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The global fertility rate is falling (bbc.com)
485 points by jelliclesfarm 71 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 820 comments



It is disturbing that people take for granted that this is an economic problem. This thread is full of people lamenting the fact that we could support X times as many people as we do now if we all just sacrifice Y.

When I look around the world today, I think the biggest resource that is lacking is economic opportunity. Huge swathes of people are desperate, angry, and depressed, I think because there is no opportunity for them. The best case scenario for huge numbers of people is stagnation.

A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down. Bad for the investor class looking for profits, good for reducing economic inequality. People will be able to profit from labor again.

The techno utopian solution of allocating everyone a 20 m^2 apartment, a vr headset, and 1500 calories of soylent per day is going to be a disaster unless you also allocate everyone some future drugs to keep them sedated.


I do believe it is an economic problem, in that people are not secure in their job, housing, and life enough to bring new people into it.

Think Maslow's wotsit of needs. And I think back on where I grew up, what my parents did; they got married early 20's, and were financially secure enough in blue-collar jobs to afford a house twice the size of the one I managed to finally buy at age 32. With that house and the luxury of being able to make ends meet on a single income, they were able to raise three kids.

Meanwhile nowadays a lot of people have to work their ass off just to keep afloat. You can't have a healthy relationship if you don't have the time or energy for it, you can't raise kids in a shitty shared apartment, you shouldn't have kids if you can't take care of them because you have to work.


This is the main reason I never want kids. I'm just not sure I'll ever be secure enough while young enough to really care for them. Student loans being the main killer; if I could get rid of them and buy a house, things might be different.

But, more than that, I'm also not sure if I'll ever be secure enough to make sure they're secure in the future that seems inevitably coming, with regards to global warming, etc. I just feel it isn't responsible currently.


Having kids took us from “will retire comfortably, probably early, without seriously having to sacrifice for it” to “uh, might retire only a little late, somewhat comfortably, with great effort and luck?” We’re also at much greater risk, financially. On both counts healthcare costs/risks are a big part of why (lost wages and direct costs for childcare are are #1 on the cost side, though). Friggin’ American healthcare system.


I also had/have reservations for the same reason before having children. If I didn’t pair up with another high earner, I would not have tried to have children, as I believe the labor market is too volatile.

I also would have wanted to spare them the effects of climate change/societal turbulence, but partner wanted kids so I said sure, but I wonder if that was the right call sometimes.


In India, student loans have mainly been in demand from people seeking an MS degree in the US. But things are changing, and education is getting more expensive across the board, and I do worry about my kids. My immediate reaction right now is to save enough fuck-you money for my kids so that they don't have to get into the education rat race at all. I don't know how that will work, if at all, but that's the best I can do. If they choose to spend the money I saved on expensive degrees, I hope collectively as a family, we know what we are getting into.


The correlation goes the other way. The poorer the country the more children people tend to have.


"A nyomor nyomort szül" - Poverty breeds poverty - Hungarian proverb


> The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down. Bad for the investor class looking for profits, good for reducing economic inequality. People will be able to profit from labor again.

I'm not so sure about that.

Loads of wealth is consolidated at the top, both in terms of economic class and age. People who got their jobs and attained management positions after barely graduating high school are demanding bachelor's or master's degrees for jobs that will barely pay rent. Landowners bought up when it was cheap and refuse to lower prices or sell for below what they think it's worth, even going as far as evicting people during a pandemic, knowing full well those units might not be filled in months or years, if ever. Some young people will get to a point where they can buy stuff up and work their way up the ladder, but there will be plenty more people who have it all given to them by those who established themselves when it was easier. I don't expect the next generation to be any more compassionate.

There are already endless reports of there being insufficient workers for agricultural jobs, nursing, teachers, etc. Wages haven't risen to meet the demand. They've remained stagnant or dropped in the long term. Meanwhile, those at the top are richer than ever.

Wealth at the top is often created by rent seeking. Just extracting money without actually making anything. I'm pretty confident that if the number of workers dropped and demand for labor increased, they'd just squeeze harder. Shut out the ones who didn't make it and terrify the ones who've managed to hold a job about the possibilities of what'll happen should they quit.

People are already getting paid more being unemployed. Employers are trying to get people to work for them again while offering them less than unemployment pays. They're not even trying to compete because they know people are going to come desperately crawling back.


I think we need to ask ourselves why some of those things are the case.

Why are the same jobs requiring higher levels of education now than they did in the past? If you've worked these jobs you know they don't require anything past a highschool education.

Why is housing seen as something that must constantly increase in value? It doesn't, we've been through housing bubbles but people still cling to this belief and continue to pump air into the bubbles with speculation based on it. If you've owned a home you know that it is a constant sink for money just to maintain its existing state let alone what it costs to upgrade it to modern standards as it ages.

What is driving people away from the sectors you mentioned? Is it only lack of pay? Why are we not funding these sectors when they are so essential to the functioning of our society? Where is the existing funding going, specifically whose pockets does it wind up in?

Why don't employers offer higher wages? Are they really being greedy or are their profits going to something else like rent or other business costs?

I don't think this is entirely to be laid at the feet of the richest members of society. Yes they protect their own interests but all of us are responsible for ensuring that our communities continue to function and improve. We've neglected that responsibility, we've all collectively failed. We all have to work together to fix this, blaming one group or the other will solve nothing.


"Why are we not funding these sectors when they are so essential to the functioning of our society? Where is the existing funding going, specifically whose pockets does it wind up in?"

Because there is no capitalist imperative to keep people alive. If investors and landowners can't make any money producing food, then no food will be produced beyond that which is needed to feed the investors and landowners.


Yes!


> There are already endless reports of there being insufficient workers for agricultural jobs, nursing, teachers, etc. Wages haven't risen to meet the demand. They've remained stagnant or dropped in the long term. Meanwhile, those at the top are richer than ever.

Who do you think is responsible for those reports? It's employers who have enough labor for now, but foresee a more competitive labor market in the future & don't want to have to raise wages.

> People are already getting paid more being unemployed. Employers are trying to get people to work for them again while offering them less than unemployment pays. They're not even trying to compete because they know people are going to come desperately crawling back.

People don't eternally just walk around in blind terror of being unemployed, irrespective of the labor market. If the labor market gets tight, economics and history indicate that wages will adjust.


You are thinking very short term and in a very narrow range of conditions around our current economic situation.

We have never seen economic conditions remotely close to what we would see if the population were actually shrinking.


It's not actually that unusual for a country to have a shrinking population. Italy, Croatia, Lithuania, and a few other central and Eastern European countries currently have declining populations, as does Japan, some due to ageing and a drop in fertility and some due to that plus emigration. Economically and socially they've not entered into the death spiral some people seem to think will happen and are actually doing alright. Countries with declining populations due to war, economic collapse etc. are a different matter but in those cases the decline in population is a symptom not a cause. The transition to a shrinking world population will happen gradually over a period of decades and at different times in different areas of the works giving us plenty of time to for economic and social structures to adapt to deal with it. If it were to happen over night we would be in trouble but it won't.


It's a question of degree. I think the article is kinda hand-wringy, but not incorrect in the attention they're giving to orders of magnitude. You've got to remember that if a country like Spain halves in population, that's a colossal shift from A to B, to the extent that each decade will feel like a fairly major leap on its own. I don't think it'll be a death spiral, but it'll definitely absorb resources that otherwise could be directed to advancements, rather than preventing retrenchments. And that's assuming the rate of change doesn't cause nonlinear effects of its own.

Also, if Spain halves, it may well be that other countries shrink even further. You've also got to wonder about the distribution of old folk: some countries will end up with far more extreme distributions than others, but what I suspect we'll find is that, just as there's a quality of life level above which the reproduction rate decreases, there'll be a population level below which the quality of life decreases, so it'll self-correct.


We haven't even seen this scenario play out yet. I'm from the region and I don't think it will turn into some Fallout-type scenario, but I think it will definitely impact the well-being of all citizens in these countries, some 20-30 years from now. It's hard to say yet if/how these countries will recover.


I live in Croatia. Its population has been shrinking since 1991. Almost 30 years of unchecked population decline and it's still not an apocalyptic hellhole.

In spite of entrenched corruption and other issues, standards of living and wages have gone up, even as the government does everything it can to destroy nascent industry and chase that tourism nickle.

The more old people die, the more domestic opportunity there is for the younger generation, and the lower the tax burden on young workers.

Honestly, I'm not sure population decline is something Croatia can afford to "recover from".


Those aren't related. I'm from Romania, which has:

1. A higher population population than Croatia. 2. Higher emigration than Croatia. 3. A lower fertility rate than Croatia.

And yes, the economy is going up despite people becoming old, dying, or just leaving the country. But the reason for that is temporary, it's because Croatia, just like Romania, is still a developing country, you're converting low productivity workers to higher productivity ones.

But how long do you think this can last? What happens when active people are 1/3rd of the population or less and there are no more easy gains to be had?

I just said that things won't look like in Fallout, so why are you even mentioning "apocalyptic hellhole"?

A country doesn't lose 20% or more of its population without major changes happening. It's extremely optimistic to hope that there won't be at least some major negative changes.


> What happens when active people are 1/3rd of the population or less and there are no more easy gains to be had?

Old people retire, opening up jobs for younger workers. Old people die, freeing up housing stock and capital and tax money. And these will happen long before Croatia or Romania achiever maximum productivity. There's plenty of fat left to be trimmed.

As long as the sustained rate of youth emigration is below the mortality rate -- or marginally higher while the country continues to develop -- conditions should improve for working age people (ignoring the chaos of politics).

But perhaps I'm misunderstanding your implication or just not thinking this through. Could you elaborate on some of the negatives?


I’m also from Croatia...we actually had population growth in early nineties and we are losing more people to emigration rather than natural decline. It’s myopic to think that population decline doesn’t harm us. It puts rural areas in vicious cycle of losing population -> smaller economic base -> losing population due to no economic opportunities. Also cohort of women able to give birth declines even faster thus preventing any future recovery.

I live in a small town that is almost 1700 years old. Something is very wrong if we are unable to maintain or grow our population while living in unprecedented luxury and wealth compared to historical norms.


We're unable to grow our population largely because of that unprecedented wealth. Children are no longer seen as an insurance policy, and young people are better educated, choosier about their partners, and more likely to utilize birth control.

I agree that it is sad that rural areas continue to die out -- I live in an island, so I feel this keenly -- but objectively, is that such a bad thing?

Communities don't have an innate right to exist in perpetuity, and it would be an unsustainable resource nightmare if we tried to keep them all alive.

After all, it's because of rural flight that we have huge tracts of natural parks like Velebit. That's a resource that enriches the commons, even if it came at the cost of some individual welfare. It's also vastly better for the planet.

But I feel I'm missing something. What are some more of the downsides?


We have a good enough understanding of capitalism to know that the average person will not benefit from a shrinking labour pool. You have no clue just how devastating a shrinking population would be to an economy where the real average wage hasn't increased in 40 year.


The economy in Britain improved after the black death wiped out half the population.


The black death didn't discriminate and wiped out people of all social statuses equally. It upset power balances rapidly.

Barring absolute chaos, people can generally plan for years and decades from now. Declining population is something we all know is coming. Those with wealth will, for the most part, hold onto it. Those born into wealth will, for the most part, hold onto it. Japan is always mentioned as the prime example of declining population in these threads, and while the population is declining and demand for labor is increasing, wages are not rising but poverty is. Maybe it'll change 10 or 20 years from now, but the trend is downwards for the average person.


That's true but I think which bit of the population remains matters.

The demographic impact of a plague is pretty much the exact opposite of economic flight. In a plague the fittest and healthiest survive and are unencumbered by the elderly and unfit, but in a demographic flight the fittest and healthiest leave. Similarly in a birth rate collapse the demographics shift towards the elderly and away from the young and fit.


That was under feudalism, not capitalism.


So change the economic system? The balls to the wall neoliberal, winner takes all, no safety net model that the Anglo American world has been moving towards for the past thirty years is not the only one. The Anglo American post war consensus model which was more redistributory correlated with higher growth rates (not saying it caused them, kinda hard to tell) while the Northern European corporatist, Scandinavian mixed model and Japanese corporatist models have all been successful in both creating economic growth and distributing that wealth more evenly amongst the population. It has always entertained me that the one thing that the average Marxist and neo liberal share is a belief that there is only one type of capitalism.


But neither the Northern European nor Japanese models can cope with negative real growth in consumption. Nor negative real growth in savings.

There is a fundamental issue in capitalism that there must always be growth. Without growth, the entire concept of investment breaks down and the business cycle cannot continue. You could totally replace it with something that isn't capitalism, but that's not a small endeavor and won't happen without massive conflict.

Our current reality is that if the population shrinks significantly, there is a good likelihood that will happen.


> There are already endless reports of there being insufficient workers for agricultural jobs, nursing, teachers, etc. Wages haven't risen to meet the demand. They've remained stagnant or dropped in the long term. Meanwhile, those at the top are richer than ever.

Insufficient/shrinking supply of a good, but prices going down instead of up? What economics are in play here?


