Of all the global problems looming on our common horizon that of population
growth comes first. It sets the scene for considering major issues of
social and economic development, of science, education and art, of growth
and security. In dealing with these matters a new way has to be found
to comprehend the challenge of change. For one has to go beyond the agenda
of demography and economics, sociology and anthropology, and see mankind
as an evolving system. Without a broad vision of our past it is impossible
to understand the present predicament of mankind, the crisis now facing
us in so many dimensions of life, and project our future development.
In this New World, not dictated by numerical growth, education and science
will become the main issues in a knowledge society of an information-dominated
world. It is then, where the old outnumber the young, to be sustainable,
a new system of values are to develop.
Keywords: Humanism, Demography, Global population, Mathematical
modelling, Demographic revolution, Education
The world is now passing though an immense demographic revolution, for
during this time of rapid changes the very meaning of our growth is challenged.
But from the very beginning a straightforward question should be answered.
What does this broad approach, with an extensive time scale - spanning
a million years and encompassing all the people ever inhabiting our planet
-really mean for each of us, our town or country, where we live. For do
not the local circumstances provide all that matters for explaining the
facts of life? That is why for many these studies may seem to be out of
place and irrelevant to what is happening here and now. The answer is
that all large-scale events of history, everything that occurred in our
past does matter for the life and wellbeing of every one of us today,
as these consequences are often subtle and indirect, the profound messages
of history being slow in coming, but full of meaning. They deal with connections
between generations, values, and the very sense of our existence. The
intellectual tradition of Russia shows the power of this approach in our
thinking and these signals are most in demand at a time of crisis. Thus
we are dealing with an interdisciplinary problem in an attempt to describe
the human experience right from its beginning.
Probably the first to apply mathematical reasoning to social problems
was Thomas Malthus. Malthus proposed the population principle - that resources
set the limits to growth, and hunger limits the multiplication of people.
His ideas have had singular influence on economists, political scientists
and moral philosophers for the last two hundred years. Interest in his
legacy have been aroused by the reports to the Club of Rome suggesting
that the 'limits to growth' are due to limits in resources.
The following study refutes these Malthusian concepts and indicates that
in an open, evolving and self-organising system of the global population,
internal processes determine growth. Stated as the population imperative,
this principle operates throughout the whole development of mankind. What
determines global development is the growth and distribution of knowledge.
That is why modern society is described as a knowledge or information
society. To accept this, a new way for describing our growth has to be
worked out, taking into account the past, which is much closer than we
think at the present critical stage of change.
2. Methods of Mathematical Modelling
Mathematical modelling, which to some may seem to be abstract and detached,
mechanistic and lacking in human compassion provides for a quantitative
description of our development. Now these methods are instrumental in
developing the theory of global population growth [1,2]. These methods,
with new metaphors, enlarge the scope of our thinking and vision. Most
of these concepts come from physics are of a modern, non-linear vintage
- like collective interactions, chaos and self-organisation with causality
expressed in probabilistic terms. In developing the model by averaging
the data and processes, the number of variables are reduced to a single
one - to the global population. In this case the growth rate is seen to
be proportional to the square of the total number of people on Earth expressing
the network complexity of the entire population of the world, as a single
In this way one can get away from the 'curse of complexity', for Herbert
Simon has noted that "Forty years of experience in modelling complex
systems on: computers, which every year have grown larger and faster,
have taught us that brute force does not carry us along a royal road to
understanding such systems. Modelling, then calls for some basic principles
to manage this complexity."
The model is based on a holistic description by introducing a phenomenological
interaction, which takes into account all relevant factors of social,
economic, cultural, moral, ethnical and biological nature contributing
to growth. This non-linear global co-operative interaction cannot be reduced
by an addition of all partial factors and that is why reductionist models
do not work. To this interaction we owe the stable hyperbolic blow-up
of human numbers. For to date human beings have spread all over the globe
and outnumber by five orders of magnitude - a 100 000 times, more than
all other animals of comparable size and position in the food chain. Only
domestic animals, husbanded by man,* are attached to the human population.
