until the decision was finally made to introduce new oxygen from the outside, and suddenly everyone was revived again. Their spirits came back.

So thinking about how the post-nuclear family would fail, what are the equivalents of a carbon dioxide buildup? Well, there could be one member of the family of the founding adults who just starts becoming a problem. This one problem employee… you know, every office encounters them. You have one employee who makes everybody else's life difficult. How do you handle that? That's something you really got to handle on the fly.

But the Number One thing is: Who do you have going into this biosphere with you? Who are these seven other people? That's probably the single greatest contributor to the success of the project. If you've got the right people, then you can overcome any obstacle {just as conventional families do}. If you've got the wrong people, then one or two bad apples can utterly destroy the project. 

Once you have these solid eight founding members, then it should be easier {in subsequent generations} because you are raising your next generation. You are raising the people who are going to replace you. The whole project of childhood is training them in your philosophy and training them in ways they can replace [you]. You don't have that option going in—You have to select existing adults.—but once you have your existing adults, the whole focus of the project is to raise good children who will carry on in your footsteps.

It's a big indoctrination program—as is every family. It is an indoctrination program in your way of life and your language and your way of looking at things. Children are like little computers that come out of the womb ready to be programmed, and childhood is this 18-year project to program them. You have to have an educational system. You have to have an ideology. And when parents come into this household {for their scheduled duties}, they are participating in this project. They're not just caring for the kids, because to a large extent, the kids will care for themselves. They are pushing an ideology on these kids. They are teaching lessons to these kids. And each of these eight people have different lessons to teach.

Let's say Biosphere 2 had a more ambitious plan: Not only would eight people go in and survive but they would produce children who would survive after them. That would be more like what I'm thinking of. So what it would be like to be a child born into Biosphere 2, who knew only [this] environment that was created for them. I think that's a fascinating story. 

Imagine being born into Biosphere 2 and being able to play in the desert and the rain forest and the ocean, inside this closed system, and only gradually learning that there's an outside world beyond the Biosphere. You know they would eventually have to interact with it, and that's a good metaphor for childhood.

In childhood, you are creating an artificial environment. It's a sort of Disneyland for children, where all the morality works, all the rules really work, the whole system really works. It's an artificial environment created by the parents to transition their children from a very simple childhood to be being able to handle all the complexities of the outside world. This is what childhood is. It's an artificial world that you create.

In this case, we have eight people creating this artificial household. I am proposing that the eight founding parents do not live in the household. They live their separate lives in their own homes and apartments and only come into the household for their scheduled duties. Part of the reason for this is you want to preserve a kind of Disneyland, a kind of artificial ecosystem, within this biodome that is the family. Eventually, you're going to teach children how to get by in the outside world, but it starts out as an artificial environment. The family is, by its nature, an artificial environment, and by having the parents not live at the household, they don't corrupt the environment with their adult activities.

There are things that adults do that you don't want children to do. There are things that adults are exposed to in the outside world that you don't want children to be exposed to. The household is our sort of biosphere where we create this artificial environment with its own rules and its own internal culture that you want to try to preserve.

So I urge you to check out this documentary. It was released only last year, 2020. Spaceship Earth. I'm sure you'll find it on all your usual platforms for movies and things. [You should] think about utopias and how they work and how they don't work, and if you were to build a utopia, how would you do it?


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

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Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Antinatalism: An Evolutionary Dead End ⸻ Video Transcript

Below is the transcript for my Demographic Doom Video released on 17 May 2019. The "home page" for this episode—with annotations, links, corrections and a place for comments—is the YouTube version (64 minutes, with video). The main website for this project is Twitter: @DemographicDoom. Glenn's home page:

This transcript was created two years later on 19 May 2019. It is based on the automatically generated YouTube transcript, corrected by me based on my memory of what I said. This transcript has not been checked against the actual broadcast. Editing consisted mainly of inserting punctuation and paragraphs and removing repetitive words.

One of the biggest problems of philosophy is antinatalism,or the philosophy that it is improper to have children, to have babies. Antinatalism is a problem that we have to deal with because if this philosophy takes over, well, we just don't have a human race anymore. So on this video I'm going to talk about antinatalism: what it is, what its position is, and I'm going to try to address it. 

So antinatalism runs the gamut from what I call “mild” or “pragmatic” antinatalism, which is just an opinion that children are good, that the human race should survive, but it shouldn't be me that does it, because I just don't have the money to have children or the risk is too high. That's the mild form of antinatalism. The extreme form of antinatalism says that having children is actually immoral, that it’s a crime to have children, because you're bringing a life into the world that can only suffer pain, and that pain wouldn't happen if you didn't bring this life about.

So how do we address this? First of all, I basically agree with antinatalism. That's how I felt all most of my life, that it is improper to have children because you're bringing a huge risk into the world that didn't have to happen.

It's akin to driving drunk. You know, if you knowingly drive drunk and you kill somebody, well, you have committed a crime. And you've also committed the crime simply by driving drunk, even if you don't kill anybody, because you're taking an unnecessary risk. And think of how risky childbearing is. Raising children is every bit as dangerous as drunk driving, so how can we throw drunk drivers in jail and not throw parents in jail? 

Just think about the birth defects alone, just the things that can happen up including birth. You know, thousands of different defects can occur, so you're really lucky if the child comes out okay, because there's a huge percentage that do not. So it's just drunk driving all over again. It's taking an unnecessary risk.

And then you have the risks that can happen after the child is born—you know, childhood leukemia. There can be all sorts of things that can go wrong during childhood that also would not happen if you did not have a baby. So taking that all together, and you think about this rationally, as you would any other kind of investment, you would say this is not a good idea. 

But it's something we got to do because we need babies if intelligent people don't have babies then humanity will still make babies, because there's a plenty of unintelligent people, plenty of animalistic people who are just driven by their urges, who will have babies. So the problem is not just maintaining the human race but maintaining the best aspects of the human race, which means preserving the intelligent people as well as the stupid people.

So how do we deal with this this antinatalist problem? Well, nature has a solution, because nature is going to kill off all the antinatalists, guaranteed, because if you're not going to have children, then you have no one to pass your antinatalist views on to. So they're gonna die off. The only way antinatalists can survive is if they recruit new members from other belief systems. 