Inelastic demand and cartel behavior. People require jobs to survive; survival is an inelastic good; businesses know this; they work together to suppress wages to as close to subsistence level as possible.


> The techno utopian solution of allocating everyone a 20 m^2 apartment, a vr headset, and 1500 calories of soylent per day is going to be a disaster unless you also allocate everyone some future drugs to keep them sedated.

I don't know if you live in California, but I think that there's sort of a reality distortion field that comes with living in a big and expensive city.

Here in Georgia the rents are cheap and people seem to be moderately satisfied. A little money goes a long way. You can own acres of land dirt cheap and do with it whatever you want.


I grew up in Georgia (metro suburbs and later GT in Atlanta) and moved to the Bay Area two years ago. Georgia offers a very nice quality of life at a great price, but in my opinion the Bay Area has it beat in absolute terms on just about everything except friendliness: food, weather, nature, jobs, art, culture, proximity to other interesting places (further drive but more interesting when you get there), universities, international diversity. I’m not trying to disparage Georgia — in fact I’m currently attempting to relocate there as a remote worker for my current company to be closer to family since we just had our first child. But I really can’t think of a whole lot about my time living in Georgia that I prefer over living in the Bay Area except that my family happens to be there and all of the great memories I have of growing up with them.


The bay area probably beats GA if you're in the tech industry.

If I were a plumber, accountant, teacher, or anyone else who isn't on the tech gravy train I wouldn't want to deal with it.


The Bay Area part of that comment is a redherring - yes it's a popular destination here on HN but there are much more financially accessible areas in California that bring 90-99% of the same climate, cultural benefits, and metropolitan amenities as SF like the San Diego, Los Angeles, and Orange counties. I think the most unique things SF has for the general population is mass transit and walkability, which is a real crapshoot in the rest of the state.

In San Diego, for example, you can buy a 2+ acre property with a decent house that's 20-40 minutes away from the beach and downtown with all the operas, sportsball, and meetups/events you could want, excellent weather year round, and still be a part of the 5th largest economy in the world, only a few hours drive from Los Angeles or short flight to SF. It's not as cheap as Georgia but it's not San Francisco: the aforementioned exurban property can be had for half a million which would also get you a decent townhouse somewhere in the suburbs of Los Angeles or Orange county. There are a lot more plumbers, teachers, accountants, out here with property than there are engineers in SF - and they receive 80%+ of the benefits of California with only 20% of the hassle.


>food, weather, nature, jobs, art, culture, proximity to other interesting places (further drive but more interesting when you get there), universities, international diversity

With a little either self-starting or help from the local authorities, there's no reason another town/city/state couldn't have these unless there is such destitution it's in some kind of death spiral.

Every place has it's own niche, their own culture, and not to put the blame on you but too many people go "I'll move to a place that is already nice" and escape trying to build up where they come from or another small place.

And don't get me wrong, it would take more than an individual or a small group to turn a place around and you may be genuinely moving away from an unfixable, bad situation, but too many people I graduated with from high school/college think everyone needs to pile on the Golden Coast to make it and live an enjoyable life.

But maybe I'm curmudgeonly and a little antisocial even at 23.


I didn’t move away from a bad situation at all. I liked living in Georgia. It’s just that I like living in the Bay Area better.

Also, one of the major reasons I like Redwood City is the almost constant sunshine and moderate temperatures. That has a really positive effect on my mood, especially during the winter. There’s no way to get that in the southeast short of altering the climate.


Who wants to live in Georgia though? I mean this unironically, there's not much to do in terms of entertainment and opportunities for a young 20 yo vs LA or NY


Perhaps some 80% of global population would be very grateful to relocate to Georgia.


I know Americans on the internet usually view their country with rose-shaded glasses but this comment has to take the price. I don't know the number, don't think anyone does, but off the people I know, 100% would never want to move to any state in the US. Probably the real number of people wanting to immigrate to the US is closer to 0% than 100%.


It doesn't really make sense to try to pinpoint an exact number, but I think you are right in answering to another subtly different question: the real people that would move, given just the opportunity, and nothing more. E.g. my grandmother would not move, most non-white people would face racial difficulties there that might not be present in their home country and would not consider moving, a lawyer might not be able to maintain a bar status there, etc.

But if you read your parent post caritatively, and the context to which it is responding, they are discussing just location - so the implicit question is more of "would a random world citizen complain about moving to Georgia, in the conditions that a US citizen would move (belonging to society, job prospects, no issues with recognition of citizenship, education, job experience, no language issues, etc. etc.)". He is just answering to the dismissal of the Georgia standard of living.

So yeah, answering to that second question, and speaking as a western european, I do think that most (more than 50%) of my acquaintances would take the chance (I think this because most barriers would be being far from friends and family and language issues, but following the spirit of the initial complaint, we are talking about an american who already lives probably far away from friends and family, in LA or NY). Obviously this is also just opinion and I did not run a poll, but I thought the rose-shaded glasses thing was a red herring.


The people you know are almost certainly not representative of the world at large. Maybe 80% is a bit high, but the number is certainly over 50%. The median global person earns less than $3000/year.


> The people you know are almost certainly not representative of the world at large

Yeah, most certainly.

> The median global person earns less than $3000/year

What does that have to do with anything? In plenty of places you can easily survive and have a good time with $3000/year, so not sure where or how this is relevant.

And how you get the "certainly over 50%" number from? You happen to be American too?


That figure is adjusted for cost of living.


It's not very usefull to make a point of: "unlike you, some people have to live under tyrany or war"

My bet is that of people living in functioning democracies, the percentage will be in like 20-25%.


Perhaps, but that's not really relevant since the vast majority of people do not live in well functioning democracies.

Your post sounds like an assumption like "the people who live in war are a small minority so their position is an exception compared to humanity in general" when actually it's the opposite, the people who live in the well functioning first world democracies are a small minority so their position is an exception compared to humanity in general.


In that case leaders of USSR could use the same line to boast about their country.

In the 60s-70s life in USSR was better than in China, India, virtuall all of Africa and Latin America.


Yes, the leaders of USSR could do that and did just that, but I don't understand what this has got to do with any challenges to the original assertion that large quantities of people worldwide would be "very grateful to relocate to Georgia" - they would be. At the moment despite all the immigration restrictions that USA has implemented, the Green Card queue indicates a mass willingness to become residents of USA.

It's not about boasting, it's about whether USA can rely on people wanting to immigrate to ensure that places like Georgia stay sufficiently populated even if population naturally declines - and IMHO they can.


Depending on who you ask, percentage of people living in functioning democracies would be 0-10%.


Probably much higher for those living in the UK with its insane housing prices (10x the hours worked per square meter of Chicago!)


15% of the world wants to move to another country. Of those, 20% want to move to the United States, the most desired location. The second most desired destination is Canada with 6%. More stats here: https://news.gallup.com/poll/245255/750-million-worldwide-mi...

One wonders who is wearing the reality-distorting glasses on HN. ;)


Thank you for proving my point, indeed HN (and the internet) is filled with the reality-distorted glasses :)


I'd gladly live in Georgia. I'm no longer 20 but that's beside the point :-)


Georgia would be ok. As long as I were in a more rural part. I don't much care for Atlanta. I would take Texas over Georgia.


Isn't Atlanta a major metropolitan city? I would assume that many of the same opportunities present in LA or NY wold be available there. I live in Portland, OR and there are tons of 20 year olds here and we are a very very tiny city.


Portland is very very tiny? It has 600k people. That's larger than Atlanta.


The Atlanta metropolitan area is home to more than 6 million people and is the ninth-largest metropolitan area in the nation. Portland is located in the 25th.


Sure, but 25th largest city in the US is not "very very tiny". I grew up in a township of 4k people. That would be what I consider very very tiny. I was nearby a city of 30k people. I considered it a decently large city.


You're right, but the point is that Atlanta is overall larger than Portland in terms of being a major metropolitan area. The original post was talking about ATL's largeness and number of opportunities for youth.


Metro Atlanta is 10x that. Atlanta proper is tiny compared to the suburbs which sprawl for miles where most people live.


I can drive around the entirety of downtown Portland in about 5-10 minutes (depending on traffic). It would take at least an hour to drive around downtown Atlanta.


As someone that lives there let me tell you there is no "downtown" Atlanta. There is a neighborhood called Downtown, but it's one of three (four, or maybe even five, depending on who you ask) major, dense business and retail districts in the city limits, and even more in the suburbs. And yeah, would take you about an hour to hit all of them. Probably more with traffic.

It's a very polycentric city. Kind of throws people off when they first come here.

and LOL at the guy saying "no one wants to live in Georgia." This is what happens when you don't ever leave the Bay.


I’m thinking of driving the 285 loop around Atlanta.


Maybe most people in Portland live outside of downtown. Or maybe Portland just has better traffic management.

This route around downtown Portland Google estimates will take 22 minutes:

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/45.49314,-122.6699199/45.492...

This route around downtown and midtown Atlanta Google estimates will take 25 minutes:

https://www.google.com/maps/dir/33.7440027,-84.4006901/33.74...


No way. The 285 around Atlanta is 66 miles long.

The 5 and 405 around downtown Portland can be driven in under 10 minutes under ideal circumstances.

Also, your google map link for Portland is bizarre. I honestly have no idea what that route is supposed to represent. It definitely isn’t any route someone would take who was trying to circle downtown Portland.


Both of those routes are trying to contain the tall buildings inside and the single family homes outside. If you expand the route I drew around Atlanta very much in any direction you start to include single family homes.

285 around Atalanta encloses forests and suburbs, a lot more than just downtown.


Anecdote I was told, shows how quickly cities can grow into metroplexes.

Back when Interstate 285 was built, it was a 2 lane road out in the middle of nowhere for the truckers going from Florida north to be able to bypass Atlanta traffic.

Kids could play hopscotch for multiple minutes to hours before moving off to the let the singular car go by.

285 was the orbit of pluto, separating sleepy suburbs from the great flyover nothingness that people ascribe to the empty swathes of, say, Nevada (?).

Nowadays, 285 is more like going from outer core of earth to inner core. Moving from 285s westernmost terminus further west, the analogy of Pluto's orbit is more like Carrollton GA.

Atlanta the city is small. Atlanta as natives know it is large.

Dallas-Forth Worth TX is a twin sister in terms of growth rate but also bigger on an absolute scale.


It's so interesting that the rich elites need to be entertained so much. You can have a good life just about anywhere. Only boring people get bored.


There's a burgeoning film industry (well, at least there was before COVID hit pause on it), thriving nightlife, beaches... a pretty big tech sector in Alpharetta (northern suburb of ATL)... lots of opportunities for Black creators (and creators of all colors obviously) and individuals as there's a lot of existing infrastructure for people who want to get started in music, film, arts, entrepreneurship, et. It's only a red state because of voter suppression, which is a topic for another day, but that's the truth.

The fact that people on this forum don't really know what the world looks like outside of the Bay Area and Boston is concerning. God forbid someone ever describe Illinois the way you just described Georgia. Hordes of angry Chicagoans with deep dish from Giordano's are gonna flood this thread.


Giordano's is crap. Lou Malnati's is where it's at.

Seriously, though: First chance we got, the wife and I fled Chicago. Great hospitality, fun culture and reasonable diversity (for the Midwest), but the weather is awful but for two decent weeks per year (aka "spring" and "fall"), the lake is disgusting, two centuries of unchecked industrialization have made the place a gigantic Superfund site, and the lack of unspoiled nature is disconcerting.

People's needs differ. We left a lot of very good friends behind who adore the place and have no need for mountains, streams, oceans, beaches, wilderness, etc.


I see this idea here in several places. Effectively "more money = more kids"

There is ZERO evidence that's the case. In fact all evidence points to the opposite. The more money people have the less likely they are to have children.

I'm not suggesting that we should therefore lower people's incomes. Only suggesting that the idea that his has anything do with lacking economic opportunity has zero basis in fact.

The richer a country gets, the less kids they have, period.

---

follow up: According to this

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Income_and_fertility

birth rates do rise at some level of income but not enough to cover deaths.

Here's some other charts to look at

https://ourworldindata.org/fertility-rate

---

To put in another way, let's wonder if we lived in a post scarcity society and everyone had all they needed and more. Would the birth rate explode? Would it go up a bunch? Would it hit the replacement level? I suppose it's all speculation but my reading of the data it is would not hit the replacement level.

Basically, for whatever reason, people that are well educated and well off want children less than those that don't for whatever reason.


The “more money == more kids” hypothesis comes from the observation that women are typically having fewer kids than they reportedly want to have, implying that something is holding them back from having the number of kids they want.

In places like America, the cost of childcare is commonly pointed to. However this phenomenon is common enough across multiple countries with different labor arrangements that I genuinely doubt its just the cost.


Adam Smith mentions explicitly in 1776 how "women of stature tire after having 2 or 3 children, if any at all. Poor women have up to 20" (couldn't find the literal quote).


> Huge swathes of people are desperate, angry, and depressed, I think because there is no opportunity for them.

