Elon Musk, dad of 6 and Time’s 2021 Person of the Year, told the audience at a Wall Street Journal event on Dec. 7 that he believes people aren’t having enough kids and that ‘there aren’t enough people.’
Really? On a planet straining under the weight of almost 8 billion people? With all those people creating and unable to stop climate change? What could possibly be his reasons? “Just look at the data”, he said. I searched and searched. Story after story stops before the hard evidence. There are the old tropes like the ‘aging population’. So what, we add more people to service the old? Sounds like a ponzi scheme, doesn’t it? ‘Labour shortage leading to economic decline’ is another one. With so many people, how can there be a labour shortage? His Telsa Bot ‘humanoid robot’ is designed to replace workers. Which is why Musk says most people will need to be on a Universal Basic Income.
The press is full of hype about falling fertility rates. Here in Queensland, there are calls for a baby bonus. People are forgetting that the world’s population is growing by about 80 million people every year. The U.N. projects a world population of 9-11 billion.
How could Time’s Person of the Year Elon Musk have things so out of perspective?
Musk’s high profile is unsurprising. He’s the richest man in the world. With Tesla, he proved EVs could take over. He is revolutionizing space travel. He has tens of millions of Twitter followers. He has a double major in physics and economics. He’s been a workaholic to achieve all this. It has propelled him into the global policy space. But does all that qualify him for this new role? Has he had time to sit back, relax and reflect? Has his reading been mostly technical? It would seem so. He appears to lack a well-rounded information base.
The answer may lie in the addiction to construction. It pervades our culture and yet there is little conscious awareness of it. It is why so many believe in the falsehood that without growth, there is no prosperity. Richard Heinberg’s new book Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival is instructive. He analyzes power, “our pursuit of it, our overuse of it, and our abuse of it.” “We humans are nature’s supreme power addicts.” But there is hope. He describes the self-limiting mechanisms in nature that prevent power leading to self-destruction. For example, most viruses don’t over-power their hosts. “Beauty, compassion, and inspiration can influence or motivate human behavior.” These are powers of a very different kind. “By better understanding power, I believe we can gain a clearer view of the human condition, reaping not just knowledge, but perspective and perhaps even wisdom.”
Elon Musk may be a genius. But there’s something seriously missing.
Heinberg’s words are worth remembering:
That causative agent is power—our pursuit of it, our overuse of it, and our abuse of it. In this book, I argue that all the problems mentioned above, and others as well, are problems of power. We humans are nature’s supreme power addicts. Power—the ability to do something, the ability to get someone else to do something, or the ability to prevent someone else from doing something—is everywhere in the human world. We obsess over power in its various forms, from wealth to governmental authority to weaponry to the concentrated energy sources that make modern industrial societies run. We seek power in many ways. But doing so often gets us into trouble. And it may be our downfall as a species.Introduction to Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival