A landmark:
Sometimes I wonder where we are in time.  It’s easy enough to tell how far we are from the beginning of something, at least in principle.  But sometimes it gets foggy where the beginning is.  Specifically, I have shown evidence that from the beginning until the end of a civilization is under 300 years.  Of course that’s only an approximation; most never get there and a single Chinese dynasty actually survived longer, although not fifty years longer.

We have a number for when the US got started; that was 1776.  And it seems that it was an authentic regime change, the kind we look at.  One of the hallmarks of a regime change is that the old regime disappears, sometimes because they are killed by the newcomers, which would be not difficult feat since the old regime probably is made up essentially of old people.  They say that at the time of the War of Independence or the First American War of Secession, if you will, about a third of the country was Tory, meaning loyalists to Britain, a third were Whigs, the secession minded, and a third didn’t care.  I know of no record of Tories being lined up against the wall and shot, but if you go to the Marsh Harbor region of the Bahamas you will notice that a lot of the locals are redheads.  They are descendants of Tories who fled for their lives.  There are descendants of Whigs around.  I had a fraternity brother who descended from Benjamin Franklin and briefly dated a girl who had an ancestor on Bunker Hill.  I had an ancestor who was thrown out of the Quaker church for having run some rowdies off his land with a gun.  Of course I initially sided with my ancestor and thought the church was unfair.  More recently I learned the young men were Tories.  Now I suspect that they were hanging around precisely because everybody knows Quakers aren’t violent, and they felt unsafe elsewhere.  Rowdy?  These were young men.  Of course they were carrying on like young men. 

I have never run into anybody descended from a Tory.  It doesn’t look nice.  And it looks like a typical regime change.  So if the brick wall for the US is 300 years after, the US should collapse by 2076, probably meaning that the youngest man get to be 56; that’s when the warrantee expires.  Keel boat men, Harvard Medical students, NFL football players, entertainers who continue to work very hard, professional wrestlers, the man that is, all tend to die at the same time.  That means the last US baby descended from colonial times should be born in 2020.  There will be some exceptions, those rowdies for instance, but they will be rare.

If you look at the age of first marriage for Swedish women, it is rising, and it comes up to about 2020 as well when they reach menopause.  I just saw on the internet (I’m not good at sourcing internet stuff.) that most people in their late teens and early twenties plan never to have children at all.  Nature strikes with unerring accuracy.    Now most countries will not have that crucial age in 2020, but most countries have some poor people.  Sweden does not … all right, I once was strolling along a railroad track in Sweden and ran into a dirty man with weathered features wearing ragged clothes.  I tried out my Swedish on him without success.  I had learned proper Swedish (a bit, anyway) and he spoke only dialect.  He might have been the last poor man in the country.  So 2020 should mark the last birth of somebody who will contribute to our global, high tech civilization.  Don’t bother hoping we can train people from other backgrounds to take our place.  The book The Son Also Rises shows in great detail that actual social change occurs by very small increments generation to generation. 

And now there is another bit of evidence.  (Buttonwood “Vanishing Workers” Economist vol. 420 no.8999 page 58)  There are 25 countries now with a falling head count.  That should do it.  The UN estimates that by 2075 the number will be 100.  I think they are being overly optimistic, but even if not, that will be enough to bring down Western Civilization.  A few years ago Russia had a falling head count, but that was blamed on people getting drunk and falling down in the snow; Gorbachev fixed that by restricting vodka.  Yeltsin brought it back, but I thought their numbers were rising again, but maybe not.  Anyway, the number 25 is enough.  It lets us estimate the end without the approximation of guessing when we started and guessing how old the youngest person would be at the end.

Remember the Long House Valley experience:

Time horizontal, tree rings blue and population by occupied houses red. Jared M. Diamond, “Life with the Artificial Anasazi,” NATURE, vol. 419 no 6907, October 10, 2002 p 567

Ignore the tree rings; they are cultivating the trees.  It’s hard to say just when the population first began to rise by natural increase because there were a number of times when people moved in.  But two dates are clear: when the head count started to fall and when they all died out.  That looks to be about 30 years.

So this suggests we will collapse in thirty years or 2046, not 2076.  That’s probably a better estimate than reckoning from the 300 years I draw from the Southern Mesopotamian data.

Like all dying cultures, we are pestered by barbarians at the gate, this time in the form of ISIS and their brethren.  I have sometimes clucked that ISIS has jumped the gun.  We aren’t going to be helpless for sixty years.  But now it looks more like half that.  They are only fifteen or twenty years early.  Our youngest, if born in 2020 will only be 26.  I’d have thought older, but of course numbers of young people will be catastrophically low already.  Maybe our technology will keep us going a bit longer.

It’s going to take me a while to get used to this.

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