What is remarkable that growth, in the first approximation, is for more
than a million years dynamically self-similar and scales. By introducing
the human life span of 45 years the limits of scaling may be determined.
This provides for a very plausible estimate for the beginning of the human
*In this text the term man and mankind refer to the genus Homo
story 4-5 million years ago and describes the passage through the demographic
transition. Up to the transition growth follows a hyperbolic curve, going
off to infinity, as it approaches Tx = 2000, when an abrupt change in
the pattern of growth takes place. The global population levels off at
10 - 12 billion in the foreseeable future, in effect doubling the recent
population of N = 6 billion in year 2000.
1. World population from 2000 BC to 3000 AD. Asymptotic limit
of global population Nx=10 - 12 billions.
1 - data for global population [4 ], 2 - blow-up model of growth,
3 - demographic transition, 4 - stabilized population, 5 - Ancient
world, 6 - Middle Ages, 7 - Modernity, 8 - Recent history, t - the
Plague, | - error bar, ° - 7^=2000, N,=6 billion. On a semi-logarithmic
plot exponential growth will appear as a straight line and at no
time can describe the growth of the global population. As the demographic
transition is approached, the time of history and development is
compressed, with 9 billion people living through each historic period
indicated. See Table 1.
The model is
justified not only by the extent to which the results of modelling correspond
to the facts of life, but also by the fundamental principles of systemic
growth. When depicting the overall process of development by an essentially
non-linear model it should be kept in mind that it cannot be directly
applied to local or regional growth, for we are dealing with a collective
phenomenon. But the global process of development definitely does influence
all of its parts by the connections and interactions implied in the model
and acting in the world. Any part of the global system that is separated
from the main body of mankind will inevitably lag in its growth and development.
The most important changes are due to the limits of an information-dominated
society, the real limits to growth where of central importance become
culture, science and education. For during the demographic revolution
the crisis is due not to a limit, real or imagined, of resources, but
to the mismatch of our ideas and management of society at large. This
should be of our main concern in assessing the future of the world, as
it enters its greatest crisis in the 21st century, breaking away from
explosive growth to a constant population. Only after the demographic
revolution, as a new equilibrium will be established, sustainable development
could be sought for.
3. The Population Imperative and Time in History
Modelling global population growth is based on the ideas of synergetics
. The whole population of the world is treated as a system, a single
entity, all the details of which and events are averaged and mixed up
in its totality. The global population is both isolated and open, meaning
that it can draw on the resources of the environment, of the outside world.
The whole approach is essentially statistical and cannot be expected to
take into account the details, however significant they may seem. Partial
and chaotic events of current history should be seen against the backdrop
of the total picture, where average growth is determined by the principle
of the population imperative. Although the rate of growth is proportional
to the square of the global population this implies a memory of the past,
for we really deal with the average values of the variables.
The factor driving the development of mankind is generalised information.
The distribution and transfer of information from one generation to the
next - knowledge and technology, customs and crafts, art and religion,
and, finally, ideas and concepts of science - this is peculiar to humans
and human society, and what makes us essentially different from all animals.
Consider the very first steps of a human being, which are quite different
from those of an animal. In this process education and training in all
forms and varieties, including games, is a major part of human development.
It begins with a long childhood, first learning to speak and mastering
language, being brought up, taught and educated in the making of a man,
to use an old expression, as a member of society. This now takes 20 to
30 years and is essential for every human being. At the same time this
postpones the child-baring age to its limits. Information is multiplied
and transmitted by a chain reaction vertically between generations establishing
links with the past deeply entrenched in the personality of each person.
Information is also transferred horizontally - in the space of the global
informational interaction, synchronizing the grand periods of development,
seen throughout the ages in the global population system.