As a slight digression, mental health is particularly dire because culturally we have not learned how to advance it yet. Mental health is not given the same reverence as physical health.

It's common sense more or less that you need to drink water, eat healthy food, get good sleep, get exercise. Some people don't do it, but it's well known that you should.

What do you do for mental health? Take some time off occasionally? There is simply not an equivalent body of knowledge as what is needed for physical healthiness.

If the industrial revolution made food abundant and jobs sedentary such that obesity is a problem, the information revolution made similar problems for mental health- but we don't spread awareness because being depressed or anxious isn't as visible as being obese.


IMO, as someone who has struggled with mental health problems throughout my life, the needs of good mental health are pretty easy to understand but extremely difficult to achieve.

Good mental health comes from feeling loved and needed and having a purpose in life. Love can come from one person or a community but it's absolutely essential. Having a purpose and feeling needed are as important as having the time and energy to feel like you're living up to these obligations.

I feel like the idea of communities has all but been broken down. Similarly with purpose. Simply working to achieve more comfort doesn't seem to be a fulfilling purpose. Most people work just to get by without any sense of what they're doing is important. People are generally made to feel replaceable and powerless.

I have no idea how to solve these problems as I feel like they are fundamental problems of our society. How can you feel necessary when you compare yourself to billions of others instead of 100s? How do you feel connected to other people when you don't even know your neighbors?

I can tell you what I try to do for myself. First, I make sure I'm being healthy. I get enough sleep, exercise regularly, and cook a large portion of my meals. I try to prioritize my relationships with other people over work. Within my work, I left software to start a company that made me feel more connected with the people benefiting from my work. I still struggle with mental health a lot but when I look at where my life was 10 years ago to now, I feel a much deeper sense of fulfillment.


IMO, purpose in life as motivation to live is a double edged sword. It motivates someone for sure, but when he/she lost the very purpose, depression comes, even suicidal thoughts.

Which is why I like the concept of Dukkha in Buddhist, that knowing how meaningless I am can make me enjoy life more and not caring too much unimportant things, such as comparing myself with billionaires.


For me, purpose comes from my impact on other people. Is it positive? Does my existence lower the suffering of others? I don't think purpose should be comparative.

I'm not very familiar with Buddhism so I appreciate you sharing. For philosophy, I tend to look more at Stoicism. What I take away from Stoicism as it relates to purpose, is that how you live your life is more important than the things you accomplish. Living a virtuous life can be a purpose onto itself.


To add to that, even if we can technically support a lot more people with the sustainable resources we have, which I personally doubt, getting close to our max capacity means we will have zero wiggle room when things go wrong. With climate change accelerating and guaranteed to cause drastic changes to our environment, a lot of things will go wrong at the same time.

The analogy I like is your income/spending ratio. Yes, you can technically spend 100% of your income, or even >100% with debt. But if you choose to live like that, then when you get laid off, or get sick/disabled, or divorced, or forced to start caring for a relative, or have your house burn down, then all of a sudden what's already a major emergency is exacerbated by financial issues.

Decreasing our population now is like increasing our savings rate. We know difficult times are coming. Fewer people will only help us navigate the transition more humanely and equitably. Not only is this true from a macro/global scale, but also a micro/family scale where it's obvious that having more kids than you can afford or have time to raise is its own kind of cruelty.

Anyway, if you're choosing to have kids, one is enough. The real winners adopt.


Also, I can't see any of our problems going away or getting better/solved with more people.


> Anyway, if you're choosing to have kids, one is enough. The real winners adopt.

Not from an evolutionary standpoint, lol


Meh. The continuation of the species is more important than some silly desire to mix my own DNA into a new human. A kind of corollary to the Gay Uncle theory.

I also consider the memes > genes in terms of leaving a legacy. Shaping a kid's mindset doesn't require them to share half of your genes.


I can appreciate the idea that one's work can (potentially) function as a superior alternative to children, with respect to legacy. In general, I'm all for elevating the rational part of Human mind. On the other hand, I think it's dangerous to describe the reproductive priorities of the "primitive" mind as a "silly desire". To put it more concretely, imagine a husband who has just learned that the children he's dedicated years of financial, emotional, and educational support are not his own. Imagine the gamut of emotions that cross his mind: anger/hatred toward his wife's deception; the humiliation that comes from being deceived; the conflict that comes from both loving the children, yet despising them for what they represent. How do you think that man would respond if you told him that his feelings were the consequence of a "silly desire". It's all well and good to have a world with gay uncles that support their nephews and nieces; but somebody's gotta make those nephews and nieces.


> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down. Bad for the investor class looking for profits, good for reducing economic inequality. People will be able to profit from labor again.

An economy exists to fulfill human needs of various kinds-- making stuff, providing services, etc. Old people intensively consume (medical services, etc) and don't produce anymore. Getting too high of a ratio of old people therefore has some impacts beyond equilibrium labor prices.


The problem with the economic line of thinking is:

Why do peasants in Africa have more children than Lawyers in New York? Builders in Arkensas have more kids than tech workers in San Francisco?

Poor people in general have more kids than rich people. It doesn't fit the data.


>Why do peasants in Africa have more children than Lawyers in New York

Because below a certain agricultural productivity level having more kids is actually beneficial for your economic success. Once you get over a certain productivity level it makes sense to have fewer kids and invest in them moving up the economic ladder.

>Builders in Arkensas have more kids than tech workers in San Francisco?

Because the cost of every warm body in a household in SF is completely asinine so people have fewer kids than they would like to.


Poor people in San Francisco have more kids than rich people in San Francisco. The explanation just doesn't fit the data.


I was assuming you knew that your comparison of a builder in Arkansas or a programmer in SF was intended to be a comparison of two people not at the top of the income ladder but reasonably financially secure.

Poor people everywhere have more kids than richer people in the same places because various welfare programs make the net cost of each kid less. There's also a massive cost cliff once you get below the threshold at which parents have enough income to justify saving for their kids college.

That doesn't mean family sizes aren't smaller in high cost areas. This is a well known trend.


I posted anecdotes to contextualise the trend. I don't really think there's much point in getting hung up on them because my point is: poor people have more kids, on average, and this trend holds pretty much everywhere. The real question is: what is it about being rich that causes you to have less kids?


>what is it about being rich that causes you to have less kids?

Are we talking locally rich or globally rich?

People in industrialized (rich) nations don't have tons of kids because that's not how you get ahead in that kind of economy. Subsistence farmers have tons of kids because that's how they get ahead economically.

Within richer nations richer people have fewer kids because the way social safety nets and social expectations of how one should raise one's kids make kids more expensive the higher up you go.


Well, the relationship holds at every level. It's true within and across societies. It doesn't matter if we're talking locally rich or globally rich.

I'm skeptical of local explanations because the relationship is so universal.


I understand that the real reason is Women’s education. The more education a woman has the more life options she has. Uneducated women have lots of kids, educated women tend to have fewer.


I thought the relationship between wealth & offspring was actually stronger for men, but I might be wrong about that.


Rich people tend to think they're going to have high quality kids and K select as opposed to the R selection the poor use? /not entirely serious


"it's in the very poorest places that you're going to have a tripling in population ... it's amazingly as children survive, parents feel like they'll have enough kids to support them in their old age. And so they choose to have less children."

https://www.gatesnotes.com/about-bill-gates/a-conversation-w...


I actually don't agree with that diagnosis. I think the very poorest people genuinely can't access contraception. Once you get above a fairly low level and the pill becomes affordable, something else becomes the bigger factor.

I just don't buy that very poor people ration out sex under a precise calculation of how many kids they want. Doesn't fit my observations of how humans behave. Most people fuck because they're horny, or because their husband is horny and they need his support to survive, or frankly because they're so poor they have to sell themselves. HIV is a bigger risk than not having children in old age, most Africans know that, but that doesn't stop it either.


> Once you get above a fairly low level and the pill becomes affordable, something else becomes the bigger factor.

The life choices of women are an important factor. Having both a career and children is still difficult today and more women choose careers.


Poor people beget more poor people. That's the economic data point right there.

The reason peasants in Africa have more children is manifold: from religion and lack of knowledge preventing contraception to outright necessity, because in these regions child labour is a thing.

A for developed countries: again, multiple reasons with religion still being right up there.


You can't just draw a parallel between a poor agricultural worker and a New York Lawyer, because obviously there are a thousand confounding factors, anything from education to where is the nearestvdoctor, so general stavility of the country.


> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down.

An ageing population likely consumes less. The demand for goods will go down and the demand for labor will likely remain constant for a shrinking workforce. Asset prices will crash if future demand does not keep up with current valuations. This is not just bad for the investor class, this is bad for anyone who relies on the modern banking and financial systems.


Lack of economic opportunity is largely a man made problem due to poor social institutions. Unfortunately a reduced population size won’t fix that.


I think we've come to opposite conclusions.

Fewer children increases unequality. Less children means, that inheritance does not spread across several people. To the contrary, it consolidates within an ever shrinking size of the population. And because as of today it's capital ownership and not work that makes you rich (with few exceptions), higher demand for work might not be enough to offset this development.


> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down. Bad for the investor class looking for profits, good for reducing economic inequality. People will be able to profit from labor again.

There is historical evidence of this, like consequences of the Black Death:

"Another notable consequence of the Black Death was the raising of the real wage of England (due to the shortage of labour as a result of the reduction in population), a trait shared across Western Europe, which in general led to a real wage in 1450 that was unmatched in most countries until the 19th or 20th century. The higher wages for workers combined with sinking prices on grain products led to a problematic economic situation for the gentry."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Death_in_England


I'm not yet convinced the uneven distribution of economic opportunity is due to a fundamental shortage of opportunity. It reminds me of the food shortages in African states embroiled in conflict- there is enough food, but it is not distributed. A significant question of our time is how we might bring economic opportunity to distressed regions. The idea of remote work from rural areas is a simple conceptual example; increasing access to markets for isolated farmers is another.


> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down. Bad for the investor class looking for profits, good for reducing economic inequality. People will be able to profit from labor again.

Growing populations can also reduce wealth inequality and lessen the importance of inherited wealth. These are complicated issues, to be sure.


There is a lot of empty space on earth even before we start terraforming deserts or building floating cities, or colonizing other planets. So the malthusian fearmongering that we are all going to die due to lack of resources is simply false. Having X times more people doesn't lead to us sacrificing anything but to producing 2^X more art and sciense. Even for such a simple example as youtube videos, if population is reduced by half, majority of people who make living by producing videos will lose half of heir income, and will stop producing videos. Developing new cpus will become much harder because research cost would stay the same, and demand would be cut in half. Moreover drastic reduction of population in the parts of world that produce most of our science would put under question even the ability to maintain the technologies we have now.


Plenty of space, yes, but in zones where you don't have to worry about natural disaster seasons, or ridiculous supply chain issues (I'm thinking southwest US for water)? NE is no cakewalk in the winter but we generally don't have to worry about a hurricane decimating a whole city.

As far as production, remember the automation issue as well as the fact that, well, more content is great perhaps in smaller communities, but think of the absolute firehose the Internet is and how many creatives would want to be able to sustain off of a consistent fanbase at at least an average salary. If more (or everyone) becomes a Youtuber, does that itself reduce who is watching the vids, reduces payouts because of the sheer amount of content, and lead to a scarcity? AND MORE IMPORTANTLY: Is too much of the same type of thing being created (e.g., people used to one Nicki Minaj probably think it's great to have Saweetie and Meg Thee Stallion, but what if they get their own copycats/spinoff artists? Too much of the same thing at once?) I'm assuming economically both our scenarios would adjust to views in an increase/decrease in population.

Also throwing more people at the science situation doesn't necessarily help if we aren't training quality people in the field and resort to degree factories. Think about the sheer number of papers being published nowadays. I assume it is hard for them to keep up and who knows how much more bad science (or disinformation in general) would occur then.

Please put my Malthusian fears to rest!


Follow up to the scarcity mentality for creatives: I realized not everyone makes it, and there are varying shades of grey to that. But does that lead to more job stress on non-creative "day jobs" if people have to give up on the creative jobs? Everyone with their fifteen minutes of fame...if it is literally everyone. We already see that a bit with Youtube artists. At any given time there are a handful of big name rappers (or musicians in general) for instance, but how many lesser-knowns would love to continue doing this but can't financially?


> When I look around the world today, I think the biggest resource that is lacking is economic opportunity. Huge swathes of people are desperate, angry, and depressed, I think because there is no opportunity for them. The best case scenario for huge numbers of people is stagnation.

> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down. Bad for the investor class looking for profits, good for reducing economic inequality. People will be able to profit from labor again.

To a large extent, that lack of economic opportunity is a political choice that was made by the selection of particular parameters for the economic system. Trying to engineer a shrinking population to force different parameters to be chosen is an indirect way of addressing the true problem.


> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down. Bad for the investor class looking for profits, good for reducing economic inequality. People will be able to profit from labor again.

Except in terms of pure economics, labor won’t necessarily become more valuable, because with less population there will be less consumption and less demand for goods. So even though the dwindling supply of labor will have an upward effect on labor’s value, the dwindling demand for goods will have a counteracting downward effect. And this will only be exacerbated by increased automation.

