Our human family has grown.
At 8 billion strong, the world’s population is the largest it’s ever been.
At this landmark demographic moment, it can be tempting to draw the easy conclusion that population dynamics are the root cause of multiple, intersecting challenges facing our world.
Some blame dwindling resources and raging conflicts on there being ‘too many’ of us; others fear falling birth rates will leave the planet devoid of people, with ‘too few’ of us to sustain life as we know it.
Yet ours is also a world of anxiety and uncertainty. Challenges like climate change, economic upheaval, conflict and COVID-19 have brought us to a crossroads, where the threat of a worse future for humanity feels just as possible as the promise of a better one.
How do we make sense of these contradictions, and begin solving the pressing problems of our day?
A world with ‘too many’
A world with ‘too few’
Either option seems to lead us only one way – towards fear, blame, and control. But the truth is, people were never the problem.
Human population has always undergone transformation. At each moment of demographic change, population alarmists have wrung their hands, warning against population ‘booms’ or ‘busts’.
And yet, despite oft-repeated predictions of societal collapse, history has made clear that humanity can not only survive population change – but thrives because of it.
This doesn’t mean that population trends aren’t important. Rather, it is precisely because they are so important that we must move past simplistic narratives of “too many” or ‘too few’.
Because these narratives also present fertility rates as a problem to be solved, reducing women’s bodies to political battlegrounds and denying half the population their right to bodily autonomy.
what might the future bring?
Select options below to see some artificial intelligence-designed visions of the future.
The creation of artwork for this report utilizes artificial intelligence, machine learning and other cutting-edge technologies to provoke reflections about our engagement with technology. It represents the core themes of this year’s report: the perils and promise of a not-so-distant future, the fears which spring from those unknowns, and the infinite possibilities within reach when rights and choices for all are ensured. In its ability to bridge the gap between the real and the imagined, this year’s artwork encapsulates the anxieties and opportunities that future holds, and, most importantly, underlines how we are co-creators of it. Artwork by Cecilie Waagner Falkenstrøm, of the art-tech studio ARTificial Mind.
How do we combat population alarmism and safeguard reproductive rights and choices for our FUTURE?