So nature's going to take care of the hardcore antinatalists. The problem is that you're going to take out a lot of intelligent people as well, people who are not hardcore, but they're just softcore, who are just pragmatic antinatalists. But in terms of whether there's a dilemma here I don't think that there is, because you believe in antinatalism you're gonna die off. The only people who are going to survive are those who believe that life is worth living.

I want to illustrate this with an example from history. I'm going to take this little diversion into religious history, and I guarantee it will come back to antinatalism. 

In the 19th century, the middle of 1800s, it seemed like everybody was inventing a new religion. There was a lot of religious revivalism, a religious fervor, and lots of religious groups came about then vanished. I want to talk about three of these groups in particular. One of them is the Mormons, who you've heard of, the Church of Latter-Day Saints. And another is the Christian Scientists, who are still around. You've heard of the Christian Science Monitor, the newspaper: that was started by the Christian Scientists. 

And the Shakers. Now, you may not have heard of the Shakers. There aren't many of them left, but at the time at the middle of the 1800s, these three groups all had about the same number of members—three or four thousand members—all believing in Jesus Christ but taking a different path on how to worship him. They had differing philosophies, and more importantly, they had differing philosophies on procreation. 

The Shakers were antinatalist. They believed that no one should marry, no one should have sex. You shouldn't have babies, because they were all preparing for the Second Coming of Christ, which they were sure was going to happen any day now. To their credit, they had a lot of equality among the sexes. Men and women were equal in this religion, and many of the leaders, including the one who brought them to America, were women. So it was an admirable of faith at the time, but they believed in celibacy, and they wouldn't have any children.

The Mormons, on the other hand, they did believe in procreation. It was part of their tenets that they're going to procreate as much as they could. And they had multiple marriages. They had polygamy at the time.

So what happened? Who won? Well, the Shakers right now have about two members left, two members still alive, and the Mormons have some 16 million members—not all of them born, some of them converted—but they were very successful in terms of numbers as a religion. 

So that's what happens to antinatalists. They just die off, and the people who believe that life, at least the human species, is worth continuing, those are the people who are going to live and take over the earth.

Oh, and what about the Christian Scientists? There are about a hundred thousand Christian Scientists left, which is not their peak. They've declined quite a bit. They also had a philosophical angle. They believed in procreation, but they also did not believe in modern medicine. They were not allowed to see modern doctors, because they believed that the only way to cure illness was prayer—which is fine in the middle of the 19th Century when medicine sucked anyway and there's nothing you could do about people dying, but now in the modern age, to not be able to take your child to a doctor, that's a legal problem if not an ethical problem.

So the point is, what happens to antinatalists is they become extinct. They are evolutionary dead. So those hardcore guys, they can do what they want. 

It's very hard to argue with an antinatalist. I tried, and it just doesn't work. If you argue that, well, if no one has any babies then the human race is going to expire, they say, “okay, that's fine. Humans are just another species, and they're not worth any more than all the million other species on the planet that humans have exterminated. The great whales are just as valuable as a human is. A tiny mouse is just as valid, so good riddance to humanity. Not having babies is a nice painless way to get rid of the human race.”

So that's kind of a conversation ender right there, but I can't argue with them. I can't say that their position is logically wrong. It's actually the position of making babies which is kind of suspect, and it's something that, for no other word, you need faith.

Arguing with an antinatalist is kind of like arguing with a suicidal person. I don't know if you've ever tried to do that, but if they're sitting on a ledge, and they're about to jump, and you try to convince them not to do it, and you try to use logic, they're not gonna go for it, because any logical point that you raise, they're gonna have a counter-argument. You could talk about all the joys of life, and they're gonna bring up all the miseries of life. 

And after arguing with a suicidal person for a while, one of two things is going to happen. Either you're gonna get out there on the ledge with them, having been convinced of their arguments, or number two, suicide is going to be irrelevant, because you're gonna murder them before they get a chance to kill themselves—that's how frustrating their logic is.

So it's the same thing when you try to argue with an antinatalist. If they say that the human race is worthless and deserves to die, well, let them have their belief. They're not going to be watching this video, and they're not going to be carrying you on into the next generation, because they are an evolutionary dead end.

Why do you have children? How do you defeat this antinatalist position? It basically comes down to faith. I know that's a horrible thing. I'm not a religious person. I think that's a cop-out when you say, “well, you just have to believe,” but that's really the only way you can address the hardcore antinatalist issue is you have to believe that humanity is worth saving.

So personally over my life, I've accumulated some wisdom, and as I grow older in life and realize I'm going to die, a lot of my energy is focused on trying to pass this wisdom on to others and this only works if there are actually others you can pass this wisdom on to. If there's no one in future generations, no one intelligent in future generations, then my life right now would be kind of pointless, because there's no one to transfer my knowledge to. 

So that's where my faith comes [in]. My faith comes from, well, I just believe in my heart that humans are worthwhile. They're worth saving. They are probably worth more than any other species on earth, and I want them to continue. I want them to continue for a greater good but also for my own relatively selfish reasons of having some sort of audience for whatever I produce during my life. I want people to remember me, and if there's no one to remember me, it's like I didn't really exist at all. 

So that kind of deals with the hardcore antinatalist position. Then we're left with the pragmatic antinatalism that I just can't afford it. I can't take the risks involved in parenthood personally. I might not live long enough to see a child into adulthood, and all these are pragmatic. They aren't saying that humanity is worthless. They're just saying that it's really difficult to be a parent in the modern age. 

Okay, those pragmatic issues are something we can deal with. We can negotiate. We can talk about them. We could look for ways that we can increase our birth rates—for example among people like us, as opposed to birth rates among people we don't agree with. We can think about ways to band together so we can distribute risk, so that all this burden of raising a child doesn't fall on just one or two people, that it falls on a community which can take the risks.

Look at birth defects. Maybe 10 percent of the babies born have some kind of congenital defect. That's absolutely devastating if you're an individual or you're a couple raising this child. It is not devastating for a larger community that has vowed to take care of these situations on a communal basis. If you have ten thousand adults raising several thousand children, they can afford to take the risk of bringing children into the world, because they have more resources—kind of an insurance plan to take care of the children that don't work out very well. 

