71 Comments
Sep 15·edited Sep 15

(1) This post is about "insular fertile subcultures" (Orthodox Jews, Amish) which is not what we normally think of as communism, so you've chosen a clickbait title. You mention that state industrial communism was *not* successful at increasing fertility.

(2) You predict world population would peak in 30 years? The UN predicts a peak at 10.4 billion in the mid-2080s, which would be closer to 60 years: https://www.un.org/en/global-issues/population . The US Census Bureau https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popproj.html only predicts out to 2060, but predicts US population will be increasing all that time. And that's not just from immigration - the US Census Bureau predicts the "natural increase" (US births - US deaths) will also be positive, at least as far as 2060. This "natural increase" is currently positive for the US. The US Census Bureau predicts the natural increase will reach a minimum of around 400,000 net lives per year around 2050 and then begin to *increase* again, picking up speed, due to shift towards more fertile demographics.

(3) We can't project population estimates hundreds of years into the future. Literally anything could happen in that time. Climate catastrophe, running out of oil, running out of forests, nuclear war, AI apocalypse, engineered super-plague, genetic engineering and cloning of humans, extreme lifespan extension.

(4) Low-tech farming communities can only succeed as long as they have high-tech allies to protect them. Otherwise, high-tech enemies will take their land. Just reproducing a lot is useless in the face of a superior technological foe.

(5) If low fertility results from a genetically-programmed belief that we could be kings and queens and need to get status and power before children, we should see a strong selection pressure for people who *don't* happen to have the genes driving that behavior. This selection pressure would result in a more fertile general population without the need for fertile insular subcultures.

(6) Earth is probably already at a human population too high to sustain in the long-term. It will have to go down sometime, when the resources start running out. Better that it come down by lack of reproduction, than that it come down by mass starvation or war.

But I agree that fertile insular subcultures are likely to continue to increase in population, at least for the next few decades.

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Sep 16·edited Sep 16

Darwinian forces should solve population decline, if technology doesn't first. Let's posit there is some genetic basis to a woman's innate desire to have kids. (This is distinct from her desire for sex, which because of contraception no longer implies fertility.) In a traditional culture where women had few options, this factor had little impact on her fertility, which was high in any case.

The situation becomes dramatically different when women have reproductive choice. Now this genetic factor has a profound effect on fertility: Whereas every woman used to have 7 kids for reasons outside her control, now most women have 0.7 and a woman with a high maternal desire has 3 or 4.

It's like the white/black moth example: put an organism into the right environment with the right selective pressures, and evolution happens very, very quickly. Throughout human history we've never really selected for women with a high innate desire for kids, because they didn't have much of a choice. Now they do, and the selective pressure will be extremely high. Expect that within a few hundred years, women (and men) who have a higher innate desire for children will be much larger share of the population.

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I think something important that is left out of this analysis is that the fertile subcultures that exist today, are only a small subset of the possible set of fertile cultures, namely those that can survive on the fringes of a bigger subculture, this probably explains why many of the subcultures listed seem so "progressive" so to speak, that is a more extreme subculture would likely have been destroyed by the larger society. Relatedly I think if you even look at the more extreme groups such as the FLDS or say other fundamentalist LDS groups, they are pretty progressive by historical standards and yet are being constantly attacked for being too regressive and such. I suspect as these insular groups grow you will start to see some of them become less "progressive" in ways that still allow them to avoid triggering the maladaptive set of heuristics, this is perhaps even more of a reason for moderns to be concerned about such a future. I also don't think its too unlikely that DNA evolution could occur fast enough to be relevant, which would have all sorts of strange consequences.

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Start taxing religions / churches. I bet that will help in many many ways, for the future.

Politicians are too scared because the cults have a power hold across the world, especially with influence.

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Won’t it just be VC’s funding young women to move to network states and pop them out? Seems less like communism to me than Fertility Capitalism.

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Don’t you see pro-natalist fascism as an alternative to the possible future of birth and civilization collapse? For instance, a repressive regime could restrict female agency and force them to have higher fertility rates under threat of severe penalties, something certainly not feasible in liberal democracies, but maybe a possibility for public policy choice in an authoritarian panopticon. Maybe the Chinese system could be proven to be more resilient to modernity and defeat the Western model if they choose this path and solve their fertility issues. I believe that a repressive Leviathan could actually present solutions to this problem in a way shorter span than your model of organic cultural evolution.

