Would your life be better off if only half as many people had lived before you?
That’s the intriguing question Ramez Naam asks in his new book, The Infinite Resource: The Power of Ideas on a Finite Planet. As Ronald Bailey says in a review of the book,
In this thought experiment, you don’t get to pick which people are never born. Perhaps there would have been no Newton, Edison, or Pasteur, no Socrates, Shakespeare, or Jefferson. “Each additional idea is a gift to the future,” Naam writes. “Each additional idea producer is a source of wealth for future generations.” Fewer people means fewer new ideas about how to improve humanity’s lot.
Earlier this week, I wrote that human resources are not only the most valuable natural resource, they are the only real natural resources on the Earth. To this I would add that the individual human is the only unique resource on the planet. A barrel of oil or a pound of gold is much like any other barrel of oil or pound of gold. But a human has a unique combination of God-given gifts, skills, talents and experience that make them unique as a producer of ideas and innovation.
If the acquisition of oil, gold, or any other “natural resources” were to slow to a crawl, humanity could survive. But we can’t flourish as a species unless we continue to create the most important resource of all: babies.