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The Human Population Has Reached 8 Billion: Thoughts, Feelings, Hopes, And (Dirty) Jokes

Recently, the human race achieved a major milestone.

According to the United Nations, the human population of this planet exceeded 8 billion for the first time.

It became official on November 15, 2022. That’s not to say the measure was precise. We are talking about global population here on a chaotic world. The best we can ever do is reasonable, educated guesses. And using that standard and the limited tools available to us, we can confidently determine that we’ve crossed that special 8 billion threshold.

We’ll probably never know who was the 8 billionth human.

We’ll probably never know where they were born, what their circumstances were, or whether they were aware of their importance.

But whoever they are, they got us to that milestone and beyond. What it means for us, as a species, is hard to quantify, even for exceptionally smart people. I don’t consider myself exceptionally smart, but I’m still going to try.

Now, it’s easy for the cynical crowd to see this milestone and say to themselves, “Just what we need. More humans on this overpopulated planet to suck more dwindling resources.” Believe me, I get that mentality. I’ve certainly shared my own growing cynicism from time to time. I think it’s largely a byproduct of getting older and being more aware of just how complicated and messy people can be.

However, as cynical as I often feel at times, I have not completely abandoned hope for humanity or our collective future. I’ve come close a few times. The events of 2020 certainly tested me. But for the moment, that hope is still intact and I think this milestone offers perspective, as well as encouragement.

For one, it definitively shows that, as bad as the COVID-19 pandemic has been these past two years, it hasn’t been apocalyptic. It did disrupt our society, our world, and our lives. But it didn’t send our entire population into a death spiral in the same mold as the plagues of the past. In another time and another era, it might have really hit our species harder, so much so that we might be in far greater danger.

But we endured. We adapted, innovated, and survived. While there are still some who insist on dragging their feet with respect to progress and modern medicine, that hasn’t completely dragged down the whole of humanity. More than anything else, it reveals just how complicated, erratic, and diverse we can be.

It’s easy to focus on the worst of humanity and get lost in the horror. I know I have. Anyone who has picked up a history book probably feels that way, too. But that just makes this milestone all the more impressive. The fact that we’ve lasted as long as we have on this planet and grown our population to this level definitely counts as an accomplishment.

On top of that, much of that growth is actually quite recent. The human species, in their most modern form, is only about 200,000 years old. And for much of that history, our population never exceeded more than a few hundred million. We didn’t cross the billion threshold until around 1800. Just 200 years later, we’ve increased that eightfold. Numerically speaking, that’s incredible growth.

If that weren’t impressive enough, consider one other factor. For the vast majority of human history, women endured the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth without the aid of modern pain killers and medicine. That’s right. We were humping and birthing millions of humans in dirty, unsanitary conditions for centuries on end. If you’re a woman who has given birth, take a moment to think about how our ancestors endured. Also take a moment to consider how many women and children died because of those challenges.

It says a lot about humanity, especially women, that we made it to this point. You need only look at some of the natural disasters this planet is capable of to appreciate what we’ve been up against during our reign on this planet. We managed to survive, thrive, and birth our way towards 8 billion people through it all.

And if you’ve got an exceptionally dirty mind, it might also belabor just how horny the human species can be. Now, I’ll try not to get too explicit.

If I had a truly dirty mind, I could joke about how the orgasm has single-handedly endured the survival of our species.

I could joke about how great sex has to be for women to endure the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth before the advent of modern medicine.

I could joke about how nature’s wrath and constant disasters hasn’t kept people from getting horny, hooking up, and birthing more equally horny humans.

I could even joke about just how much sex we, as a species, had to have in order to get to 8 billion people.

But I’m not going to. I have as dirty mind as any straight guy who writes sexy stories, but not that dirty. Instead, I’d like to offer one simple message to this mass of humanity that we’ve created.

Congratulations!

We made it. We’ve succeeded on a planet on which 99 percent of all the species that have ever existed are now extinct. We may not have been on this planet for very long, relatively speaking. But we’ve certainly left our mark, literally and figuratively.

We’ve achieved great things.

We’ve done things no species has ever done before.

We’ve literally made islands within the sea, traveled into space, and reshaped entire landscapes to our whim.

Yes, we have been irresponsible and reckless, at times.

And yes, we still have much to learn. Being a fairly young species, we’re still maturing. We’re still charting our own path. We will encounter more obstacles. We’ll also endure plenty of setbacks, some of which will leave future generations distraught and distressed.