Economic inequality and lack of economic opportunity is going to be a problem regardless of the population growth rate, and the solution will require something more substantial than simply have less/more children.


The point about it being an aging population is that the proportion of consumers to producers will change. The demand for goods might shrink as an absolute value, but the demand for labour should increase more, as a higher proportion of the population just can't work. In addition, part of the demand which increases will be for forms of labour that we currently don't have an automation plan for.

To balance out the automation question, it's just as likely that technical advances will improve the ability of older people to do economically useful work that they want to do. There's a lot of mental horsepower, life experience, and will there, if you can work around physical and metabolic limitations.


> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down.

What leads you to believe demand for labor will rise with a shrinking population? Furthermore, why wouldn't most companies simply continue automating? While Japan certainly isn't comparable to most western nations, it's certainly a good example of the potential downsides of a shrinking, aging population. A growing one isn't possible forever, either; it will eventually level out. We've just been innovating so quickly our population hasn't had time to reach a new equilibrium.


I live in a small studio apartment in a city, don’t do drugs, and don’t have a VR headset. I’m very happy even when working from home, the two things that bother me the most are fear of losing my job and fear of losing my girlfriend.

Maybe some people aren’t happy without having a yard? There are plenty of plants around here though and there’s an entire block that’s left as just trees and grass for people to walk around in. Maybe without that I’d feel the same way.


A shrinking, aging population would in no way make this better. It would make it worse.

Aging societies spend more on healthcare, have a smaller working base, and typically don’t have the kind of growth that makes it easy to borrow money to invest in new things. The typical result is slow economic growth, high taxes, and low levels of services for workers.


Why would demand for labor go up in a society with a shrinking population? Both the labor market and the consumer market draw from the general population - so I would think that a shrinking population would cause both to decrease. The net per capita effect would be for things to stay the same.


fixed amount of work is required for some task in society and some work don't need to work for increasing demand (like make a drama).


I'm largely with you. I'm a bit annoyed with the BBC on this article. It seems like just last week overpopulation was a big problem. Now we are "ill-prepared for the global crash" and there will be a "jaw-dropping impact". Oy. No wonder people feel anxious.


> A shrinking, aging population would fix this problem. The demand for labor will go up, the supply will go down.

In the short term, absolutely. But after a generation, the old working population has retired and the smaller new working population cannot support them.


We are on the cusp of the next step of humanity (if we don't kill ourselves first).

I think this story lays out how that could look: https://marshallbrain.com/manna1.htm


A choice of two dystopias, yeay


Did you read the story all the way through? If we're going to live in a world dominated by AI/Automation it presents a compelling alternative to the current path.


[‘Ghost Houses’ Haunt a Rapidly Aging Japan](https://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/japanese-ghost-houses)


Pretty sad how this lie has propagated and caused so much misery and frankly mental disorders. Theres no better time to be born than today, period. All the rest are ravings of a madman.


> allocate everyone some future drugs to keep them sedated

Facebook, Netflix, and Xbox don't count? (Or HN, for that matter ;)


If you look at The Black Death - great for young workers. Shit for land owning royalty.

Same stuff


i think what will actually happen is that rich countries are gonna move ahead with robotics, additive manufacturing and nano

and countries that cant keep up will be left behind with starving useless populations

bonus points: theres gonna be severe fresh water shortage


This is the point I was about to make, but you've put it better than me.

As the traditional factory job disappears more and more, the aging population will provide a huge source of new caring/support jobs. We'll have to find a way to pay them a living wage, but then we had that problem with factory jobs in the early industrial revolution too.


The problem is care-jobs are incredibly low productivity.

The reason a worker today is paid more than 100 years ago is, essentially, just that they can produce/transact with more people at once.

A nurse "should" be paid what they were 100 years ago, as the number of transactions hasn't changed. The only reason they aren't is due to competition from productive sectors.

But those productive sectors need to exist! In a world where many people are doing such low-productivity jobs, everyone will be much poorer.


How can you compare productivity across functions, nevermore industries? Does a nurse produce less than a director of marketing? By what possible metric? Profit comes to mind, but I am hoping no one is inhuman enough to judge the medical care sector by its profits...


Profit is a measure of productivity, other things being equal.

A director of marketing creates a campaign which affects millions of transactions... so it's a function which can dramatically increase economic production.

It's pretty easy to compare productivity across industries. Leave what "should" be aside, when you're planning for the success of nations you cannot rely on Moral Bonuses.

The rate of economic activity (ie., people transacting with one another such that each has more than before) is measurable: it's called growth.

And you cannot grow by replacing highly productive industries with deeply unproductive ones. To pay for things we need the ratio of workers:transactions to increase.

Human history was severely impoverished because this was always a low number. We are wealthy today only because it is a higher one.


> To pay for things we need the ratio of workers:transactions to increase.

Human health is also a component of that inequation. How are you factoring that in with profit?

Also, all of that growth is meaningless unless it somehow makes people healthier and happier. So I would say that having a huge and successful healthcare industry is one of the goals of the rest of the economy (as are food production, entertainment, knowledge production and others).

So, if we have enough wealth but not enough healthcare, food, fun or knowledge, than we can trade some of that wealth for more important things, like healthcare workers, or garbage collection, or agricultural work, or mathematics research, etc. Or child care, though I suppose you view stay-at-home parents as deeply unproductive by this measure.


GDP growth is one of the most strongly correlated metrics with "health, happiness, mathematical research, etc."

Capitalism is the greatest force in history for increases in human wealth, happiness, abundance, etc., ie., for growth

Consider any metric of interest over the last century, and esp. the last 40 years: https://ourworldindata.org/


That only works because the data doesn't take into account any kind of shared wealth. Large swathes of people lived in tribal communities which had different concepts of ownership and property, but were not 'poor' by any common definition from their times. GDP data completely ignored these types of societies, which formed the majority in some areas of the world before colonization. Even then, most of the escapes from poverty have happened in state-run, dictatorial China and in the newly de-colonized India, so it is very hard to imagine how some can claim Capitalism is the important factor here.

Also, capitalism without explicit social goals imposed by a state is disastrous. Just look at the USA, with one of the worse and most expensive Healthcare systems out of the developed world, despite having by far the largest GDP (the only fully capitalist-run Healthcare system in the world!).

All of this is not to mention that capitalism is rapidly destroying our planet, with global warming, deforestation,river polution, oil spills, air pollution and other woes being fought for tooth-and-nail by most large companies.


Yes they were, extremely poor.

Child mortality rates and mortality rates in childbirth have been c. 20% for most of human history, up until c. 1940.

Almost all human beings for almost all recent history have been agricultural works (over 90% in 1800) which is a severe and precarious state.

If you wish to go before settlements into nomadic hunters and gatherers note that this cannot produce "mathematical research, healthcare, etc." -- ie., the desirable things stated.

At this point you're just pining to be a dog. You may prefer a shorter, more brutal, more violent life... but I think, rather, you just need a fantasy of a utopian "before time" to justify you enmity towards the status quo.

> how some can claim Capitalism is the important factor here.

Err... when do you think they started their massive reductions in poverty?

When they stopped blaming various other people an liberalized their markets (in china "The Capitalists" and in India "The British Empire"). Within a few years of introducing captialist reforms these societies dramatically reduced poverty.


according to that logic, lawyers, CEOs, line managers and HR should be paid what they were 100 years ago, as they do not directly produce. They're not, it's effectively through competition with other jobs that their pay is determined.

Intuitively, "pay according to productivity" makes sense, but productivity gains have far outpaced the pay of workers while the money went elsewhere. Let's face the reality that productivity prescribes the total sum that goes around but not how each individual's contribution is credited in a society.


> according to that logic, lawyers, CEOs, line managers and HR should be paid what they were 100 years ago

Is that not true? Carnegie and Rockefeller were even relatively richer than the CEOs are today, and I'm sure their lawyers were compensated for as well as today's richest lawyers as well.


yes, for almost all of human history wealth inequality has been (far) worse than it is today.

The only period of relatively more equality was post-WW2. Inequality then, as ever, has only been reduced by mass death -- either in the form of wars, or plagues, famines etc.

The mechanism of wealth acquisition, ie., investment /(preferential attachment), necessarily iterates towards increasing levels of inequality.


Er... no.

Your productivity is your effect on net increases in economic transactions. A CEO has a massive effect. Jeff Bezos can literally, right now, change the GDP of entire countries just by making a decision.

One minute of his time can raise or lower a country's economic activity.

> while the money went elsewhere

Did it? Productivity increases is still the reason people have rising wages.

That we don't see the 1:1 wage:productivity increases we used to (post-WW2), doesnt mean that productivity isnt still the key metric to be increasing.

As to why that is probably the form automation takes today has a lot to do with it, ie., that innovations in factories used to increase the productivity of working class people; now such increases accumulate to highly skilled workers.

Ironically, I think this makes my point: our economy has become politically unstable because of the relative increase of low-productivity labour. This would get much worse with people transitioning to care work.


We're going to be a multi-planetary species. All we need is people willing to take risks instead of peons trying to live a cosy, uneventful and "sustainable" life in their government-allocated single-room apartments. And having children really isn't a huge risk even for the most incompetent.


I mean in the middle ages if you had 12 children and a third survived, you've done well.


People had more children when there was less economic opportunity.


Birth rates in an era with birth control and women’s ability to have careers is not comparable to birth rates without birth control and when women could not work.


A reducing labor population really won't help the working class.

First of all, you'll be able to kiss your retirement bye bye.

Second of all, you would likely see decline of the economy in real terms. This will cause huge dysfunctions in capitalism, as there will not be an efficient way to invest.


If your retirement was predicated on a forever swelling population lifting your boat, then you actually didn't save enough to retire. Secure retirements shouldn't rely on paygo systems and infinite growth.


You can have a billion dollars worth of shares in amazon, hell you can have a billion dollars in cash. It isn't going to wipe your ass in a nursing home. Someone young will. If the people who do the work are downtrodden enough why would they bother participating in your scheme?


This is the one thing people seem to forget; people who work in places like nursing homes rarely do so because they have a dream of wiping old people's asses for a living. Instead, they do it because they need the money.

In a society where there are plenty of other well-paying jobs to be had, working at a nursing home won't be the popular choice. I expect the future to be interesting.


Some people have vocation for taking care of the old and the sick. Yes, they do it for the money, but they could have chosen something else, and yet they chose nursing because to them it is rewarding. Job satisfaction and doing good things for others are very important indicators for happiness.


Definitely. The people who want to work in nursing homes are probably outnumbered by the people that have to, however, and once the others leave, others will too, simply because the job will become unbearable. Combine that with increased numbers of retirees and fewer potential employees, and things could turn ugly real fast.

Personally, I'm preparing for a future where a nursing home isn't an option. Just in case.


Someone clearly hasn't seen what a healthy lifestyle can do for you: https://theculturetrip.com/asia/japan/articles/why-japans-ok...

It's common to equate old age with nursing homes and misery in the West.

Other cultures show that this needn't be the case at all and is - for the most part; there's still about 30% genetics involved - dependent on how you chose to spend your days. Less Netflix, Facebook, and convenience food, more exercise and healthy, non-processed food can get you much further than a billion dollars and medical personnel...


If an 80 year old no longer contributes to society, and all they have is pieces of paper indicating they used to contribute in the past, they are relying on people who do contribute (by fixing toilets, growing food whatever) to accept those pieces of paper. They will only do so if they feel they are getting enough of those pieces of paper, and if they will believe those pieces of paper will work in the future.

The health of that 80 year old is only relavent in terms of the amount of resources needed to move from the working class to the non-working class. The healther the aged, the fewer the resources. The higher the working:retired ratio, the fewer the resources.

What is to stop the adults under say 50 who have barely any capital at all (401ks, houses, shares, whatever) from saying "screw this, I'm off to $other_country where I don't live hand to mouth and have no future of retirement"

A country can not survive when 90% of its population are 80 years old, no matter how healthy or rich those people are, it means for every 10 hours an under-80 works, 9 hours is to produce goods and services for other people.


Goods and services do move across borders, though. A single country’s economy doesn’t exist in a sealed bottle. Those pieces of paper can be traded for foreign goods and services.

Now if the whole world was 90% elderly you might have a point.


That's the whole point of the article - immigration is no longer the solution, the ratio of working:retired is falling.


The issue is that large numbers of people, organizations, and governments have assumed a forever swelling population in their retirement plans. So, yes, like any time in history there will be individuals who haven't saved enough to retire. The issue is that a demographic contraction throws the large majority of retirees into crippling poverty, absent government intervention that allocates capital investment and workers' consumption toward retirees' consumption.

Obviously a forever swelling population is not model we can or should try to sustain, but reaching some kind of replacement-level equilibrium is sustainable and is much healthier for workers' and retirees' economic health.


Majority of working people live paycheck to paycheck, earning enough to pay for rent, food, and maybe a few beers on a friday night.

Any extra money from pay rises goes into spiraling rent costs cause by extra money from pay rises, which goes to those who own the rentable assets.