So we can talk about that now. We can set aside the antinatalists—they're not going to live anyway.—and we can just talk about how do we deal with the pragmatic problems of intelligent people raising children without breaking the bank.

[main talk is concluded.]

This is a state park in California: the Big Basin Redwoods State Park. There aren't many giant redwoods like there used to be, because the early pioneers cut them all down. They used to be all over the San Francisco area. Now they're only in a few little pockets—the really giant ones, the ones that have been around for five hundred years. And this is one of the places that they still hang out.

So let's go look at our cameras. I'm running four cameras on this. I'm running four cameras on this shoot. There's one… two… three… and four cameras right over there. I think I got enough cameras.


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

{Transcript reconciled with actual: No.
{Transcript backed up to email: 19 May 2021
{Visual version of this script backed up to Twitter on: 19 May 2021
{Video posted on FB album/DD page: 19 May 2021
{Video Description backed up by email: 19 May 2021
{Video description backed up on Twitter: 19 May 2021
{Video/audio copied to permanent backup: 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

57. Introduction to Demographic Doom and the Post-Nuclear Family

Below is the transcript for my Demographic Doom Podcast episode #57, released on 3 May 2021. The "home page" for this episode—with annotations, links, corrections and a place for comments—is the YouTube version (64 minutes, with video). The audio version is housed at Podbean and is available on most major podcast platforms, including iTunes and Google Podcasts. The main website for this project is Twitter: @DemographicDoom. Glenn Campbell home page:

This transcript is based on the automatically generated YouTube transcript, corrected by me based on my memory of what I said. I have not checked the transcript against the actual broadcast. Editing consisted mainly of inserting punctuation and paragraphs and removing repetitive words and phrases. Passages in bold text are ones I consider particularly quotable. Items in [square brackets] are minor grammatical corrections. Items in {curly brackets} are factual corrections or amplifications. —Glenn Campbell

I'm Glenn Campbell. I call myself a demographic philosopher. I'm looking at life and trying to predict the future through the lens of demography, or the study of human populations.

In this episode of my podcast, I'm going to try to bring it all back to center, try to summarize everything I’ve talked about and everything that has motivated me in this project. What is Demographic Doom, and what am I hoping to accomplish here? 

This is an unusual episode. If you're looking at the Youtube version, you can actually see my face in this episode. Usually you don't, and the reason for that is most of my episodes are heavily produced. I write a script for every episode and I sweat over that script for weeks before I record the podcast, and then I edit it. I very heavily edit my podcasts, and this one is different. It's totally off the cuff. You might might find a few edits in here now and then, but mostly I'm just spewing my theories without a script. I ought to be able to do this, because you should know your own theories, the theories you've worked on for four years. You should be able to cough them up on demand, so that's what I'm going to do. 

So what is our Demographic Doom? I've named my project this. I've named my podcast this. My Twitter feed is called @DemographicDoom. So what is the Demographic Doom that we're facing? 

Well it's complicated, and it's also very simple. Let's start with the simple part: What is the biggest crisis facing mankind right now? I think what you're going to say is climate change, and that's certainly a humongous crisis, but it's not the thing that is going to cause mankind the most pain, because even if we have screwed up the environment, mankind will adjust. People will move from place to place. They will adapt to the changing climate, just they like they've adapted to conditions in the past. 

Our even bigger doom is something that we cannot adapt to, [that] we cannot negotiate at least in the short term. And the core of our doom is the lack of babies in the developed world. We're not producing enough babies to sustain ourselves, at least in the industrialized countries. And this is measured by something called the "fertility rate". It's a statistic that says how many babies each woman in a society is producing on average. They need to need to produce about 2.1 babies per woman. They need to produce 2, first of all, because men can't do it. Men are kind of deadbeats. They can't produce any babies, so an average woman has to produce 2 babies to make up for the average man. And that 0.1 is sort of like a fudge factor, because not every baby that you produce is going to go on to produce a child themselves. They could die in childhood. 

So the commonly accepted "replacement rate", as it is called, is 2.1, and there is hardly any country in the developed world that is anywhere close to that. They've all fallen far below that, and I mean every country—every country that's safe to visit, let's say. 

That includes China. China had this One-Child Policy, which seemed brilliant at the time, but now they don't have enough babies because they've achieved their goals of only one child per couple. China is peaking in population. But it's also true everywhere in the Western world, in Europe and North America. Europe is especially bad. It hasn't produced enough babies for some time now.

So this why is this a disaster? You know, an environmentalist is gonna say, "Well, that's great for Mother Earth. We're gonna reduce the population. There's gonna be less impact, less pollution, less carbon produced if we have fewer people." And that sounds wonderful except for the problem of getting there, because if you're going to have less than two babies per woman, the natural tendency then is to end up having too many old people. 

If each generation produces half as many children as the previous generation, then what you have is an upside-down pyramid where old people dominate the planet. And that's bad news for the economy, bad news in all sorts of different ways. So why is it bad news? Well, it's bad news because old people get old, and at a certain point, you retire. But even if we make retirement illegal, at a certain point old people get sick. And they get sicker and sicker as they get older and older. 

It used to be you just died at age 60. You'd have a heart attack, and you died. Now people live to 70, 80, 90, 100, and if you've got too many people on the top of the pyramid and not many people at the bottom of the pyramid, the whole economics of the world are unsustainable.

Just think of it within our current system: There was a time when there was maybe five or six workers for every retired person. That would have been back in the days when Social Security first started, and today we're getting to the point where there's barely one or two workers supporting one retired person [an exaggeration], and that's simply unsustainable. You can't keep going that way.

And there's other problems with a falling population, and those have to do with the commitments you've already made. Governments have made huge debt commitments, and if their populations were to fall by half, they can't make payments on those commitments, so those commitments have to go into default.

And there's the whole idea of institutions not being sustainable because they simply don't have enough bodies. There's certain economies of scale in having a lot of people. If you take, let's say, a community of 20,000 people, and you cut it down to 10,000 people, then you might not be able to support things like your sewer system and all your municipal services, because those are all set up for a much bigger population.

