Good news from abroad:
Sometimes in a melancholy mood I have wondered where we are all going.  The developed world and presumably developed parts of the rest of the world dropped below replacement levels a generation ago.  From there the only child has been typical.  By now the only first cousin is typical.  One has only one second cousin, who is just as likely to be of the same sex.  Third and fourth cousins are unlikely to be of suitable age.  One must look to fifth cousins, and they just aren’t close enough to hope for a recovery.  Sure you might get a flurry of offspring if fifth cousins were really to be chosen.  But what do you do in the next generation?  Those children can’t marry siblings.  They have to go out to sixth cousins.  And in the next generation out to seven cousins, since marrying first cousins is usually a poor idea.  So bar some miracle, the developed world is a write off.  The middle third is close behind, say thirty years.  That is most dicey.  And as for the rest, the rich world serves as a brain drain. 

So I am beset with gloom.  How to save anybody?  How to pass the embers of our civilization on?  Well now there looks like hope. 

For one thing, far from remaining passive recipients of rich world culture, the emerging world is showing signs of creativity.  It appears now that more than an industrial, services and mining base has been exported from the old rich countries to the countries becoming rich.  Research and management innovations come from there as well.  We are talking about $3,000 dollar cars and $300 dollar laptops made possible by redesign and astute management.  (The New Masters of Management, ECONOMIST vol. 395. no. 8678 April 17, 2010 page 11.  Also special section page after page 54.)

The way is being paved for education no longer simply to drain brains but strike out for foreign shores with rich world universities placing extensions overseas.  (Overseas Universities NATURE vol. 465. no. 7294 May 6, 2010 page 14.)  That seems like a good idea for everybody.  And there is interest in changing education in the rapidly growing part of the world to produce more innovative graduates.  (Asian Education Must Change to Promote Innovative Thinking William F. Lim NATURE vol. 565 no. 7295 May 13, 2010 page 157 and R. A. Mashelkar Irreverence and Indian Science SCIENCE vol. 328 no. 5978 April 30, 2010 page 547.)  I see no way to doubt that if they want to do it they will do it.

Tell me if I am leaving something out, but it looks like the days are numbered when the now rapidly emerging world will not need the presently rich world for anything at all.  The poorest are not picking things up quite so rapidly, perhaps, but give them a little time.  And when the time comes, the process of extending the opportunities that a rich country offers will have been worked out.

So all my doom and gloom appears to be for naught.  Well maybe not all of it.  Like the passing of the elves, the decline of what are now rich countries will mean the end of many wonderful things.  It appears that I was simply wrong that high tech society would collapse leaving behind a world of eight billion with the ability to feed only two billion. 

And if I was wrong about that, maybe I was wrong in my gloom about the developed world.  The phenomenon of large mating pool leading to population collapse is not wrong.  There is simply too much evidence for that.  But maybe we will manage somehow.

Meanwhile anything that can improve the lot of the poorest countries is not only an investment in a significant portion of humanity.  It may be an investment in all that will remain of humanity. 

Of course that assumes that the demographic problem can be handled and that populations can be stabilized.  That is what I shall continue to work on.

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