There is more than enough housing to go round. There is more than enough food to go round. There's more than enough beer to go round. Yet there are people working 100 hours a week sweeping floors that can barely pay for it.

There have to be better ways to distribute what's being generated (which is almost entirely from those ages 20-65) among the population without disenfranchising increasing numbers of those that actually do the work


Without a population at least being more or less constant, there is essentially no way at all that the average person can retire.

Why? Because if we all start saving enough to retire without relying on growth, then that has a deletrious impact on the economy that makes retirement even more difficult.

This is because no matter how much paper you have, you still need people to grow food, build houses and run services once you retire. If there are more retirees than working people, you're in deep trouble. The average person simply won't be able to retire, ever.


This article is quite exasperated, but doesn't say much. I'm far from an expert in this area, but here's what I've read elsewhere:

We're quickly moving from the population explosion problem to the population implosion problem. No one planned it or made it happen. But, it looks like we're not actually going to overflow the planet with people standing shoulder to shoulder. Instead, the problem we're facing moving forward is a combination of longer lifespans and less children shifting the elderly support structure from a pyramid to a column.

A big driver of this is people moving up in job prospects around the world. Clearly in rich nations like the US, Japan and UK couples are working more and putting off having kids. But, also in the poorer nations people are moving to the cities because that's where the jobs are. Once there, the combination of high rent and great reductions in child mortality means it doesn't make sense any more to have lots of kids hoping that a few survive long enough to work at a young age. Instead of having babies rapidly, women around the world are going to work to bring in that second income needed to pay the bills in the city.

It's great news, really. It's just really scary really great news because we don't know how to set up a society where there aren't enough young people to support the elderly.


Here are two scary storylines that get discussed pretty regularly here on HN:

a) AI and machine learning will raise productivity so much that they will steal millions of jobs from people.

b) Global population will eventually go into decline, which will crash the economy by killing growth.

But, these two stories look far less scary when considered together. In fact they seem directly complementary, although the timing is not likely to work out perfectly, so it won't necessarily be smooth sailing along the way.


C) We will develop anti-aging treatments due to increased funding of SENS and similar projects. Combine that with a universal basic income and robots and you get a much better picture of the future.

Edit: we are also not taking into account artificial gestation methods that may be developed in the next 100 years. In 2120 it may seem as barbaric as child labor and other 19th century atrocities to actually have a woman carry through a pregnancy, not to say that religious fundamentalists will want to continue the practice.


If we are able to keep people alive for much, much longer but don't find a way to make their brains young and elastic again, we're going to be in for a very, very special kind of dystopia.


“Anti-aging” implies keeping people younger, not just delaying death.


If AI takes jobs, it doesn't cause wealth to be redistributed, it causes wealth to flow upwards to the person who owns the AI.

That might then be redistributed, but it might also not. Whether it is or isn't is largely up to the people who have the most power. In that system, which group has the most power?


In democratic societies the majority decides how resources are distributed. If they can understand where their interests actually lie it shouldn’t be a problem.


If you put a referendum to the people tomorrow, saying "should we tax billionaires more than other people, and spend it on you," you'd get an overwhelming yes. The fact we don't have policies like that show the majority aren't deciding that distribution.

But you're also assuming society stays democratic. Why would it, if enough power is aggregated at the top? Who's going to stop them if they decide to form a cabal?


But if AI is intelligent, is owning AI slavery?

If an AI is self-improving, why should it have an owner?

If AI improved itself, who owns the copyright?


"Should" doesn't matter. All that matters is how power is actually distributed.


Thats what the French aristocracy said, and eventually they found their head on a pike.


Sure, because the populace had more power than they thought, and they organised. It didn't matter how rich the aristocracy were, they couldn't buy enough loyalty to defend themselves. Down the line you probably will be able to buy a robot army, and robots aren't squishy.


AI is just one piece of increased productivity. Even without AGI there are paths that could lead to 3x productivity faster than the population would go down by 66%.

There are other issues with an older age distribution which cannot be fixed by productivity though. There could be an oversupply of 5 bedroom homes for example.


Or consider the alternative scenario where population keeps declining but technological advancement doesn't materialize. Which for AI and machine learning could happen soon with another 'AI winter' after people realize only narrow set of opportunities to deploy it.

The stability of society depends on technological progress and more children born in each new generation. Once this global Ponzi scheme reverses there is an incentive to manufacture lies about massive technological progress ahead of us. See buzzwords such as autonomous cars, industry 4.0 or quantum computing.


Even with another AI winter I can’t see that automation isn’t going to continue for a long time.


now if we could just get the robots to pay social security


Well we can. Someone owns the robots (or owns shares in the corporation that owns the robots). Just change the tax code to make Social Security tax apply to all income, including capital gains, with no upper limit.


The reason why capital income is not subject to social isurance taxes is because it is fundamentally an insurance scheme. People who earn mostly wages need social insurance in retirement (when they would not be physically able to work), so they (have to) pay it, while people who earn mostly capital income do not need it (as capital income does not depend on personal health / fitness to work).

Therefore extending social insurance taxes to capital income without extending pension payments to capital earners would be unfair. Local politicians tried something similar - remove caps on social insurance, while keeping pensions capped / strongly sublinear, and it was struck down by constitutional court.

Perhaps reasonable solution would be to split pensions to tax-based UBI, and smaller contribution based 'linear' pensions.


> now if we could just get the robots to pay social security

It's called “taxing capital” and we can (logically; whether we have the political will is a different question.)


Political will quickly arises if there is loud public demand for it.


That is not true in the US. What happens in the senate has low overlap with what the public wants compared with what donors/lobbyists want.


US economic policy has an almost null correlation with public demand (and interest, really.)


It’s almost as if we should redistribute profits from the robots universally to provide some level of basic income.


It's already happening though - commodity/consumable prices are far lower in real terms today compared to the previous decades.


Firstly that has nothing to do with redistribution.

Secondly total cost of living in a major city has gone up, not down, due to rent and realestate. Sure, i can but more polypropyl, bread and stainless steel, but what good is that if i have nowhere to live.


You jest, but the economic effects of all of this are severe. A total regression in the real-estate market (because stagnant demographics means the existing housing stock will roughly suffice or even exceed demand) will have severe effects.

Basically the end to growing demand, and thus essentially an end to growth-orientated capitalism.


My long term prediction is that once the boomers start dying off in droves, we'll face a real estate crisis as their houses flood the market...and many less desirable neighborhoods throughout suburbia will turn into mini ghost towns.


I come from northern Italy and during my relatively brief lifetime (length(life.qubex)>40) I’ve seen this happen to formerly exclusive “Beverly Hills”-type affluent residential areas (and un/gated communities). Enormous, cavernous hangar-sized homes that used to be worth millions of euros now struggling to sell for a couple hundred thousand.


You're describing Japan, now. Large numbers of abandoned houses, towns in rural areas emptying out, and the process is accelerating. An interesting article: https://spikejapan.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/yubari-withering...


I only half jest, but this demographic situation is one of the reasons I support liberal immigration policies.


That fails when every country has falling birth rates


Swedish authorities did a study about this for that very reason. The conclusion was that it's unlikely that people will want to move halfway across the World only go get a job changing old peoples' diapers.

Alas, the PDF seems to have been taken off-line.


Counterpoint: major world problems like climate change are a direct result of having too many people, and more specifically having too many people living unsustainable lifestyles. Worse, a large percentage of the world's population is now moving out of sustainable living into unsustainable living as a result of globalization (as people gain more wealth, they tend to want things like more meat and driving a car).

The net result is that a decreasing population is a good thing for the planet, but a bad thing for economics.


> Counterpoint: major world problems like climate change are a direct result of having too many people

Not exactly. The bottom 85% (in income terms) of the global population contribute very little to unsustainability. There are too many people in OECD countries, perhaps.


That is also partly because bottom 50% don't have decent lifestyles. Try commuting for 1.5 hrs in packed local trains in Mumbai and you will definitely wish for a slightly higher carbon footprint in exchange for a better quality of life. Off course, USA standards is unsustainable for the world, but at the least Japanese standards of living are like human rights.


The bottom 85% of the global population contribute very little to unsustainability, TODAY.

They are going to dominate unsustainability in the next few decades.

More coal fired power plants were built in Africa in the last decade than all other continents combined.


> The bottom 85% (in income terms) of the global population contribute very little to unsustainability.

Is that true? What percent do they contribute?


This should give you a rough idea.

https://www.overshootday.org/newsroom/country-overshoot-days...

> Not all countries will have an overshoot day. By way of the country overshoot equation above, a country will only have an overshoot day if their Ecological Footprint per person is greater than global biocapacity per person (1.63 gha).

There’s a lot of countries not listed, i.e they do not overshoot.


I'm still wrapping my head around the meaning of those overshoot days.

A person's ecological footprint is a multifaceted thing for which I think a single number cannot necessarily provide a very meaningful summary.

But here's some other data, that considers only CO2 emissions: https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emi...

It groups by country rather than income level but, reading between the lines, it seems to me almost certain that the bottom 85% (in income) of people emit more than half of the global total.

BTW it is important to consider that a large fraction of the emissions from countries like China and India are in the service of consumption in wealthy western countries. But, I googled, and even in a famously export-heavy country like China, exports only account for 17% of the GDP.


The rapid and massive increase in the number of global middle class is why virtual everything will be important for the planet. If virtual services and experiences become almost as useful and enjoyable as the real world, people will burn less fuel and cause less negative externalities.

(They could be better as well! Even those who enjoy traveling, for example, don’t care for the hassles of airport queuing, getting stuck in sardine-like plane seats, finding laundry places, etc.)

Obviously, real-world experiences necessary for genuine, long-term human connections should remain.

Note: Although the birth rate is falling, the number of global middle class is expected to rise a great deal in the next few decades, largely due to rapid economic development.


This is very interesting, and unexpected at the surface level. Especially with all the doom and gloom we've always been fed about the world population getting out of control, consuming all the resources, polluting the planet into oblivion, etc.

I was expecting to read about medical/health reasons why men and women are literally becoming less fertile, but it's not that. It sounds like it's a side effect of countries/societies advancing technologically and socially. It makes sense, but I just never visualized it like that in my head. Wow, what a great problem to have!

But as you say, it is a problem, just in other ways we might not have considered before. It will be interesting to see how we figure out how to restructure society as the demographics shift. But this seems like it could be a very good thing for the environment, climate change, resource management, etc. Overall, seems like positive new to me!


> Especially with all the doom and gloom we've always been fed

Which is still true, if the billion Indians and Billion Chinese start having American lifestyles, that is just not sustainable for the planet.


I fully expect the Indian and Chinese population coming into wealth will go through a period of fairly outrageous conspicuous consumption. I have a hope that it will be fast-forwarded compared to the past 70 years of American history. Hopefully after a decade-long warmup and another decade of settling in, the novelty will wear off and there will be a move away from focusing on "More Stuff!" and toward focusing on "Less Clutter, More Experiences!"


> Hopefully after a decade-long warmup and another decade of settling in, the novelty will wear off and there will be a move away from focusing on "More Stuff!" and toward focusing on "Less Clutter, More Experiences!"

The western world hasn't even moved past that stage, so I highly doubt developing countries will move through it quickly.


Ironically, it is cheaper to have "more stuff" than to have "less clutter, more experiences!".


If those experiences involve moving mass long distances (such as flying to South America and hiking the Andes), then it’s all the same.

I don’t see any environmental reprieve short of drastic reductions in consumptions, including travel.


Good thing that high-speed rail and other land transport infrastructure is being built in order to connect the entirety of Eurasia and eventually Africa, with sufficient throughput to feed multiple US economies.


India and China are both projected to have a <1B population by 2100.


These projections do not account for increase in life expectancy. India is projected to peak at 1.7 b, if you consider Indian subcontinent as an entity, it puts the population of South Asia at 2.25 b. Not a good sight when coupled with unreliable climate, water scarcity, unlivable summer temperatures and no direct opportunities which means corruption may lead to feudalism of the yore.


> These projections do not account for increase in life expectancy.

That's inaccurate. The study in the link, which has those predictions:

https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6...

See the Mortality section.

Yes, India will peak at 1.7 billion, but then begin to decrease. That peak happens in 2050, which is closer to our 2020 than 2100.


I think by 2100 we have either solved this problem or is too late. I guess most likely the latter but there is still hope.


I suppose that is a possibility. Declining population doesn’t necessarily guarantee declining resource usage.


Heh, they killed a lot of their women so that really puts a cap on how quickly they could grow.


  No one planned it or made it happen
are you serious ? UN planned this since the 70' there's policies and support for developing countries at the global scale for implementing birth control


Hmmm... Maybe.

It seems to me that birth control itself was developed for the needs of rich countries. And, the UN pushed it into poor countries because they obviously needed it too. That did help reduce unwanted pregnancies. But, until the reduction in child mortality and the mass move of couples to cities, families were still motivated to intentionally have lots of babies.