But we are still in position to achieve so much more. We may very well be capable of succeeding in ways no previous species on this planet has ever succeeded. We may take control of our own evolution, transcend the limits of biology, and build greater wonders than we can possibly imagine.

Those reading this may not live to see it, but you will still have played a role in helping this vast species we call humanity succeed. That’s something to be proud of. But it should also grant us perspective.

We are still very vulnerable to so many dangers, some of which we create ourselves and some of which are inherent to the universe we live in. But let’s not shy away from these dangers or the challenges they bring. Let’s also not dwell incessantly on the morbid past, but let’s not forget it either.

Every individual is so complex in their own sense of being. Add 8 billion of those individuals to the mix and the complexities become exponentially greater.

But through it all, we’re still here. We still made it this far.

There’s so much more ahead of us. Let’s make our way towards it. While one human alone can only ever achieve so much. The possibilities for 8 billion humans and counting promises to be so much greater.

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How To Know When A Crisis Is (NOT) A Crisis

Anyone who watches the news for more than 15 minutes will probably hear about some dire new crisis that’s going to utterly destroy society, their way of life, or the entire world.

One day, it’s some terrifying new disease. The other, it’s some environmental catastrophe. Every now and then, you’ll even get someone saying we’re creating the robots that will eventually kill us all. That, or we’re just seeing a trailer for a new “Terminator” movie. These days, it’s kind of hard to tell the difference.

There are so many unfolding catastrophes in this world. When you look at history, recent and ancient alike, and see how close we’ve come to destroying ourselves, it feels like a goddamn miracle that we’re still in one piece. Thanks to the news, the internet, and Roland Emmerich movies, it feels like any day could be the day where aliens, asteroids, and earthquakes decide humanity’s run is over.

However, that day hasn’t come. Aliens, diseases, and global warming hasn’t killed us yet. Can we at least stop for a moment to appreciate that? Whether it’s the news media, disaster movies, or boredom, most people don’t realize just how much progress we’ve made as a species. We realize even less that the driving force behind that progress is something that will also solve future problems.

It’s kind of our not-so-dirty secret-that-shouldn’t-be-a-secret. We’re all so used to hearing about a new crisis that we should worry about, but we rarely hear about the solutions. We hear even less about the problems that humanity actually solved because who wants to hear about those? It’s not like human triumph sells or anything.

I could go on for multiple post about how fear is a lucrative industry, from slasher movies to stories about bear attacks. I’d rather give people a sense of hope and leave the depressing nihilism to street preachers, cable news, and grunge rock. Instead, I want to focus on the secret weapon that humanity has to solve a major crisis.

For a point of reference, let me list a few major problems that once filled humanity with an existential dread, only to be solved to the widespread cheers of no one.

Remember the dire threat we faced when a hole in the ozone layer formed in the arctic? Well, we’ve largely solved that problem.

Remember the dire threat we faced with acid rain? We solved that too.

Remember when AIDS, SARS, and bird flu were deemed the plague that would wipe out humanity? Well, thanks to modern medicine, we’ve either solved it or contained it.

Remember how for most of human history, we were always just one bad harvest away from a horrific famine? Well, most people don’t remember that, but we solved that problem anyway.

Then, there are the ongoing problems that we haven’t solved, but are making considerable progress. Every now and then, we’ll be reminded that it’s still a problem, but we’ll rarely acknowledge the progress. Make no mistake, though. That progress is there.

Issues like climate change are still a problem. Thanks to the growth of green energy and improvements in efficiency, we’re making slow, yet steady progress.

Issues like factory farming, over-fishing, and the animal cruelty that goes with it is a problem. We’re dealing with that too through advances in synthetic meats and vertical farming.

Few issues generate as many headlines and/or first world guilt than global poverty. However, thanks to advances in modern economies and an unprecedented decline in war, the number of people living in poverty has decreased significantly.

Again, you probably don’t hear about these stories and it’s not just because fear sells better than hope. A lot of these problems weren’t solved overnight with a single, brilliant idea. That may work in reruns of “House” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” but that’s not how real progress works.

Real progress takes time. It happens gradually. It’s like a shoulder massage that turns into an orgy at the Playboy Mansion. It doesn’t happen all at once. We don’t entirely understand how we get there. We just stop thinking about it and enjoy the fruits of that progress.