So in many different ways, a fall in population is a disastrous thing and at least in the medium term, it is not good for the environment. The simple calculus that environmentalists use is every human being is producing so much carbon, so you reduce the number of human beings, you're reducing the amount of carbon. And that sounds correct in a stable-state universe, in a place that is just like us, but it's not going to happen that way.

Once institutions start collapsing and government debt becomes unpayable, what you have is governments that become weaker and weaker and weaker and are less able to enforce environmental regulations. You know, if the US Government were to collapse—which is not impossible—the Environmental Protection Agency would also collapse, and suddenly people are going to be throwing stuff into the rivers because there's no strong governmental authority enforcing environmental rules.

So, yes, over time it's probably best that we have fewer people on the planet. We have 8 or 9 billion right now [officially 7.7 billion]. Maybe it's healthier to have 4 or 5 billion or even less. The whole problem is getting back there while still sustaining your society. So this is the core problem. The core of our Demographic Doom is not enough babies in the developed world. 

Now we have all sorts of other little kinds of Doom all branching off of that one Doom. I would say that the Number Two Doom that we're facing—that is actually going to cause a lot more pain a lot more quickly—and that is economic collapse. And the economic collapse in our society really hinges on government debt. We seem to be coming out of a pandemic right now. This is May 2021, and we're coming out of a pandemic where the government has spent tons of money. The US Government alone has spent roughly twice as much money as it has taken in in taxes. In the past two years, in 2020 and 2021, it will almost certainly spend twice as much money as it is taking in.

Even before the pandemic, the government was borrowing one of every four dollars it spent. So governments have been are deeply in the hole. We haven't seen any major effects of this right now, but there will be, because to spend this money that the government doesn't have, the government is borrowing this money and ultimately it is printing this money. And this just can't go on forever. It didn't sustain Venezuela or Zimbabwe or Weimar Germany. You can't just print money forever. Sooner or later you have to pay the piper.

So this is the Doom that is bearing down on us right now. Within a very short period of time—it could be tomorrow, could be two years from now, it could be five years from now—but sooner or later there will be some kind of major monetary collapse when we realize that all the government all the money that the government has printed isn't good for anything. There's going to be devastating effects. I can't predict exactly what those effects would be. Will it be hyperinflation? Will it be a stock market collapse? But it's going to be big. 

You may ask, well, what has this got to do with demographics? What it has to do with demographics is that our whole system was built for a different population profile. Our system rose up in an era when things were always growing. That's what America was always from the beginning. It's growing, growing, growing. And this was especially true in the late 40s and the 1950s, when we had the Baby Boom. We produced a lot of babies, and the population shot way up. Now the population is leveling off. Our whole system is built upon the idea that things everything would grow forever, and whenever everything doesn't grow forever, then we got a crisis. All of these economic assumptions that we've made during these growth periods become invalid and they have to crash. Things have to crash.

And I'm talking about a crash along the lines of the Great Depression or even worse because our government this time is the one that's deeply in debt. Government wasn't too badly in debt [at the start of] the great depression but now it is. And the government is the underpinning of the currency, the US dollar. If the government fails, in some form the US dollar has to fail as well. 

So the immediate crisis is the Baby Boomers, the people of my generation who were born between 1946 and 1964, and there were tons of us. In my neighborhood, a lot of families had had four or five kids in the family. Now you very rarely see four or five kids in a family, but it was the norm back in my day.

All of these Baby Boomers fueled the economy. They were a drain on the economy initially in the 1960s and 70s, because they were using up educational resources. They were requiring government resources and not paying any taxes, because kids don't pay taxes. But then in the last quarter of the 20th Century and in the first decade of the 21st Century, those Baby Boomers came of age. They began to earn a lot of money and spend a lot of money, and they were the great engine that drove our economy. 

What's happening to those Baby Boomers now? Well, they're retiring and instead of producing tax revenue and producing goods and producing stuff that powers our economy, now we're draining the government. We're draining the government of its resources. We're collecting on our Social Security. We're spending Medicare money. We're redeeming our stocks. We are now a drain on society.

And because we, as the Baby Boomers, didn't have many kids ourselves—and as a matter of fact, I’ve had zero myself—and our children, or the children I didn't have—aren't having many children. So we've got a top-heavy system with too many Baby Boomers retiring all at once [with] no workers to support them. Yet the government is still spending money like it was the boom times. The boom times I consider 1980 to 2008. Those were the big boom times. You may not remember them fondly, but in retrospect, they were a time of great economic growth around the world. And we're still spending money and making commitments as though that growth was going on even though it has ended. 

So in 2011, the baby boomers started retiring, started reaching age 65, and they're just like a tidal wave—a tsunami of old people, a silver tsunami. That's kind of a one-time demographic issue. It's not so much that we don't have enough babies but that we don't have as many babies as we did in the Baby Boom. So to sustain our Social Security system and our pension systems, we would have had to keep making babies at the same rate we did it during the Baby Boom, which obviously didn't happen. Since 1964 until the end of the century, America was at least making as many babies as [people who] were dying. It was at least replacing the population, [but] now in the 2020s, especially with the pandemic, we're hardly making babies at all. 

You can tell this if you live in America or Europe and you go out for a drive. How many kids do you see? Well, not many. By comparison, how many dogs do you see? It seems like everyone's got a dog, everybody's out strolling with their dog—their beautiful Labrador Retrievers or whatever—and they're doting on their dogs. But how many kids do you see? What is the proportion of dogs to baby carriages out on the street today? Depending on your city, I'll bet the dogs are five-to-one to baby carriages or ten-to-one. The past couple days, I’ve gone driving in the Boston area, and I see one or two baby carriages and only a handful of kids—actual human children—and tons and tons of dogs, because that's where everybody is putting their parental attention now. They're putting it onto their dogs.

Now I love dogs. I transport dogs for a living, and I enjoy hanging out with dogs, but as an investment, it's not really a good investment for society. You devote 10 years to a dog [but] what happens at the end of those 10 years? Well, the dog dies, and it contributes nothing to society, whereas if you had invested 20 years in a child. He would have contributed something to society.