An important outcome of the model is the logarithmic transformation of
time of social development, as quadratic growth accelerates over the ages.
Growth is not exponential, although at any moment in the past an instantaneous
exponential time of growth may be worked out. This exponential time is
equal to the time reckoned from the high point of the global demographic
transition -from year T\ = 2000, or to the time before present. In this
case the compression of time makes the time from the end of a past cycle
equal to half of the cycle's duration. Thus the Lower Paleolithic lasted
a million years, leaving half a million for all future development. The
Middle Ages lasted a thousand years and ended 500 years ago. Approaching
the present the rates of growth and development can be compressed no more.
The population blows up and enters the period of the global demographic
transition, which is only 90 years long leading to a constant global population.
The results of modelling are all shown in Table 1. Major cycles of global
history, observed in our past, are interpreted as phases, punctuated by
transitions and indicating the gross stability of growth.
this Table dates are taken from the generally accepted sources
and they follow, within acceptable errors, those calculated. It has
to be noted that the Neolithic revolution, when a marked changed happened
in our development, is right in the middle of our past, if seen on
a logarithmic scale and underlining the singularity of this global
4. The Global
Demographic data and the model indicate that mankind is now rapidly passing
through a critical period of the demographic transition. This is a veritable
revolution, drastically changing our long-established pattern of growth
and development. For more than a million years
man was concerned with numerical growth. Growth on all counts -more children,
more food, more space, more arms, more power in all dimensions of life.
At present this paradigm of growth is changing, a change never experienced
before. It is well established that all countries pass through a maximum
growth rate at the demographic transition and, hopefully, head for a stable
population. This has been observed for all developed countries and is
now being seen
in countries of the developing world. The global demographic transition
is shown on Fig. 2. During the transition death and birth rates rapidly
change, beginning with an initial decrease in the death rate. The consequent
fall in the birth rate starts later, and is accompanied by economic development,
an increase in standard of life and the development of health services,
leading to a longer life expectancy. Due to the interaction of these two
factors, the growth rate passes through its maximum value.
For any specific country migration may modify this idealised description,
but globally emigration does not enter into the growth rate since the
population is limited to our planet. This sequence of events shows that
the whole change is rapid and at no point is the population in any state
of relative equilibrium. We are dealing with a non-equilibrium phase transition,
centred on year 2000 - a veritable shock wave that could hardly happen
faster. As a result of the transition the population ceases to grow and
a marked change in the age distribution of the population develops. This
is the last in the sequence of events and a very significant transformation
to happen in a society.
These processes are accompanied by urbanisation, with vast movements of
rural populations to towns. As the population of the world acts as a truly
global community, undergoing a common transformation, the transition in
the developed and developing countries are happening practically at the
same time. They are separated by a mere 50 years, showing that in a fundamental
way these countries are not so different as usually assumed. Thus the
transition is a powerful demonstration of the interaction between these
sets of countries, leading to globalisation.
2. The global demographic transition 1750 - 2100. Annual growth averaged
over a decade: 1 - developed countries, 2 - developing countries.
The global transition is remarkably short with a width of only 90
years, centred on year Т1 = 2000.
population transition takes only 90 years, and during this time, which
is only 1/50 000 of all our history, a fundamental change in the mode
of growth of mankind is to happen. A different image of the transition
is seen, if we refer to the number of people - some 10 billion - who are
to live through the demographic transition. This is 1/1 Oth of the hundred
billion people who ever lived, and is the chance for a human being to
be caught into this critical period of rapid change.
5. The World of the Future
The model equates the rate of growth to the development of the population
system, seen as a function of the global population. The quadratic term
was decisive in determining growth all through our history and expresses
the contribution of the informational component to the global production
factor. This can be seen as the domination of the 'software' of global
development, input, which is associated with culture, science and all
those factors like co-operation, communication, consciousness and memory
in contributing to the meta-economic growth of mankind. As the principal
factor of growth it indicates the primacy of the collective processes
in society, which we owe to our highly developed brain and mind, the main
and peculiar characteristic of a conscientious H. sapiens.