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I will re-express this in more general way: persistent regression on military power is almost imposible. Any future with a military technology less developed than that of 1950 is imposible, except perhaps a post nuclear war one, and even that is unlikely. All scenarios of future shall be compatible with the extreme selective pressures among political systems. That is precisely “History”.

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Oct 1·edited Oct 1

1. Could you elaborate on prestige status versus dominance status? It strikes me that prestige is one means to assert dominance. Listen to the person that knows what's going on. Everyone wants an Ivy League degree, because it indicates a level of intellectual prestige, and everyone prefers a smart king if they have to be ruled.

2. The consequences of the trigger (like invest in status over more children) may be more than necessary to explain much of the fertility decline. More parsimonious would be overinflated self-evaluation. Everyone has candidate/not candidate ranges on the mate distribution. If I am at percentile X, but self-evaluate at percentile Y (Y > X), then not only am I cutting out actual candidates that are on par or greater than my true reproductive value (Y - X % of population), I'm also restricting myself to a range with a very low likelihood of accepting me as a mate: P(X_signal | Y). Could get fancy and manipulate X's signaling skill, or account for people at Y with inflated self-valuation, but you get the point. Finding a mate may take longer, perhaps never.

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> This cultural displacement may involve a lot of conflict

It is not only conflict but likely a general loss of human values and universal human rights.

My understanding of how societies arrive at human rights is that in larger and more heterogenous societies the only common denominator are these idealistic far-mode rights. Depite being far they do serve to unite and lead to actual guarantees and processes. More insular cultures don't need them structurally and thus the loss of them seems likely.

Table of some charters of rights:

https://chat.openai.com/share/3bf52812-50ed-47e6-a6e9-e230c49c6285

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Worth mentioning that the best predictor of fertility isn't wealth, but female education. If this holds iver the next century, the obvious real-world implications are far different.

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As the economy continues to grow faster than the population the market, governments or a combination of both could find ways to produce cheap labor prefaced by big advances in simulated minds, material sciences and/or biotechnology. That doesn’t discount “Commune-ism”, it could still be the norm in large sections of society in such a future. I guess it would depend on if cost of living keeps trending down.

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A lot of this analysis doesn't apply to orthodox jewish communities

A) they don't tend to be small communities nor do they tend to be agrarian- they're almost exclusively urban

B) while more "litvish" communities don't have a clearly delineated hierarchy, chassidic communities do complete with an "altar rebbe" (a chief rabbi) and "meyuchas" (noble isn't a literal translation of the word, but they are treated as such in matchmaking) families, commanding large dowries and high value partners. But there is no difference in fertility (in fact hassidish fertility may be higher)

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I think this is a quite plausible scenario in general. What it fails to take into account is that in the several century timespan we should have a decent chance at radical life extension.

I haven't created a model, but even a few more decades of reproductive window per person would drastically improve fertility. At even more extreme cases even if families tend to have one children at any point, they will be able to raise 3+ if they have a fertility window of a century.

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I'm not convinced the best reproductive strategy for a medieval baron would have been a bid for the throne, surely he already has ample resources to support lots of kids. Also, is there even a strong trade of between and social advancement and having children? I doubt a baron would be inverting much time personally in raising them.

If anything, it's the peasants that have the most incentive to limit fertility it seems to me, as a hedge against resource scarcity.

Couldn't you tell a story where higher inequality sends signals to take less risk, and attempt to raise fewer kids?

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It is not so bleak. Liberal metaculture recruits people from these subcultures at some non-zero rate. Liberal metaculture doesn't have to be super strong to act as a middle man and negotiating ground for illiberal subcultures to engage in positive sum trades.

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Seems to me the whole argument assumes a static society where knowledge and tech do not advance (no super intelligent AI and no advanced robotics doing most essential jobs in the future) and thus any conclusions are dodgy at best.

An 1850 estimate of the horse population of New York City in 1950 would have been laughable in hindsight. Seems to me a likely global population for humans in 2123 is either zero (all digital persons or all dead from a disaster) or some huge number of transhuman persons and perhaps few un-enhanced humans living in a commune somewhere just as there are still a few horses wandering about NYC.

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