Let's go back to the global situation. As I say, there's not enough babies in the developed world, but what about the undeveloped world? What about the poorest countries in Africa? There we have what was once called a “population explosion”. It's still happening in Africa. Nigeria and Niger and Congo—all these places are still producing a lot of babies, so their population is exploding.

The populations of the rest of the world are not exactly shrinking yet, because we still have some momentum built up. It's called “demographic momentum” where if you stop having babies right now, the population doesn't fall immediately. There's a lagging effect, but most of the countries of the world are coming to a peak. 

China may already have reached that peak where their population doesn't grow anymore. After today it's going to start shrinking, and that's an obvious result of the One-Child Policy where couples were instructed to have only one child, and they did. It was wildly successful. But if every two people have only one child and you do that generation after generation for a whole society, sooner or later the population falls. There's been news stories lately that this is the year that the population has actually fallen. Some of the Chinese authorities dispute that, but if not this year, it's certainly close, and by some reckoning, 2011 was the date that the working population began shrinking. 

The working population is the people between the ages of, let's say, 16 and 64 who are actually producing things for society. That number is what's really critical, because those are the people who are paying taxes to support all the other people, all the dependents. The young people and old people who can't work, they are called "dependents". And the people who work are the engine of society. The proportion of people who are dependent—the old and young—to the workers: That's called the “dependency ratio”, and that's just going up, up, up—meaning that there's more and more dependent people.

So what are the solutions? Well, we could just make retirement illegal. We could say, no, you can't retire at 65; you have to wait until 70—which Japan has done. I think you have to be 70 to earn your pension. But there's a limit to how much you can do that, because when people get old, they get sick. Their faculties wane, and that's something you can't negotiate with. Old age is a lot of failing systems all at once, and there's no magical elixir to make people live longer or to make people healthier.

It used to be, for example, that if you had a heart attack at age 60. You died. That's the way things worked for most of human history. It's only in the mid-20th Century that medical science learned to save people from heart attacks. So you save someone from a heart attack, and what happens? Well, they die of something else, but in the meantime you've got 20 or 30 more years of medical care you've got to spend on these people because they didn't die at age 60. 

So we've got a medical crisis where we simply have too many old people getting sick, getting cancer, having coronary problems, having all sorts of things that require doctors and hospitals, and fewer and fewer people paying into the system in their prime working years. So just raising the retirement age won't do anything. 

Someone has suggested robots. Robots will save us from our dwindling population. So what we do is we just build robots to replace all the workers who aren't working and we get just as much work done by having robots. That's great. That might solve any labor shortage, but there's one problem with robots, in that they don't pay taxes and they don't consume anything. An ordinary worker will work hard, make some money, pay that money to someone else to power the economy and pay taxes, but robots don't do any of that. Robots just build things, and it's really hard to tax them.

You could try to tax the corporations that build the robots, but that's been very difficult. Most of the US Government's tax revenue comes from individual wage earners. Corporations, as you might have guessed, don't pay many taxes, and it's really, really hard to get corporations to pay taxes, because they can always move things around, move things offshore, rearrange their profit structures so they don't have to pay taxes. So the people left paying taxes are the real workers, and right now there aren't enough real workers to come anywhere close to paying society's debts or the government's debts.

To look at the government: The US Government, as I said, is spending twice as much money in 2020 and 2021 as it is taking in in taxes. This is just like someone spending on their credit card twice as much money as they are earning in salary. There's all sorts of arguments that say, well, the government can get away with this because the government prints the money. Yeah, you can get away with it for a certain amount of time, but you can't produce value for a society by printing money. Sooner or later, something's gonna break, and when it breaks it's gonna be catastrophic.

In this moment when I'm recording this video, things don't look very bad. We're coming to the end of a pandemic. People are starting to poke their heads out into the real world. People are starting to travel and go to restaurants again, and things are beginning to look up.

And the stock market! You wouldn't believe the stock market in May [2021]—in fact, the stock market throughout the whole pandemic. At the beginning, in March of 2020, there was a stock market crash—as one would expect as news of the pandemic spread. But then the Federal Reserve lowered interest rates and pumped more money into the system, and stocks blew up. 

The great irony of the pandemic is stocks hit all-time highs. I mean the pandemic destroyed the economy, laid waste to the economy, vast swathes of the economy, yet the stock markets rose, and other asset markets like residential real estate rose, and it's just insane! It doesn't make sense. It's like the last gasp of a bubble economy. At some point the stocks are going to crash [and] bad things are going to happen.

I'd be a rich man today if I could predict when it will happen. I would have predicted it would have happened two years ago, three years ago. In fact, I was making videos about the coming economic collapse back in 2010 [Here’s one.], and it hasn't happened. That doesn't mean it won't happen. I just don't have enough knowledge of the timing to become a rich man over it. 

So back to the demographic part of things: We don't have enough babies, [and] it's a bad thing. If you don't believe me already—that not enough babies is a bad thing—I’ve got plenty of other podcasts about that. There's plenty of other writings about that—that not enough babies is a bad thing. If that's true, how do we bring the babies back? What's the solution to the baby bust? And my contention—and the reason I call this “Doom”—is that there is no solution. There's nothing a government can do to bring back the babies. Everything that you propose I can shoot down pretty quickly.

A tax credit? Let's give parents a tax credit for every baby that they have. Do you think that any parent gives a damn about a tax credit at the end of the year? No way! They're looking at the cost of having a baby, and the cost is just astronomical. Back in my day, back in the day when there were four or five kids in the family, the per child [cost] was not all that [high], because there [were] not so many rules to obey. Kids were just kind of let loose. They were cut loose to entertain themselves all day, and now you can't do that. 

There's all sorts of rules. You have to supervise your child at all times. You can't leave your child unattended. You got to have certain mandated car seats, and how many car seats can you fit in a car? In my day, everybody piled into the Cadillac—you know, six or seven kids all piled into the Cadillac, and we all went somewhere, and you can't do that anymore. You gotta have a government-approved child seat in every car for every child, which means you've got to have a mammoth SUV or minivan if you plan on having more than two kids. 