The "population implosion" problem is only so because of the economic obligations that will be passed on. I'm actually surprised that the US/UK elite, with their grand history in funding Eugenics research, didn't fund studies that'd portend this uncertain fate - then again may be it's just not published.


this is fantastic news. Yes, we don’t know how to properly adapt yet, but this planet resources are limited and we aren’t good at sharing them.

What worries me is that long term this can be reversed just like current trend is reversing away from population growth. Current trend seems to be driven by job prospects, education and costs of raising kids. But what if in a future we all had basic income? No need to worry about food, shelter or education for your children. Won’t this lead to population growing again?


Why would it? Do you imagine people enjoy raising four kids or more? Children used to be old-age insurance. You needed so many to be certain some of them would survive, thrive, and take care of you in old age. If your needs are met, either through a good pension or UBI, you can have as many kids as you prefer. And by all indications, for most people that's actually around the natural replacement level, or fewer.


> for most people that's actually around the natural replacement level, or fewer.

Not sure where that number comes from. 2.5 is probably closer to the natural trend. Physical constraints (food, disease, etc) limited human expansion previously. The economic constraints that cause a min-max of not having kids will never be A. universal, B. persistent. A couple generations of baby recession won't impact the fate of humanity one bit. Not sure why there's so much faux concern over a fixable (and likely temporary) situation. You give a tax break of 50% on capital gains per child and the kids will be popping from the higher economic rungs.


> You give a tax break of 50% on capital gains per child and the kids will be popping from the higher economic rungs

Of course, with a perversely positive incentive like that. But it tells us nothing of the natural impulse in a neutral environment.

In a lot of the western world there is plenty of support for having kids. Ample child care leave, solid monetary support, free or affordable child care and schooling. And in the countries which have most of this, the birth rate is low but not catastrophically so. (see Germany, the Nordics..)

Whereas in the US and Japan, for example, there are certainly structural factors that now weigh against having kids. But it does not tell us much about the "default state"


I don’t think there is such a thing as a default state. What would a neutral environment even look like?


The Hacker News comment section tends to be factual, rational, and logical.

So - this may be out of place, but here goes.

When making decisions about whether or not to have children, we operate in a state of partial information. (This is of course true of all decisions.)

I would like to contribute a bit of information.

I'm 66, and have three children and four grandchildren. My adult children are the most wonderful people I know, and it is comforting to be aware that we will be part of each others' lives forever. I spent a lot of time in assisted living facilities with my mother as her health failed, and I saw a lot of old people in those facilities with no one to visit them. It is comforting to know that I will not spend my final years in loneliness and isolation.

Our grandchildren are an unalloyed joy. We have two 3-year-old identical twin grand-daughters, and they are working their way through the nuances and finer points of grammar. It is indescribably adorable to see their efforts at expressing their detailed and elaborate thoughts. My grandsons are seriously into aviation, and I've become the go-to aerodynamics consultant. Our four-year-old asked me with great seriousness, "Grand-dad, why is the horizontal stabilizer always shorter than the wings?" Another time, the family was at the beach. He, his dad, and I were looking out at the ocean. He asked, "What are waves?" Darn good questions!

No rose-colored glasses fantasy here: I've found that your children can break your heart and devastate you just as well as bring you unfathomable joy. My daughter (a black-belt IP lawyer now), when she was about four, wandered off in a crowded video game arcade, and we searched through the crowds for her for about ten minutes, with growing panic and horror. We found her and all was fine. Fact is, if you love someone as much as you end up loving your children and grandchildren, their decisions and choices will have profound effects on you. My therapist observes that you are only as happy as your least happy child.

So, the decision about whether to start trying to have a family is a BIG-ASS decision, with life-long consequences. I highly recommend it.


There was this post not too long ago by lordleft which I thought was really beautiful and resonated with me.

The decision to have kids is a lot like the decision to continue living. There is no logical basis for it. Or rather, any latticework of logic you erect to justify this choice is based on a foundation that has nothing to do with reason. It is an emotional and spiritual desire to live and love, and give more life and more love to the world.

That's why I when see people engage in complex rational calculations about the utility a child may or may not bring into their life, I feel like they are missing the point. Of course people ought to be thoughtful about the decision to have children. And there are very good reasons to abstain. But in a sense they are not grasping that having children is a profound act of hope.

https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21790570


Oh! That beautifully captures my own thinking about this, and I've expanded on that over the years.

For instance, that desire and that decision aren't a guarantee that you will end up having biological children, nor that having them will bring you happiness. Barring medical or financial conditions, there are so many other reasons why one ends up not having them, a lot of them being circumstantial and outside of an individual's control e.g. who gets to cross your path, who becomes your partner, a cultural context, events affecting your family and so on.

That deep emotional and spiritual desire to live and love as a foundational directive, also pushes you to reflect, shape and reshape your personal story and your identity as you move through life. It sparks existential questions to which insights only come through time and the compounding of experience. This is a most deeply individual aspect of living.

In a way, that same desire isn't binary. It's not one or the either. It includes doubt and leaning back and forth between stances depending on one's circumstances and experience. Like a bell curve, some will feel deeply bereft if they remain childless, many will consider that a scenario with a worthwhile alternative for parenthood is just as valid an option to them, and some have a deep sated desire to remain child free.

Reflecting and reconsidering doesn't stop when one has become a parent either. Many will vocally state that parenthood - or remaining without children - was the best thing they did in life, but there are also those that deeply regret their choice. As culture, past and present, tends to emphasis the importance of having children and espouses the merits of parenthood, this is only discussed in a most apprehensive manner, which leads to misguided generalisations and dismissive tropes. This renders an important part of our human condition moot: that personal responsibility is inevitably bounded by constraints which are necessarily outside the control of an individual.

There are many ways to self-actualize that emotional and spiritual desire to live and love, and having and raising biological children is one of many possible pathways. And so, the framework of values and beliefs you've developed which underpins and drives your own personal narrative, doesn't necessarily apply to the lives of anyone else.


But you do not increase the net love of the world. That’s wrong. It’s an emotional decision to be selfish and self-serving and do something that you want to do regardless of whether that child wants to exist. Nothing more. To create life is to create death and so at best neutral but not knowing the quality of that life or that death poses a serious risk that a decision to have children increases the net suffering of the world not love.


Just because you can not be absolutely certain doesn't mean it's a coin toss with both options being equally reasonable. If someone wants to stop existing, they have the power to make that happen, while the converse is not true, thus choosing to assume someone wants to exist is safer. The overwhelming majority of people want to exist and the few who don't tend to be in situations where it easily could have been foreseen that life would be problematic; if you've lived a mostly happy life for a few decades, odds are pretty good that your offspring will do the same, thus statistically choosing to bring someone into the world is far more likely to be what they want.

But going further, the idea that death negates the benefits of life is absurd. If you read a book and are sad when it ends, that means it was a good book, and you are better off for having experienced it. The ending does not annihilate the story, it completes it. And if the story should have some bad writing in it, that may be undesireable, but all the good writing is still there to be enjoyed. No matter how bad life seems to get, the good moments still happened and they can never be taken away from you. Sure we'd all like to avoid unnecessary suffering and postpone death for as long as possible, but only because we would rather fill that time with the joys of life - if you had to choose between experiencing extreme pain periodically or spending the rest of your life in an inescapable coma, you'd certainly choose the former. Non-existance is not a pleasant alternative to life, it is a fate at least as bad as death, if there is any distinction at all.


It's a rational decision.

Ten thousand generations of my ancestors were intelligent, give or take. If they had learned easy+effective contraception at any point, I wouldn't be here at all. This is infinitely more important point than all my ancestor's work, art, grand projects, ambitions, theories and whatnot. Leaving aside pondering about that bug of our genome, the immediate local decision is not to let my genome die with me and to give it yet another generation.

Maybe it's futile because the bug will be fatal in the end. Maybe. I don't know and I don't want to take risks.

I'm unlikely to contribute to AGI in any significant degree after all, which I would consider one of the alternative workaround to the bug.


This isn't an uncommon point of view, and that's unfortunate. It's incredibly sad to hear people fearful of loneliness in old age, and even sadder to see people decide the solution is to oblige their children to spend time with them rather than seek meaningful cross-generational friendships with people who want to spend time with you.

This is a genuine problem, and one that maybe tech could actually partially solve by bring adults of different ages together in ways that build friendships rather than accepting the only way to not be lonely is to rely on your family.


If this is all you've taken from the above than we've read 2 very different comments. The point about lonely old people is only 1 (and i would say not the most significant) point in the argument.

I have a wife and 2 (small) children. There is nobody in the world I love more than my family - it used to be only my wife previously and now grew from 1 person to 3. This has such a profound effect on my happiness now (in my 30s) that even if I die suddenly at age 55 (long before becoming a lonely old man) it would still have been worth it.

Yes you should also have friends & if they are of various ages that's even better. You dont need tech to do that either, although it is probably difficult if you live somewhere far from other people (and some developments like fenced off suburbs with no city centers make that harder still). But that is independent of the argument if you should or should not also have kids.

You can have kids and friends!


I think you should definitely have friends, with or without kids. But from I see around me, I get the impression that having friends is difficult. Even more so when people have to juggle kids and a career. There's a certain isolation that seems to set in.

I'm sure a lot of people don't have the kids with the purpose of not being alone in old age. But I also get that there's some kind of "soft expectation", for lack of a better term, that your "family" will kind of stick around, especially when you're alone because raising said family more or less led to a falling out with old friends. There's also the factor that when people get old, their own friends may have gotten old and died.

Where I live I don't see many "intergenerational friendships". Granted, I'm not a very social person so I don't really seek the society of others, but from what I see around me people tend to hang out with people of roughly the same age. There also seem to be a lot of loose friendships, in that people would get together more or less often, have a good time &c, but those are not relationships one would be able to depend on in case of a problem.

I think your point about fenced-off suburbs is quite important though. I figure that once people get older, it's much easier for them to try to hang out with other people if they all live more or less close-by. Such as joining some kind of club. Even if it won't become some very close friendship, at least they're less likely to feel as lonely as people in the suburbs.


In Japan (and probably several other cultures), it's common to list your birth order in your dating profile. This is because if you're the first born you're expected to take care of the parents and many people choose to explicitly NOT date such people, especially women, since they'll likely be tasked with taking care of the 1st born son's parents.


> because raising said family more or less led to a falling out with old friends ... Where I live I don't see many "intergenerational friendships".

I think that both of these are massively consequence of our own culture, not something that must be.

It is combination of long hours at work, the super high expectations on child raising that for many people excludes socialization with kids present and animosity of childless toward kids present near "adult places". And vice versa.

It is also a result of socialization being seen as slacking and not doing useful things. It is also result of sort stigmatising the behavior that leads to keeping long term friendships (at least I had to figure out this is issue for me).


I don't know which culture is this "our culture" you refer to but at least for me (in Germany) I've actually had more friends since having kids (parents of kids +/- similarly aged to mine) even tho I've also lost touch with some childless friends as well.

On the balance I'm sure I'm more social now (corona notwithstanding) than I was 5 years ago.


American here, and I'm pretty sure the poster you're replying to is also a product of American society. Once I moved to Europe, the shift in social norms was shocking. Now it's difficult for me to go back to the US because everybody there defines themselves by their work and social spaces are so openly hostile to children.


    Even more so when people have to juggle kids and a career.
I think this is mostly in the first 5-10 years, when the kids grow a bit older it should start getting easier.


Oh boy, I used to think that, and now I have teenagers and it's turned into a whole different set of problems. :-/


That's up to 10 years of hell though


I don't know your kids but with mine it's a year or 2 of sleepless nights per child & then having to deal with temper tantrums & occasional other annoyances. Even in the roughest years I'm not sure the cons exceed the pros.


Thanks for sharing. Reminded me of this:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” CS Lewis


I'm not sure having children so you won't be lonely in old age is a good thing.


I’ve been thinking about this and I feel like society characterises some acts as selfless (I.e. having children, marrying your ‘soulmate’)....when really it’s all about people wanting something for themselves....


Characterizing something that involves massive sacrifices and giving up a lot of freedom as "people wanting something for themselves" is pretty ridiculous edgy-teenager thinking.


These children didn't exist before you made them, so who exactly are you massively sacrificing your freedom for?


The children who exist after you made them.


But they don't exist at the moment you make them, so before they exist you have no reason to sacrifice anything for _them_ because there is no _them_.

If you give up a job to move somewhere to move to a city to meet your future partner, you didn't sacrifice your job for them, at least not in the sense that any nobility can be derived from that act. You gave something up, yes, but not for _a person_ because you don't even know them yet. You can make sacrifices for a person that you have personal love for, but you cannot have personal love for someone who doesn't exist yet.

Once the children exist you can make sacrifices for them of course. But at the moment of choosing to have kids, you are not making sacrifices in the same sense (unless you are having kids for the good of society etc.). So deciding to have kids, even if you have to give something up, is not some selfless or noble act, as parent said.


> So deciding to have kids, even if you have to give something up, is not some selfless or noble act

Sure, but assuming that you know the decision will lead to such sacrifices, it can hardly be called a selfish one either. Especially since the gratification of "wanting something for themselves" (which you claim it's all about) also doesn't actually manifest until later, actually after the sacrifices do.