That’s entirely understandable. When you find yourself in a room with Channing Tatum, High Jackman, and a half-dozen naked bikini models, you tend not to care how you got there. You just smile, take your clothes off, and start enjoying yourself.

Now, I’m all for getting naked and enjoying the moment as much as the next guy. Put me in a room where dancing, nudity, and cold beer are all celebrated and I’ll be the first to overlook whatever progress led me there. However, I think it’s worth taking a moment to understand when a crisis is truly dire.

I don’t deny for a second that when the problems I mentioned above were first explored, they seemed pretty damn daunting. Anyone who knows the history of famines, disease, or environmental catastrophes would’ve spent an hour or so in the fetal position listening to old Evanescence songs.

Then, once the dread wears off and the music gets old, those same people would’ve gotten up, rolled up their sleeves, and gotten to work. That’s because, as fearful as we can be, we generally like living in a world that’s comfortable enough for life, love, and bacon-flavored lube.  We’re very motivated to work towards that kind of world and not just because we’re hungry, horny, or lonely.

So how do we do it? How does humanity solve these problems or even begin to solve them? How the hell is it that we’ve made as much progress as we have, especially over the last century? Moreover, how can we know whether humanity will solve all the other overwhelming problems we’re facing now?

These questions are all actually very easy to answer. In fact, I’ve even come up with a simple checklist that anyone can use to figure out whether a problem is solvable. When looking at a problem from afar, ask yourself the following three questions.

  1. Can the problem be solved with a new tool or an improvement to an existing tool?

  2. Would the tool that solves the problem violate the known laws of physics?

  3. Is there a non-zero incentive to make that tool?

If the answer to all three of these questions is yes, or even kind of, then go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief. That crisis, whatever it may be, will be solved in some form or another. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t happen in a single eureka moment. It’ll still happen though and for a very good reason.

Say what you will about the flaws in humanity. I certainly do on this blog, from the deficiencies in our bodies to our outdated marriage practices. However, there is one skill that humanity is objectively good at, so much so that it has made us the dominant species on this planet by an obscene margin.

We humans make awesome tools. We know how to build amazing things. Say what you will about a beaver dam, a spider web, or an ant colony. They don’t hold a candle to the Hoover Dam or a solar powered vibrator.

A lot of the seemingly unsolvable problems of the past were, for the most part, solved by tool. We developed cleaner, more efficient cars. We developed more efficient farming techniques. We developed more effective medicines.

That effort hasn’t stopped either. We’re still making newer and better tools every day. Tools like CRISPR could potentially cure hundreds of diseases. There may very well come a day where someone dying of genetic diseases will be as rare as someone dying of small pox.

Other tools, such as better batteries, more efficient light bulbs, and advances in nuclear power, will cut down on pollution and generate cleaner energy. Given the incentives to breathe clean air, as well as the massive profits to be made, we can expect those tools to put a major dent in the various environmental disasters that seem to crop up every single day.

Even problems on a smaller scale, such as head injuries in professional football, could be solved with better tools. The human brain, and the body as a whole, isn’t a rough-cut diamond that can never be repaired once flawed. It’s a hunk of malleable biomatter. Fixing it requires tools and make no mistake. Smart, well-paid people are working on it.

Thankfully, making tools is one of mankind’s greatest skills. To say a problem is insurmountable is like saying a sixth round draft pick from Michigan could never win five Super Bowls and marry a supermodel. Even if you hate Tom Brady’s guts, he is living proof that insurmountable obstacles are a relative, if not outright flawed concept.

Now, I don’t mean to say that humans will overcome everything. As soon as I post this article, a gamma ray burst from across the galaxy, a super volcano could erupt in Yellowstone, or an asteroid the size of Montana could crash into the planet, killing us all. These are major problems that we probably can’t solve, even with our awesome tools.

However, with all the doom-saying in the world and a new crisis emerging at least once a week, let’s not let humanity’s strength’s overshadow its flaws. Let’s not cower in fear when we don’t have to.

If a problem can be solved by a tool, then we humans are uniquely equipped to solve it. If there’s time, motivation, and resources to work with, we’ll solve it eventually. It may take a while and involve many setbacks, but we’ll eventually succeed. Lions maul zebras. Terminators terminate their targets. Humans build awesome tools to solve big problems. That’s something to be proud of.

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