So child rearing has become extraordinarily expensive, and for parents the benefit is really emotional and nothing else. It used to be, in most of human history, that if you had a lot of kids, your kids were your retirement plan. They assured that you would be taken care of in your old age. Now we've replaced all that with pension systems, and kids are not expected to support their parents anymore.

So from a parent's standpoint, there's really no practical benefit in having a child. I mean there's an emotional benefit. Raising kids is fun, but, boy, is it labor intensive! And all those dreams you had, all those entertainments that you used to enjoy, like jetting off to the Caribbean, or, you know, doing things spontaneously with your spouse, you can't do that if you got kids. Kids are a huge drain in money and a huge drain in opportunities. It's called the “opportunity cost”. If you're raising kids, you can't be doing other things. 

And it's an absolutely huge risk. Not every baby comes out of the womb in perfect shape. There's a lot of things that can go wrong, and in maybe 10 or 20 percent of births, in the end there's something that goes seriously wrong with that child, and that child becomes a burden to their parents—potentially a burden to their parents for life. So if you were a potential parent, you say, “Yeah I'd like to have kids someday,” but when you crunch the numbers and look at the cost of this thing and look at how unstable your own income is—You don't have lifetime employment anywhere anymore. Your life is financially unstable. You can barely care for yourself. Who in their right mind would have a kid these days?

Any government program that proposes to solve that just doesn't understand the immensity of the problem. A tax credit at the end of the year is trivial. You can even pay parents a bounty for every child that they produce, but that's trivial compared to the true cost of parenting, and you wonder if you have that bounty… if you say, "You make a baby [and] I'll give you five thousand dollars," well, you wonder what kind of parents would fall for that. Is that the best and the finest parents? 

[How about] free child care? Is that going to solve it? Is that going to encourage people to have more babies? Free child care or more support for parents? There's evidence that this won't help either, and my evidence is the country of Sweden. Sweden offers all this stuff. The Nordic countries have a very strong parental support system with subsidized child care and all sorts of perks for families and parents, and their birth rates, their fertility rates are not much different from countries that don't offer any of that stuff like Romania or the United States. Just the fact that your government is supportive is not sufficient to encourage people to have more babies.

There's no way to do it. There's no no way to bribe people. There's no way to threaten people. It was really easy to threaten people into not having kids. The Chinese were very good at it. There [were] forced sterilizations, and there were all sorts of substantial penalties for people who had more too many kids. That part was easy. They can't just reverse the system now and punish people into having children. There's just no mechanism to do it, short of kidnapping women and impregnating them and forcing them to have babies in child labor camps—which I wouldn't put past the Chinese authorities. Anything short of that will not encourage parents to have more children

[Pauses to view himself on the camera monitor.] So I’ve got these interesting stripes on my face. You see I got the sun coming in on me. You think I should move? Or maybe I should just keep going. Let's just keep going.... 

So mankind is facing an economic crisis of not enough workers and the government not being able to acknowledge that and reduce its spending. Instead, it's printing money. That's the immediate crisis that's going to cause everybody a lot of pain in the short term. And in the long term we have this lack of babies, which actually started way back in the 1960s, and there's no way we can make more babies or encourage more people to have babies—at least within our current system. 

This means that countries and institutions will collapse. I can't say how or when or why or exactly what will happen, but you can't sustain a country on a falling population. The Japanese have been pretty good at doing it so far, but even their system can't keep on. You can't keep producing 100-year-olds and 90-year-olds and not producing any babies without at some point running out of resources to take care of all those old people.

So I said there were a lot of other problems that branch off of this one core problem of not enough babies. We have too many babies in the underdeveloped world, so why can't we just take all those extra babies from Nigeria and bring them on over to Germany or the Netherlands? That only works when you're taking highly educated immigrants. 

So we have all the countries of the western world going to Nigeria and raiding Nigeria for all of its talent—all of its doctors and nurses and engineers and people with skills that Nigeria has spent money training. Those are all sucked up by the Western world, sucked up by North America and Europe, and what's left in Nigeria are people raised in harsh circumstances, raised in poverty, raised without much education. You just can't take an uneducated person from a very poor country and bring them to France and Germany and expect them to function. They have no clue how to get along in a developed country.

So if you were to open the floodgates and let every Nigerian into into France, they would develop enclaves of Nigeria within France—which they've already done—and this would cause great tensions in French society—as it is already done—and it would not solve the core problem of not having enough talented workers, not having enough people to power French society. They're producing a lot of babies in Nigeria, but you just can't import babies because what the developed countries are lacking is not babies, per se. Babies are easy. What developed countries are lacking is parent—people willing to raise a child for 20 years. If you don't have that, then there's no point in importing babies from Nigeria.

So there's no solution. The fact that some of the some of the world is still exploding while most of the world is shrinking, you can't just transfer one to the other—not without causing huge problems. So immigration is not a solution. Government incentives are not a solution. There is no solution to the the birth crisis—within our system. The only solutions I see are when our system collapses in some form. Maybe some people will be open to different ways of producing babies and different ways of addressing these problems. 

What has happened here is that we have neglected an infrastructure, and the infrastructure is our children. Countries of the western world have not invested adequately in the next generation. It's all been about profit right now, making as much money as possible right now, without any substantial investment in the future. What that means, just like neglecting any form of infrastructure, like not maintaining a bridge, it means eventually the infrastructure collapses and you've got to suffer the consequences.

So after that collapse, that inevitable collapse, then people might think about, “Well, what can we do to revitalize our communities and bring new children into our communities?” Knowing all of these barriers to it. And that's where I have my own solution. It's a theoretical solution. I'm not really sure I'm ever going to see it in my lifetime, but I have a solution.

My solution is called the “post-nuclear family”, and it's a system that allows more children to be raised at lower cost overall. My solution is actually pretty simple: I want to bring back the big family. Big families used to be the norm, especially in rural societies. You might have 8 kids in one family. I want to bring that back, but I want to start at 9 kids—9 kids evenly distributed—and perhaps as many as 18 kids all living in one in one household. 