> So deciding to have kids, even if you have to give something up, is not some selfless or noble act, as parent said

Is anyone actually seriously suggesting that the decision itself is an act of sacrifice? Surely it's kind of super obvious that the sacrifices are in raising the children, not in deciding to have them?


I mean before you become a wealthy society part of the reason you have children is because they can help support the family. They work the farm, or the family shop, or whatever.

Both of my parents grew up poor, both in America and elsewhere, and they were were working farms or shop jobs long before they were of legal age. It's just part of life.

The idea of just give give give to your children until they become 18 (or beyond) is a luxury/privilege.

They also grew up when "free range" parenting was still a thing. Kids just go out into town and entertain themselves, be home by supper sort of thing. So your time as parent was not spent hovering and taking them to after school programs and planning out their life to prepare them for college admissions.


why are the two things mutually exclusive? : - 1. getting some you want for yourself (i.e. the security of marriage or having children) And - 2. Giving up personal freedoms and sacrifices

Many famous people, for instance in sports or the sciences, have literally climbed mountains with great personal sacrifice all while pursuing personal happiness/life goals... in my mind, real heroes are those that don’t want to do something but do it anyway because they believe it’s the right thing to do...I’m not sure this applies to most fiancés or parents-to-be in the west. To think otherwise is childish teenage thinking...because that’s how were indoctrinated as kids in the west. I mean just watch Disney movies...


Of course people marry, have children, etc. because they think they'll be in a better position in life than if they didn't. But that's not being selfish, at least in the way that I define it, that is, that they prioritize their narrow interests to the detriment of everyone else's.


Not if it's just for that reason. But, historically, for humans besides passing on genes, having children has been a very economic decision:

- Increases the labor potential of the family "for free"

- Now you have someone to take care of you when you're old


So besides not being alone in old age you also get economic benefits. That does sound interesting.


It also assumes a good relationship with your children which may not always be the case. Or that your children live (relatively) close to you.


As a parent the quality of your relationship with your children is something you can very much influence (though you should probably start when they are still kids).


What is best for the individual is not always best for society, and vice versa.


Well, you're going against the forces of history itself, when say such things. People have been thinking along these lines forever.


Part of the beauty of being human is the capacity to not do things just because our forebears did them too.


Someone once told me that tradition just consists of the personality quirks of our ancestors.

I don't necessarily agree with it in the majority of instances but it was eye-opening. The line between tradition/superstition is thin.


Going against the forces of history itself is grand.


Or foolhardy. Whatever is your preference.


I have to add on the loneliness piece. I worked/work in long-term and medical/surgical settings. The number of people who have health problems that are exacerbated by their lack of social connection is staggering.

There is also a second nuance where those who follow similar health patterns of the former had immediate family that were “functionally absent” for a large portion of their life (primarily mental health or result of psychosocial trauma).

There is also survivorship bias here too, in that I treat patients because they are sick and I don’t get to see the “lonely” individuals who function well in the community.

My decade of experience as a registered nurse made me fear in spending my twilight years only to be “beloved by my nieces and nephews”.


> whether to start trying to have a family is a BIG-ASS decision, with life-long consequences

It especially has life-long consequences for the children! I wouldn't want to put children in this world. I don't think the future world is a nice place to grow up in, even the current world isn't. IMO it's selfish to make kids just to feel fulfilled and not be lonely.


> I wouldn't want to put children in this world. I don't think the future world is a nice place to grow up in, even the current world isn't.

I have posted the following a few years ago:

> My ancestors thought it was okay to have kids during times in which many scholars where certain the apocalypse was due in the next 25 years, during periods in which the plague killed more than half of the population, during the 30 years war and in a time when there was a realistic chance of nuclear annihilation in the next 10 years. I am glad they did.

Today, as a father, I would add: as a potential parent, you are in no position to decide that your future children, grandchildren or great^x-grandchildren won't be glad to be alive. You don't know them, and most importantly you do not know and you cannot know about their world. In my opinion, this argument is nothing more but a convenient excuse to avoid the stress of bringing up kids. It is a valid reason to not want any kids because of the stress, but please don't rationalize yourself into peace of conscience by assuming that you can look into the future.


"> My ancestors thought it was okay to have kids during times in which many scholars where certain the apocalypse was due in the next 25 years, during periods in which the plague killed more than half of the population, during the 30 years war and in a time when there was a realistic chance of nuclear annihilation in the next 10 years. I am glad they did."

In my opinion, your ancestors had children largely because they had intercourse without accessing to birth control, not because they made a conscious decision to have children despite the circumstances.


You are rationalizing in the same way in the other direction


> My ancestors thought it was okay to have kids during [bad times].

The desire to make Descendants in hard times is a natural reaction. In more peaceful times you have more time to think about it logicality.


> assuming that you can look into the future.

That's why I said "even the current world isn't".


Do you want to live in this world ?


But you don't bring kids into this world. You bring them into the world of the future, even if this future is only 9 months away.


You realize there's probably never been a better time to be alive except for maybe 50 years ago, right? (depending on which part of the world you're in)

Yes life continues to be harsh, brutal and tragic. It always has been and in some ways always will be. But if your kids are doomed to live in merely the 2nd best civilization humanity has ever produced, I don't think they have much to complain about relatively speaking.

The argument you put forth would have us end the species if everyone agreed to it. And I don't agree we should end human existence and squander all our potential in a fit of depressive nihilism anymore then you should sell all your stocks the moment the market goes down for a day.

It's more selfish IMO to make yourself the arbiter of your unborn childrens' future, denying them the chance at a good life just because you want to make it easier on yourself. Not saying you should have kids if you're not ready, but don't use the state of the world as an excuse. All your ancestors are laughing at how spoiled you are.


Potential children don't exist. They cannot be harmed by not existing. They can, however, be harmed by being brought into existence. This is true even if life is "worth living" or "generally good" or "mostly pleasurable". Depression and nihilism has nothing to do with it, and my ancestors also don't exist anymore, so why would I care about their opinions?


They exist as potential, the same way the rock at the top of hill has a certain amount of potential energy. You choose whether to push the rock down the hill or not, and declaring that the rock will absolutely be harmed to an unacceptable degree, when it's foggy and you can't see even 10 feet down the hill, is irrational. Especially given that billions of other rocks have been pushed down much steeper hills with extremely rough slopes in the past and still managed.

When we're talking about humans instead of rocks, being harmed is part of life. At the end of the day we're all harmed by something that ends up killing us. That doesn't make life worthless, and attempting to prevent harm at all costs is the definition of maladaptive behavior. If that's your argument then you're basically the ultimate helicopter parent. You're so worried that your child might get harmed you won't even let them be born.

Reward requires risk, and greater rewards require greater risks. That's true for every lifeform down to bacteria and viruses. Granted not all risk leads to reward, but the risk of parenting tends to reward those involved above a certain baseline of effort and capability.

As for your ancestors, you're descended from a line of beings stretching back millions of years that, whatever their flaws, managed to reproduce. If there is a point to life that we know about it's that life exists to propagate in harmony with nature (often brutally enforced by various aspects of nature). The point of society is that we all help each other in that endeavor and make it more meaningful. To fulfill our potential as a species. Even those who choose not to have children help in some way through jobs and taxes. This is part of the reason helping others makes us feel good.

There are many valid reasons to not have kids, but I don't understand how you can trust someone who says "I don't want to succeed at the basic function of life because the 2nd best civilization ever produced just isn't comfortable enough for me", and means it. Someone with that level of weakness is not going to be reliable in bad times, regardless of their intentions. Maybe you don't care if I trust you or not, but if you don't care if anyone trusts you... well then I hope your life is as comfortable as you clearly require, because you'll be getting by on charity if it's not.


>I don't want to succeed at the basic function of life

Treating having children as a success and a reward in of itself is part of the problem. If someone doesn't want to have children because they feel like they'll have a bad life, that's their decision to make. Not yours to try and apply some strange value judgment where completely unborn children somehow have a say in the equation.

You're making the argument rather absurdly personal with your claims that they're a helicopter parent for not wanting to have children and claiming that they're weak/unreliable/untrustworthy. Stop it.


I plainly said there were valid reasons for not having children. If you feel unable to give them material or emotional resources, that's fine. If you currently live in a Syrian refugee camp or a ghetto that's fine. If you just aren't emotionally ready/haven't found the right person and would resent the kids then that's fine. If you want to devote your life 100% to your career, or become a monk, among many other examples I could give, that's fine.

If for example you read about, say Global Warming and say that's the deciding reason you don't want to have kids, and it isn't just a self-serving lie/excuse and you actually understand the issue, then you are an extremely weak person and you should work on that. If everyone acknowledged global warming, or saw insert negative news story and decided not to have kids on that basis the species would end in a generation. That sounds like a pretty weak species to me, literally scared to death.

As for untrustworthy, in my experience weak people are inherently untrustworthy. Even if their motives are good they are unable to endure or contribute under stress. Someone who folds on the issue of having kids because of what they see on the news is someone who's likely to fold on other things under extremely mild pressure, and I don't want to have to depend on such people in a crisis; and everyone's life will have crises unless you're extremely lucky. This is hardly just my opinion.

As for the helicopter parent line, the poster argued that while hypothetical kids can't be harmed if they aren't born, having them does potentially cause them harm. Thus they are arguing that "harm" to the hypothetical kids is the deciding factor, and said "harm" should be avoided by shielding said kids from the world. That is the exact thought process of many helicopter parents, only taken to an extreme level of over-protection and perhaps with less overt narcissism.

And yes this gets a little personal, it's a philosophical argument and I'm calling out perceived weaknesses in another person's life philosophy, just as you are calling out weaknesses you perceive in me. I don't see a problem with any of that.


> It's more selfish IMO to make yourself the arbiter of your unborn childrens' future

This is a pretty bizarre statement. If you had a pet dog, would you consider it immoral to not provide that dog with a mate, so they could flood the world with puppies?


If your only argument to not providing a mate was "the state of the world", I would say yes. There are other arguments that carry far more weight in that regard.

It's extremely weak/arrogant to take a look at "the state of the world" (typically via news/blogs/etc) and then declare you absolutely know the future, and it sucks so hard that there's no way your children will have a decent life under any circumstances, regardless of your personal situation.

There are many valid reasons not to have kids, "the state of the world" isn't one of them unless you're living in the middle of one of those negative news stories, and then it's less "the state of the world" and more "the state of my immediate surroundings", which is far more reasonable.


> IMO it's selfish to make kids just to feel fulfilled and not be lonely.

You can paint pretty much any action as selfish by using this "just to make yourself feel good" angle. It's a meaningless non-argument.


But usually it doesn't affect others. Maybe selfish is the wrong word. I mean you got positive feelings while some others might have negative feelings because of you.


You're right, it's not a very good argument. It's just like someone saying that not having children is selfish. Both aren't very good arguments.

It would be better to use some other kind of metric, like overall happiness vs suffering, perhaps like antinatalism attempts to do. For example, someone who enjoys working all the time, might see that as a boon for their children, and so decide that overall, it's better to have kids. While someone who doesn't like work might decide to empathize with their unborn children and decide it would be a blessing not to have them. Very subjective, but more well grounded arguments for each persons' decision.


If sensible people refuse to have children and morons continue to have several, then we will be in an even worse situation down the line


Amen. Why is it that morons and the evil seem to be the most fertile? I have no science to back this up. This is just something I have observed from personal experience.


Because they don’t think things through (morons) or don’t care (evil). Have you seen the movie Idiocracy? It covers this pretty well: https://youtu.be/icmRCixQrx8


Was there, in your opinion, a time in history when the world was a nice place to grow up in? When and where?


If your parents were deciding right now if they wanted to create you or not, would you tell them that you do not want to exist?


Yes. Would have caused less pain on both sides.


Really sorry to read that, pretty sad.


Yeah, probably.


So we should end civilization ?


No, we can just let the nihilistic and self-centered people go extinct. It's good for the gene pool.


The irony in all this is that fertility tends to drop amongst people considered successful and (mostly) progressive, meaning that conservative unsuccessful people will out-breed them. One would think that the logical thing to do if you're rich and successful would be to have many kids, and see if it's due to genetic factors.


> meaning that conservative unsuccessful people will out-breed them

So will conservative, successful people. It'll be fine.


> The irony in all this is that fertility tends to drop amongst people considered successful and (mostly) progressive, meaning that conservative unsuccessful people will out-breed them.

If this argument really holds, why has the world become so much more progressive over the last two centuries?


> why has the world become so much more progressive over the last two centuries?

It only became so progressive since the 1970's, the 50's were fine. The reason: drugs.


It could be that humanity has jumped out the window but hasn't hit the ground yet.


What could possibly be more self-centered than forcing someone to exist without their consent as a retirement plan?


Yes


There’s not much as (or more) engaging, provocative, and gratifying as my children asking those questions. Knowing they’re experiencing wonder. Knowing they look at the world and have questions like I did and still do. Why these things matter, what any of it means, that doesn’t need to matter really. I just love knowing that they have the same curiosity and wonder that has given me so much happiness for decades.