As the population of the world will grow no longer, the number of older
people will outnumber the young. This is an essential result of the demographic
transition, already seen in developed countries, where societies are getting
much older. The restructuring of the age pyramid, a rapid and profound
transition to a stable global population, will inevitably lead to far-reaching
changes in many aspects of
life, including global security, social and economic behaviour. Inevitably
it will demand means to support the older generations, leading to greater
expenditures for health services and social security. Probably one can
expect that society could gainfully use the expertise of the old, re-establishing
ties between generations in a family. Then the post-transition age structure
will result in the development of new values in society, now lacking the
inertia, tradition and memory in growth of our numbers.
3. Change in age distribution for the global population 1950-2150.
1 - age group less than 14 years, 2 - group older than 65 years, 3
- age group older than 80 years. A - distribution in developing countries
and B - distribution in developed countries in 2000.
After the Rio
1992 and Johannesburg 2002 International Conferences the concept of sustainable
development has been put forward. The idea of sustainability was mainly
developed in Gro Brundtland's report "Our Common Future" (1987)
and is formulated as "meeting the demands of the present without
infringing the rights of the next generation in satisfying its demands".
The concept of sustainability should be seen in connection with the demographic
imperative. All history has unequivocally shown that the growth of population
had precedence over the environment. Mostly under economic pressure people
moved and resettled, migrated to other parts of the world in search of
space and resources. What really matters and creates social disparities
and economic misery is not a global lack of basic resources, but inequity
in their distribution - changes that can be expressed as the challenge
in pursuit of a quality of life .
It is of interest to discuss the long-term changes that can be expected
in the world as it passes into a new stage of development after the transition.
Both demography and modelling, using different methods, show that the
population of the world is to rapidly stabilise at 10 to 12 billion, although
the latest revised forecasts of the UN Population Division indicate some
9 billion for year 2300. In practical terms all growth will happen in
the developing world by the end of 21st century and will be accompanied
by a drastic change in the age structure and a lowering of the total fertility
rate. For at present, in developed countries the TFR is below 1.15 (1.07
for Spain). Thus these societies demographically are not sustainable and
are doomed, if the TFR does not go up to 2.1 - 2.15 children for each
woman. The low birth rates in all developed countries are a signal of
a major crisis of prevalent values in these societies. These differences
in the TFR are a source of great instability and in the coming years some
large-scale migrations and social disruptions are to be expected. They
are well beyond the power of the states to be controlled be force alone,
as seen with the rapid growth of the numbers of illegal migrants. These
issues are frankly discussed by Patrick Buchanan in "The Death of
the West. How Dying Populations and Immigrant Invasions Imperil our Country
and Civilisation)). New
In recent events one can discern the features of a future world with a
stabilised population. In this world numerical growth, primarily expressed
by population growth, will no longer dominate. The connection between
population growth and the square of global population will cease to express
development. In this case there are two alternatives - one is stagnation
of development in a world of zero growth or even declining population.
The other is finding a new dimension for development, and, as the quantitative
growth of the past is gone, there is a possibility for qualitative growth
and development. At present in developed countries there is a significant
shift of the workforce from the production sector to services -health,
education, science, and leisure indicating the shape of things to come.
These new processes of development are accompanied by an internationalisation
of finance and technology. The rapid transfer of information and money
has become the principal feature of globalisation. The recent and most
powerful global information factor is now the Internet. With the mass
media these are the main instruments of change and influence. In a world
where globalisation has become an imminent and dominant feature, the opposing
trend of cultural diversification is manifest. This may be seen as the
confrontation of the 'hardware' of civilisation with the 'software' of
culture, which does not match the pace of progress. This present disparity
in the growth and development of mankind should be resolved by a dialog,
rather than a clash of civilisations .
