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In 2018, Sci-Fi Phoned the Seventies, It Seems…

…for high-tech overpopulation scares. How else to explain Avengers’ Thanos?, asks Eric Holloway

Eric Holloway reminds us that the 1973 Australian video in which the World1 computer predicts population explosion doom by 2040 has been overtaken—not by science but by science fiction. Holloway notes:

In last year’s Avengers movie Infinity War, the main villain is an alien named Thanos who believes the universe is unsustainably overpopulating itself, which will eventually lead to catastrophic war, famine, and the deaths of huge numbers of people. He sets out to travel the universe, planet by planet, wiping out half the population as he goes. Thanos believes that his humanitarian genocide will bring the universe back into balance and prevent the catastrophe he foresees.

This World1 simulation echoes the theme, Malthusianism, named after Thomas Malthus Thomas Malthus (1766–1834). His basic concept is that human populations grow exponentially, and can very rapidly exhaust their resources. Probably motivated by the Club of Rome (portrayed in the 1973 video), political scientist Henry Kissinger created a (previously classified) policy that would enforce population control in poorer countries that the US considered a national security threat.

Malthusianism underlies China’s population control policies. These policies have led to dramatic gender imbalance), which I’ve seen more and more people online proposing should be adopted by the rest of the world.

The Western “abortion is the solution” push is the moral equivalent of Thanos’ plan: killing a bunch of people so that a bunch of people don’t have to die. So, the West right now is basically Thanos.

Some argue that Malthus was wrong because human societies limit themselves over time; even now there is a coming population implosion in many parts of the world (demographic winter).

Here’s the 1973 video:

In 1973, near the height of the ‘population bomb’ panic, a computing programme called World1 offered up some predictions for the future. It anticipated a grim picture for humanity based on current trajectories. Tracing categories such as population, pollution and natural-resource usage, World1 calculated that, by 2040, human civilisation would collapse – a century after the best year to have been alive on the planet: 1940.

Australian Broadcasting Corporation, “Civilisation peaked in 1940 and will collapse by 2040: the data-based predictions of 1973” at Aeon

See also: The world will end in 2040 Jonathan Bartlett offers some thoughts on a frantic, bizarre – but instructive – computer-driven prediction.


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In 2018, Sci-Fi Phoned the Seventies, It Seems…