The dead still outnumber the living

Good news for zombies:

There are currently seven billion people alive today and the Population Reference Bureau estimates that about 107 billion people have ever lived.

This means that we are nowhere near close to having more alive than dead. In fact, there are 15 dead people for every person living. We surpassed seven billion dead way back between 8000BC and AD1.

In "2001: A Space Odyssey", Arthur C Clark makes the assertion: "Behind every man now alive stand 30 ghosts, for that is the ratio by which the dead outnumber the living." But Ms Baldwin points out he was not wrong. "He was making his statement in 1968. There were maybe 3.5 billion people currently living on earth so if you use our method, that would be one living person to 29 dead."

And will we ever reach a point where there are more alive than dead? This would imply a very high rate of population growth. "Could we imagine a carrying capacity of the Earth of 100-150 billion? I find that quite unimaginable."

They're counting from 50,000 years ago, "behaviorally modern humans", instead of from 200,000 years ago, "anatomically modern humans", which seems iffy to me.


Tags: ,

8 Responses:

  1. NelC says:

    I'm not sure that extending the start point back 150,000 years would make much difference. If the average human population during that period was 100,000, and the average lifespan was 35 years, then that only adds a quarter of a billion extra zombies, or a small fraction of one of Clarke's ghosts. (Disclaimer: IANA demographer.)

    • zompist says:

      You can probably apply the estimates from the table in the article. For 8000 BC they show 1.1 billiion people since the last date, 50000 BC. So they've got about a billion people per 50K years of hunting/gathering; thus, a max of 3 billion more by extending the timeline back to 200K BC. More than your estimate, but still inconsiderable.

      On the other hand, hunter-gatherers were healthier than agriculturalists, so they'd probably be tougher zombies.

  2. Larry Hosken says:

    There must be some mistake. Laurie Anderson sings that the living outnumber the dead. Not the other way around.

  3. Pavel says:

    Then you add uploaded consciousnesses to the mix, and everything just gets weird.

  4. paul says:

    Still too many people however you slice it!

  5. DFB says:

    I want to know when proto-humans acquired choreography.