Needle’s shaft:
If, as the evidence seems to suggest, the last child who will grow up to be a literate member of the middle class is to be born in 2020, what then?  Beyond the point of the arrow lies much uncertainty.  I have recently pointed out that our enemies are numerous in every land and every island, in every field and upon the sand.  They might just see our doom and kill us all the same day year.  On the other hand, given good and medical care some of us might go on to live another century, but this seems highly improbable given that agricultural productivity will collapse with the end of a high tech culture and we will have 10 billion people on a planet that can support two billion under the best of circumstances; circumstances will be far from good, so an intermediate outcome is possible; a handful of primary producers living at a subsistence level.  This is not an ethnic thing; it will be true of every ethnic group. 

So can we stop it?  As I said, I hope so.  But by ordinary means obviously 2020 will be too late.  There will be a population with no births and that will die out just like Calhoun’s mice.  One might hope for a technological solution; maybe we can clone babies.  Aye, maybe.  But although technology seems to be forging ahead, let’s look at the big picture.  The Industrial Revolution began with the power loom and spinning jenny.  Up until then half the work done by half the people – women – was spinning and weaving.  But given a power loom and spinner, a couple of technicians to keep them running and a few children to dart about tying strings together and a couple men to shovel coal and you can do the work of a quarter of an entire landscape.  It has taken many years to move women into other productive work, but the shakeout has been enormous. 

Moving all that coal required many canals with horse drawn barges, but it turned out that laying rail was pretty cheap and the train could be pulled by yet another steam engine.  You could also ride the contraption.  The resulting transportation revolution on land was immensely important.  At sea, the steamboat surpassed sail.  The grand clippers were impressive and much loved, beautiful although garbage for engineering.  You remember the old windjammers, with the blunt bows and high tapered stern.  This was a good shape.  Ships still use it, although the blunt bow is invisible below the surface.  It gives you low water resistance and excellent maneuverability.  The clipper had none of that.  It was pretty much cylindrical in the hull, a pig to steer, high water resistance and worse, dependent for its construction on rapacious stripping of southern hardwood forests, which would not and did not last forever.  Worse, the thing had a displacement hull, which imposed a downward hydrodynamic force which could suck the vessel right under and destroy it before the crew could abandon.  The steamship was slower but a better bet.  Still in all, overseas commerce already existed.

The telegraph, telephone and radio taken together had a far greater impact on their time than the internet has, for the incredible power of which we have really not yet found adequate application.

But the crucial invention here was the transistor, soon to be followed by the microchip and the realization of the Turing machine, the mighty computer.  I still am in awe of the computer, but face it; it’s just an application of the transistor.  Since the transistor there really has been no similarly potent invention.  I’d not expect cloning to come along in the nick of time just to feed our convenience; there won’t be a technologic fix.

So 2020 is too late.  When did too late happen.  Well that last women who has a child will do so at age 40.  She was born at the same time as the man she fell in love with.  He was Born hard wired, because his ancestral gene pool was too diverse, not to have children until he was 40.  So that takes us back to 1980, when he was born. 

His mother was 30 back then.  She fell in love when she was 15.  From that moment all was sealed in the book of fate.  By now we are at 1965.  But given a woman’s child bearing years to number only 20 and to have a decent chance at survival, we have to have women start making viable reproductive choices by 1955.  And in all honesty if some rich philanthropist were to say to me, “You are doing noble work with zilch resources, trying to save a world that has treated me quite kindly, here is a grand to keep on, and on top of that I’m going to help you with contacts, networking, getting the word out, publicity and all the things you stink at,” it would take five years to have a significant impact.  That letter or phone call needed to arrive in 1950.  Well I need not tell you what we were doing in the 50’s and 60’s.  It certainly wasn’t encouraging people to place rational limits on their social pool size.  In fact such debate as their was centered on “race,” which is far too large a category no matter which way your whim directs you.

So technology is out and ordinary means have been inadequate since 1950.  What is there to try?  Well the first thing is to get more people to think about it.  Among the people I have invited to do so is a man quite dear to me, who has said, “I find what you are saying odious.”  Hmm.  Sounds a bit of a harsh retort to a person who only wants to save babies, doesn’t it?  But beggars can’t be choosers so let’s run with it. 

Step 1.  If outbreeding is killing us, or has killed us, we must look to inbreeding.  I don’t mean reasonable inbreeding, such as we should have been doing all along.  I mean drastic inbreeding, such as might make one gag.

Step 2. If the problems seem likely to be with the boys more than with the girls, we take advantage of the fact that men remain sexually competent longer than women.  The women live longer, but the male still is making sperm for many years after the woman stops ovulating on average.  So maybe we can steal a march on Mother Nature by having men marry their daughters.  If that is not sufficient, maybe they need to have babies with their grand daughters.  You remember Lot.  He and his daughters had sex and founded two nations.  Ah, but whom did the children marry?  Maybe they found outsiders, but we are pretty sure there were no fertile males in the entire region; the girls had already checked that out.  The Lot’s grand daughters might have had children with their first cousins.  Or maybe they had children with old Lot.  Who’s to know?  Do you suppose we’ll have to find out?

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