Dynamics of population growth influence global security, the balance of
economic and military power. In the foreseeable future armies will change.
In countries that have passed through the transition there are fewer demographic
resources to man by conscription the huge armies of the recent past. On
the one hand, low growth rates and stagnant populations do not create
conditions for conflict, for large-scale world wars, as happened in the
recent past. On the other hand, science and high technology have changed
the character of arms in modern warfare. Could the mission of these new
armed forces be the containment of peace, controlling migration, fighting
organized crime and terrorism, rather than war and operations leading
to territorial gains and a New World Order? In fact, terrorism should
be seen as a symptom of growing tensions and disparities rather than a
The last sources of a real large-scale conflict are countries passing
through the demographic transition at its explosive stage. Today, when
in a world where the rate of numerical growth has reached its absolute
maximum and mankind is passing a decisive threshold in its development,
these strains and inequities could still lead to major conflicts within
and with the rapidly developing countries. In this case demographic factors
may become indicators of growing disparities challenging principles of
now passing through the demographic revolution from an information - moderated
society to an information - dominated global knowledge society. The future
in the post-industrial world will be determined not by the production
of food or energy, by the 'hardware', but by the 'software' of our global
population system. In this New World it will be not the volume of production
that matters, but the way these results of the industry and cultural development
are distributed. This is to happen in an economy with zero growth of human
numbers in a society with a predominance of older people. 80-,
4. Deindustrialization: Changes in total U.S. workforce in 20th
century (in %)
These are the
boundary conditions for the future. In this future, human capital of an
educated society will, hopefully, lead to establishing new norms of social
values. It will be determined more than ever by education and the attitudes
and values propagated by the mass media. The mass media, in the first
place television, has yet to recognise its responsibility for its influence
on social capital and in taking culture and morals seriously. Thus, a
new set of values in the world could emerge, where numerical growth will
cease to dominate our mentality. In a stabilised world with a slowing
down of development, a new ecological and social consciousness may appear,
with outspoken criticism of consumerism and capitalism.
In the post-transitional society education will take up more time and
effort than at any other period in the history of humanity. For example,
at present in developed countries lifelong education is expanding and
the education industry is becoming a major sector of the economy. The
extensive time devoted to education is a direct expression of the information
crisis and indicates that humanity is definitely close to its capacity
to train and educate the next generation. In fact, time spent on education
is one of the reasons for low TFR' in developed countries. Finally, fundamental
science, which since the time of Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin has developed
as a global cultural phenomenon, practised internationally, will demand
both support and a mandate to exercise its cultural and moral responsibilities
as never before in a New Enlightenment.
For the population of the world the theory provides a description of the
gross features of the growth and evolution of mankind. Over the entire
course of development a constant trend in the growth of human numbers
is discerned, which follows a self-similar pattern of growth, expressing
the dynamic invariance of development. Humanity, right from its beginning,
is seen as an information society. Its growth is due to a direct transfer
of acquired information, leading to a Lamarckian rather than a Darwinian
mechanism of cultural inheritance and evolution. In this mechanism numeric
and economic growth and social development are non-linearly coupled and
mutually determine the pace of history. Its inherent limits for growth
at present are determined not by resources or space, but by the 'limits
Global population dynamics has a drive and logic of its own, expressed
by the population imperative. Only by reaching an in-depth and fundamental
understanding of these complex interdisciplinary problems can we expect
these universal issues to be faced and responsibly resolved by sensible
social and economic policies.
The rapid demographic revolution is an event of great significance, and
in the story of mankind it surpasses the Neolithic revolution and all
others known in history, ranking in its importance with the emergence
of Homo, endowed with a mind and consciousness. Only a future anthropologist
shall have a chance of understanding the magnitude of the transition,
which mankind is now to experience. He will have to wait only a hundred
years -not the million years that have passed since the early stages of
our origins, to assess these basic changes.