But no parent can support that. No parent can afford that. No parent wants to give up all the rest of their lives to raise children. So if you're going to have a big family of between 9 and 18 kids, it's got to be a group effort. You have to have a group of adults to do this. Let's say you had 8 adults or 10 adults and you had 9 to 18 kids, well you could distribute the duties of parenthood. It might be that you only have to be a parent one day a week, and you're distributing the risk. So if you have 9 kids and one of them turns out to have some serious birth defects, if you've got a lot of adults to distribute that risk over, it's not so devastating. 

So the aim here would be a certain economy of scale by increasing the size of the family and increasing the number of parents. That's the core idea, and once I’ve proposed this core idea, there's all sorts of questions you're going to ask, and the bulk of my efforts right now are focusing on trying to answer those questions. How would you organize a group of parents to raise a bunch of kids? What is the organizational structure, and how well will it work? 

So I’ve covered this in other podcasts. I don't know if I should… I'll just give you a few of the highlights here....

I call it the “post-nuclear family” because it's what happens after the nuclear family. The nuclear family is wonderful. I grew up in a nuclear family. A mother, a father, several kids—that's the nuclear family. Nothing wrong with that, except that it's not doing the job. It's not producing enough kids, the nuclear family. 

What happens now is a couple, for emotional reasons, they want to have a kid, so they have a kid. They focus all their attention on that kid. That's it. They have one kid. They might have a second kid if they're really ambitious, [and] they stop at two. That's how the nuclear family works, and that's just not enough. It's not enough for all the people like me who have zero kids. So we've got to come up with some system to have more kids. 

Now when I talk about “we”, I'm not talking about society as a whole, because I think society as a whole is doomed. The United States as a country is doomed, but your community—whatever you regard as your community, a community of like-minded people or a geographical community—your community is not necessarily doomed because you can organize yourselves in some way to make more babies.

And I propose initially that, let's say, four couples, four ordinary couples like you see today, who want to have kids but don't feel that they can afford to raise them, they decide to pool their resources, and they decide to raise all of their kids in one household. So that's the starting point. And my project from here, my inquiry from here is, okay, if that happens, what are all the implications?

First of all, I'm proposing that the kids be distributed in age so if you have a household of 9 kids, they're evenly spaced from age zero to age 18. It would be every two years if there are 9 kids. If there are 18 kids in the family, they would be spaced every year. 

Where do the babies come from? Well, initially they would come from those four couples. Where they come from in the future, that's a big open question, but what I propose is that once a family is established with, say, 9 kids, it always has 9 kids forever. So as an 18-year-old graduates from the family, moves on, we bring in a new baby, and we keep the cycle moving. So this household—which is a physical house somewhere—always has between 9 and 18 kids. Always. And by doing that, what you're building is a sort of family culture, which we don't have today.

What we have today is a man and woman fall in love. They decide to have a baby, and they have one baby and stop, and they haven't had a chance to build a family culture, which is what you have in big families of 8 or 9 kids. You have this internal society where the older kids are doing a lot of the work of taking care of the younger kids, or watching the younger kids, or babysitting the younger kids, and you're developing systems that work.

There was a book, I think in the 1940s, called “Cheaper by the Dozen” about a couple that had a dozen or so children, and they talked about all the systems they use to manage this huge brood. These systems are sort of a software that you develop over time, and if you just have two kids or a handful of kids and you stop, every generation you've got to reproduce that culture. 

You wouldn't have to do that if you continuously raise children one after the other. Then the culture and the systems that you build to manage this brood, they're perpetuated, they're preserved, because each child teaches it [to other kids]. There's a certain way that our household works, and each child teaches that way to the younger children.

So that's one element. The other element is that none of the parents that sponsor this group should be living in the household. 

So picture a big house. It could be a mcmansion. There are plenty of unsold mcmansions in America. Let's turn that into a big Brady Bunch house. "The Brady Bunch", if you don't know, was a TV series of the 1960s or 1970s, where a divorced couple were raising 6 kids. [CORRECTION: In the show, whether the parents were divorced or widowed is never stated.] In my system I'm proposing raising 9 kids, maybe more, so it's not that too far off. You raise all these kids in one household, but the parents don't live there. The parents live in their own apartments, houses, just as they normally would, and they come into the household for scheduled duties. So if there are 8 parents, one of them can be on duty one day a week, something like that. There's some sort of division of labor. You come in to serve certain needs, to perform your duties, but you do not live there.

The reason for this is it preserves the integrity of the family, because the way adults live should not be the way that children live. If you're an adult and you collect fine china, well, you don't want kids running around in your house, because this hobby of collecting fine china is incompatible with kids. A lot of the things that adults do are things that you don't want kids to be exposed to. Adults can watch movies that you don't want kids watching and if you don't have any adults living in the household, then you can preserve the household as you want it to be—as a sort of protected environment where you control the inputs and the outputs. You control what comes in. 

For example, the household can have an electronics policy that concerns how you use computers, what sort of electronics and online services you have access to. You can control that if it's a household just of kids. If you have a mix of parents and kids, it wouldn't work. So parents come in for scheduled duties, scheduled responsibilities and then they leave, and they go back to their own homes. 

The analogy I use is a church—like the kind of church that I grew up in. All sorts of different members of the community come in to support the church. They turn up for church functions. They help maintain the church, but they do not live at the church. It's sort of a congregation. This is a family of kids being supported by a congregation of adults, who only become a congregation because they already believe in certain aspects of parenting. They agree on certain principles of how children should be raised.

This is something that requires no government intervention. In fact, you really don't want the government meddling in something like this. This is just 8 adults deciding, “We gotta do something. Our culture is being lost. Our community, everything that we value, is being lost. We gotta do something. We also gotta do something because there's no one to take care of us when we get old”—which is another aspect of my post-nuclear family. I propose that no adults live in the household except the elderly adults who need care.

So imagine a big house, big McMansion. The kids occupy most of the house, but there's a little wing where the old people live, the people who need care. What this allows is the children [can] provide a lot of that care, a lot of that routine care. Let's say you have an invalid grandmother. Well, the kids can at least bring the bringing the grandmother food. 