This period of remarkable change is definitely responsible for much of
the stress and strain of modern life, the great disruption now upsetting
the long-established patterns of social development. For as the numbers,
the 'hardware' of our world are changing faster than the social conditions,
ideas, the global 'software' has no time to keep up, be it the pressure
of the environment or folly of technological progress. The nature of this
imminent transformation is yet to be fully understood and its consequences
assessed. This can be seen as the intellectual challenge facing both the
hard sciences and the humanities and art. In a world where numerical growth
is decoupled from development, it is not yet obvious whether humanity
will take up the path of qualitative growth, or enter a pattern of slow
development, even becoming stagnant and decaying as our civilisation passes
into oblivion lacking long-term vision and ideals.
At this point it is appropriate to inquire what could be the next step
in the evolution of mankind. Up to the present the biology of the human
race has not changed and was determined by nature. Now there is a possibility
to interfere and moderate the biology - the genetic make-up of mankind
- as humanity itself can become a conscientious actor. It may well be
that these factors are to limit the extent of the model and at the same
time indicate the agents for change, which could ultimately set a new
dimension for the development of mankind. If humanity is morally and ethically
ready for such interference, posed by science, it may become conscientious
actor. It may well be that these factors are to limit the extent of the
model and at the same time indicate the agents for change, which could
ultimately set a new dimension for the development of mankind. If humanity
is morally and ethically ready for such interference, posed by science,
it may become
master of its evolution and will go beyond the limits set by the model,
as its premises will no longer be valid. Although, with the sheer size
of the world population and the rate of events, it is difficult to imagine
how the world community can have a major effect on the population imperative
with a pronounced lack of global governance. The crises of the UN has
been examined by Picco .
As the fundamental understanding of growth is still rather limited, definitive
advice for action is hard to provide -apart from very general recommendations,
which lead to current demographic policies. The rate of change, the ultimate
compression of the systemic Eigen-time of history at the demographic transition,
leaves no time for political decisions to be worked out and properly implemented.
For it is now that the time-scale of history and politics merge.
Probably the most important issue is by all means to ensure the stability
and security of the world to be, as the prerequisite for resolving global
problems. The rate of change itself leads to the absence of long term
commitments and socially relevant planing in society. This is all the
more significant during the singular epoch of the demographic revolution,
when these tensions are the greatest. This leads to the current loss of
governance, law and order, corruption, criminality with moral decay, a
rise of irrationality and unreason, seen on many levels of society and
political structures of the world.
These studies are the outcome of an attempt to develop interdisciplinary
understanding by bridging ideas and methods coming from areas of research
long separated by tradition and history. As the model is supported by
further research and gains ground, the insight it provides should lead
to greater understanding of the present state of world affairs. It may
offer a common frame of reference for anthropology and history, demography
and sociology, for studies in human evolution and genetics. For economists
it provides a universal and general framework for assessing our growth
and development. For doctors and politicians alike it can indicate the
sources of stress and tension in this transient period, unique throughout
all human development and affecting both the individual and society in
terms of personal and global security and stability. In the emerging world
of a stabilised global population there will be a lot of restructured
time to resolve these problems of our own making, hopefully managing them
without a major disruption, as the challenge of growth will cease to dominate
our life. This may provide us with some optimism in facing the present
predicament of mankind.
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Growth. In "Formal Description of Evolving Systems" Eds.
J. Nation et al., Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2003
2. Kapitza, S.P., Global Population Blow-up and After. The
Demographic Revolution and Information Society. A Report
to the Club of Rome, Moscow, 2004.
3. Haken H. Advanced Synergestics. Instability Hierarchies of
Self-organizing Systems and Devices, Springer, Berlin, 1983
4. Cohen J.How many People can the Earth support? N. Y. 1995
5. Picco G. et al. Crossing the Divide. Dialogue Among
Civilizations. Seton Hall University Press, N.J., 2001.