I propose that the kids do as much as they possibly can of the parenting tasks themselves, which is another radical aspect of my system. Today, what happens is you have two parents. They're raising one or two kids. They wait on their one or two kids hand and foot. They make all the meals. They do all the cleaning. They change all the diapers of these one or two kids, and these kids grow up pampered, with high expectations, a high sense of entitlement, which is unhealthy in itself.

What I propose is if you've got a household of 9 to 18 kids, you can now start using the labor of older kids to care for younger kids. That's the way big families have all always worked. If you're a 16-year-old, there's an awful lot of things that you can do to take care of your younger siblings. You're legally capable of babysitting them, but you can also change diapers. And you can also spend all that time teaching a young child language and playing with a young child, which is now entirely falling upon the adults.

So if you grew up grow up in this family, from the moment you're conscious, you're aware that you have a lot of brothers and sisters, a lot of people hovering around you. And most of the people who are taking care of you turn out to be not that much older than you. They could be teenagers. A teenager can do almost everything that an adult can do in terms of the routine care for infants. 

Kids can prepare meals. You don't need an adult to prepare meals. You need an adult to bring food into the house. You need an adult to pay the rent, but you don't need an adult to prepare meals. There should be a system among the kids to do that. And you don't need an adult to change diapers, because an eight-year-old can learn to change diapers. And an eight-year-old can learn to talk baby talk to a baby. You don't need a PhD in child development to talk baby talk to a baby. 

So I propose that this family system is deeply focused on caring for one another. It's a system that trains children from the very beginning to care for one another. The care you provide to your siblings is dependent on your maturity, depends upon your age and your ability. So you don't have 8-year-olds doing things that they're not capable of doing, but you do want them to do everything that they are capable of doing. 8-year-olds can change diapers just as well as a 32 -year-old can change diapers. 

If you're going to develop the system, you've got to have an educational plan. [If] you bring all these kids into your household, it's because you really want to program them. You're creating a household because you want to program kids in your way of life and your way of thinking, so there has to be an education plan. There has to be school. 

This is all open as to what school will look like. I see it as homeschooling. The way I would do it is I would hire a professional teacher. If you've got a lot of adults supporting this this family, then maybe you can hire a professional teacher to come in Monday through Friday, 9-to-5, and manage the educational plan of these children—which doesn't necessarily mean teaching. It could be assigning resources. So if you want to teach a toddler how to sing his alphabet, you don't need an adult to do that. You could assign an 8-year-old to do that. You [say], “Johnny, can you can Susie her alphabet.” And you can monitor that situation to make sure it's getting done and to make sure certain benchmarks are met, but a teacher in this system it is more of a resource manager who is assigning resources and not really doing much teaching of their own.

Part of the educational system is formal teaching. You have a curriculum that all the adults have settled on—things that should be learned, books that should be read—and then you have the inherent education of training people to care for each other. So childhood is a training program where we should be training children to care for other children, other people. We should be training children to care for their younger siblings and for those old people who need care. So in this giant household of 9 to 18 kids, there's babies that need to be cared for, and there's also old people that needed to be cared for, and your job as a kid in the middle years is to care for all these people, is to care for one another. This is part of your culture that this family would be inculcating. 

At some point, kids get old. They age out of the system. They turn 18. What happens to them? If this is a warm family with lots of interconnections, [I don't think] kids will be raging at the bit to get out. I mean, they want to go out and see the world, but they should also be closely connected to their family even after they turn 18. Part of the job of childhood is to build family loyalty, so that kids, when they're free to leave, to just walk away, that they do stay close and they do stay loyal to the family.

I propose that these children who graduate from the system are expected to support the family in very concrete ways. One of the ways they support the family is through family taxes. If you're a member of a family—either one of the founding adults or a graduate of the family—you are expected to pay a certain proportion of your income as family taxes to support the family back home. You can go and travel. You can take a job in a far distant country, as long as you're sending your family taxes back home. And you're expected to keep in touch with your family, and that's not a big thing. If the family really works in childhood, then people will always be coming back to their families.

And they'll definitely come back to their families when they get too old to take care of themselves. It should be natural that, after you've gone out and made a living and sent money back to your family and done your family proud, eventually you'll come back to your family and care for your family, because people who are in their 60s or 70s can make excellent parents. They're very experienced by then. They can serve their duty as parents in this family [because] they have a lot more time than someone would have in the middle years. Eventually when you get too old, where you need care, where you need assistance, that assistance should happen right there in the same household where you were raised. So obviously I'm talking about long-term thing here. Going from birth to old age, that's a span of 80 years.

I don't see this plan happening anytime soon—not before the collapse, not before the Armageddon, the economic Armageddon—because people aren't motivated enough. People don't see any problems.

You know, there's only a few people who really grasp the problems of underpopulation. Most people think we're still in a population explosion. A remarkable number of people think that we have a population crisis. They're still producing videos about that. This started back in the 1960s with a book called “The Population Bomb” by Paul Ehrlich, about how populations are exploding, that we're all going to starve because of it.

Well, it turns out we didn't starve. Most of us didn't starve, and populations fixed themselves all by themselves. They were already doing it by the 1970s, because we already had birth control. People were deciding to have babies instead of just having them. So we do not have a population explosion except in those selected African countries. It's almost exclusively limited in Africa now. Africa and India and a few countries around India are still producing more babies than they need, but that's slowing down, especially in India. Africa remains a crisis, but outside of Africa, we have an underpopulation problem, not an overpopulation problem.

The majority of world citizens just don't get that, just don't understand that [the population explosion] was last century. It's not this century. So only a few people really grasp how serious this is, and it will take a huge economic crisis for anyone to change, anyone to be so motivated that they would want to get together, want to find some like-minded people to raise children with. That could take 10 years or 20 years or 50 years. 

Once you embark on this kind of adventure, you're in it for the long term. You want to not just create a family, not just raise kids together, but to create a system where you can continually raise kids, continually produce kids and sustain whatever way of life you believe is important.


Written, recorded and edited by Glenn Campbell. For annotations, links and corrections, see the description on the video version of this podcast. You can also leave comments there. See here for all my podcast scripts on this blog.

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