It’s incredible how relevant and hard to answer some of the early questions are. What are waves? How do objects maintain flight? It’s not just that, but the nature of the questions. They know what waves and wings are, but they want to know things about them. That’s kind of the pinnacle of human intelligence right there. The ability to care to, and then to ask, such interesting and important questions. There would be no progress without wondering about things that matter, or things with significant answers anyway.

I’d have a lot less grey hair if it weren’t for my kids but things like this are what made my life matter. I love this about kids, and I enjoyed your comment.


Thank you for sharing. I'd like to add my experience that being a parent has made me a better child.


Definitely my experience as well.


Hacker news section however is not rational nor logical whenever topic of relationships comes out.


I've seen this weird thing with some people who state they are logical and then suddenly when it is about relationships they become illogical as hell. I'm not saying I'm logical in this regard, but I find it easy to notice in others.

I simply look for a clearly wrong assumption they have (look up the 10 cognitive distortions [1]). See which one they have, propose a way to test the assumption and potential pitfalls (most of the time fear) and then tell them to test it.

The answer won't be a "no". In my experience the answer will be something like "but that's just clearly nonsense." I've noticed that they do this without any data, it's purely based on thoughts based from their teenage years and they simply don't realize it.

It's hard to be rational on all topics. As we haven't learned to be rational/logical on all topics and I do think that, to some extent, our knowledge doesn't easily spill over into other topics (Antonio's Damasio hypothesis that has a neurological basis is a pretty interesting example of that [2]).

[1] https://www.verywellmind.com/ten-cognitive-distortions-ident...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Somatic_marker_hypothesis


Tbh, the topic of having kids is probably the least likely to involve reason anyway, other than for those who enjoy economic modelling.

Having kids is probably the most emotionally-directed impulse we have, given its DNA-rooted origin.


I have two daughters, in their teens, and both have said that they are not interested in having children. I'm glad that they are giving both thought and pause here, but I'm also secretly hoping that they change their minds when the time is right for them.

I'd be happy with and without grandchildren, but it would be incredible to be able to give all of the love that I can when I am retired, when I have less going on in my life and the time to do so.


FWIW, teenagers are unlikely to have a solid grasp of what their actual future choices will be. I know multiple people from high school or college who originally expressed a desire to never has kids, but are now delighted to have them.


On the other hand: there must be people who decided they wanted children in high school, but later regret it.

I find it unfair that the society often consider people being "too young; may change mind later" when they say they do not want children; but we don't apply the same standards to young people who want children.


May I suggest you consider fostering a child? Or spending more time as an educator of some sort (through teaching, mentoring, etc.)? There are definitely ways for you to give love to a younger generation that does not involve your daughters decision to have children or not.


Yes, I've certainly considered it.. but I still have some time there. My oldest is only 16, and her decisions now are certainly not indelible.


Thank you for sharing this. I hope my children bring their grandparents as much joy as you do.

Speaking of this - "tends to be factual, rational, and logical." - do you worry much about what the world will look like when your grandchildren are middle aged? I spent probably too much time concerned with rising authoritarianism, climate breakdown, shortages of food and water resulting from same, and their resulting wars, and it brings a tinge of panic to my thoughts on their future. I certainly stress out about this far, far more than before I was a parent.

I don't really know how best to address it, aside from trying to live in a way resilient to those things, and am curious how you think about this things given the obvious joy in your post (and again, thank you for sharing this; it brought joy to my own day).


I think about this question often as I now have a 2yo and 4yo. It used to stress me out, but now I realize that no matter how bad it gets, it will almost certainly be better than anything any human had to deal with in pre-modern civilization. Even with all the possible negative things coming, the tools we have acquired as a species would be incomprehensible to anyone say pre-5000 years ago. We are alive such a short blip of geological time and tend to get lost in the brief frames. The ability to bring a life into this world, even if it's harder than we have it right now, is still giving someone an opportunity to learn and experience things beyond wonder. Our technology is sufficiently advanced to be magic to anyone who died like pre-1990. Yes we have challenges ahead, yes a bunch of people will die and be displaced and people will be scared and think it's the end, but even if the population shrinks to 1 billion people the human spirit will endure and figure it out. Personally, I'd much rather experience life than none at all--even if it wasn't at the top of existence.


I like this perspective! In the end my wife and I ultimately said "well either civilisation persists OK-ish and we'll regret not having kids, or this is it and in the grand scheme of things what does it matter if they go down swinging?" So far, I am glad we had them.


> I highly recommend it.

So do most parents. Why? Misery loves company.

The entitlement of parents knows no bounds.

Have kids to make yourself happy. Have kids to experience true joy. Have kids to take care of you when you’re old. Have kids to know real love.


This is altogether lovely, thank you.

What follows isn't as much of a direct reply just some thoughts motivated by your post.

My wife and I met when we were in our 30s, neither of us having ever been in a serious relationship, and both of us having given up ever being married, not to mention having kids.

We're both fairly clear-eyed and long-term environmentalist types, and we know how big an impact every person brought into the western world has. We decided to have a single birth child, and then adopt a second.

We had our son, who turns 18 in a couple of months, though various circumstances caused us to not adopt.

Our wonderful son is on the autistic spectrum; he's nearly six feet, two inches tall, with a beautiful, kind spirit, but his emotional and intellectual development is several years behind.

We never made the mistake of piling up expectations on or toward him. We're fine with the strong possibility that he will likely never materially achieve in ways similar to his parents.

He is loved and he loves us. My wife and I have, on average, another 30 years in this life. If our son is living with us for the next 30 years, that's fine. It would be our honor.

He continues to grow and mature; there's at least a good chance that he could end up moving out and going his own way in some number of years.

That would also make us very happy.


I didn’t want children but my now-wife was persistent. We even separated for a year because I didn’t want children. The only way I was able to have my so far two children was by pretending it wasn’t a choice of mine — and now of course I have zero regrets. The idea that we can “choose” to have kids is somewhat ridiculous I think. (I realize this is counterintuitive.) But there is no calculus at all that can incorporate any meaningful “data” into that decision. If you don’t believe me consider that I didn’t want kids but just went through having them and my joy at this happening to me could not have been understood by any upfront rational thinking. There is no free will in this domain.


>The Hacker News comment section tends to be factual, rational, and logical.

To a fault, perhaps. Humour is frowned upon, while overly pedantic comments are upvoted. Far too many comments uphold the stereotypes about engineers. I wouldn't expect a standard conversation about children to be possible here, both for good and bad.


> My therapist observes that you are only as happy as your least happy child.

I am not a parent (yet?), but this sounds very true based on what my parents always told me.

By the way, thanks for your comment. It might not be "in line" with other comments, but I found it genuine and heartfelt. And it enriched me.


I'm generally on your end of the spectrum with regards to children and I always hoped to have some.

But, I've met plenty of people who absolutely detests their parents and visa versa, their parents detest them and they are mean and rotten to each other. So YMMV as far as the entire topic goes.


Thanks for your great comment. Not sure why people are only focusing on the final years of loneliness part. It was only one part and to me it was clear that you love spending time with all of your family and look forward to every second you have with them.


>>> we searched through the crowds for her for about ten minutes, with growing panic and horror

In comparable circumstances, it took me half that time to grow panic :-)


How young were you when you got married and when you started having kids?


> The Hacker News comment section tends to be factual, rational, and logical.

Have we been reading the same version of Hacker News?


This is a bit like hearing a successful startup founder speak about the joys of success. It’s absolutely correct, but it’s also just one data point.

Keep in mind, most of the lonely old people you see have children. And I’m not sure it’s a good, caring thing to tell childless people that they will be lonely in old age, because it need not be true.


A different view from one engaged in parenting 3 boys (11, 9, 6):

Having kids is very little fun. It is work. But helping new people to be the best people they can be is fulfilling, joyful work.

We're having one of our roughly weekly sleepovers tonight where we all spread out cots on the family room floor. (Everyone falls asleep before me, and so sometimes I make my way online). I like this time because we have a long talk about the world as they get sleepy and settled. Now I hear all these people I deeply love breathe and shift and sleep and feel contentment. Tomorrow there will be problems to solve. As they grow older, the problems become less frequent... and more complicated.

I sure hope they continue to be a big part of my life in their adulthood, but that's not exactly why one does it.


I'm half way through "The Course of Love" by Alain de Botton and I think it's an amazing read for anyone with children, or thinking about having them (coming from someone yet to have them!)


I love this sleepover idea! Will have to try it out maybe tonight


I have another data point. A dear friend died last month, after about two weeks in hospice. She had no children, but she did live in a large cohousing community. We did our best to manage visitors, but sometimes there were 5-10 people waiting to spend time with her. Which stressed the staff, and annoyed other residents.

So anyway, children aren't the only path.


Quite right, but living in any community involves making compromises along with the benefits. I think the bottom line is community is an achievement that takes effort and compromise to attain.


Right, and so are children :)

And I know that she sought community, at least in part, because she'd had no children.


I meant community of any kind including family, but didn't make that clear, sorry.


Doh.


Quite right, but [having children] involves making compromises along with the benefits.


I think the correlation between what you put in and what you get out is much higher.

I had to give up a number of hobbies and intelectual pursuits in order to be there for my kids. Building a caring, trust-based long term relationship is hard work - sharing the same blood and providing a roof and a meal is not enough, which sadly is many people’s definition of parenting.

I know I am giving up things. I know there is no sure-fire bet that I will get “returns”, but I love my kids and knowing you can love someone so much is a gift by itself, IMHO.


It sucks knowing that you’re the reason your parents gave up hobbies, dreams, money, travel etc that they could otherwise have had. I know, like you, parents usually think it’s worth it but it’s not nice to think that my mom would probably have been a more fun, interesting person if I didn’t exist. The admittance that your life has to change and you have to give things up so that another human can do maybe things instead... it feels like such a pointless cycle.


I'm not sure why there's this insistence that 'giving up' time spent on hobbies makes you less interesting or less fun. You can have some hobbies, learn new things, etc; while being a parent. Sure you don't have as much time to do it, but having kids can also make you learn things and get perspective you wouldn't otherwise.

Also, worth remembering the alternative to such a "pointless cycle" is a pointless short existence and then human life would be over. Sure, you can argue that's a good thing for earth, but even life on earth is pointless in the grand scheme of things if you're going to use that line of reasoning.


In the long enough term everything is pointless - the meaning comes from what we give meaning to (which can include raising a family).


My mum made that choice of her own free will & to this day often repeats how having 4 kids was the best decision she ever made & if she could go back she would have had even more. My conscience is clear.

Also I don't think I have become a less fun, interesting person since having kids. I may have become wiser (and more tired).


Free will is an illusion.

She had a set of evolutionary drives paired with societal pressures that made the choice inevitable.


So given that birthrate is falling, society must be changing to prevent evolution drives? If we have no will I wonder what determines society - it can't be evolution, we're acting contrary to our base nature.


Nurture + Nature.

You don’t exist as an independent being. You are part of a long line of humans. Lots of studies showing how trauma of our ancestors is encoded in our DNA and carried forward.

Social patterns change but the underlying human drives stay constant more or less.


Maybe you know that specifically your mum was a fun and interesting person before having kids, but I think its important to keep in mind that some people are just boring.

Not to say having kids is ever super easy but there are definitely people that live a pretty kid friendly lifestyle without them.

It's important to keep this in mind because we do tend to place weight on others deciding to do something. It's why companies like to slap their logo on everything. If my friends were jumping off a bridge I absolutely would consider following them. I like to think one would stop to briefly inform me of whatever horror they're running from but absent that yeah I'd be pretty tempted to follow suit.

So we see all of these people having kids and think "the sacrifice must be worth it" but so many of those people would have been working standards 9-5's and pairing up to go live in the same suburb for the rest of their life where they'll wear clothes in the house and barely even walk each other on leashes anyway. They didn't have to give up their hobbies and dreams. If you do, you're facing a different equation than they did.


Funnily enough, I’m the boring 9-5 suburb guy, it’s my parents who aren’t. I think my parents are more interesting and skilled than I might ever be. So I look at myself and I’m like, really, was I worth it? What else could they have done with that time? Of course they say I’m the best thing that ever happened but the reality is they moved elsewhere to work on new things before I reached 18... so I guess I wasn’t THAT exciting! :)

There are definitely people who WANT kids, like another commenter in this chain describes. I don’t get the impression MOST people are like that though. Anyone who suspects they might have regrets or will be giving things up... I don’t know if they should go through with it.


>Anyone who suspects they might have regrets or will be giving things up... I don’t know if they should go through with it.

That's where we're at. We're open to changing our minds depending on our situation, which is about as good as we could hope for (not rich but relatively secure and very happy). Since things are good and we feel fulfilled, it's hard to justify significant compromises. We're really clear that if either of us changes our mind, we'll talk about it, and we check in with each other from time to time just to make sure, but we already have more interests than we have time to properly nurture.

You shouldn't feel any guilt about existing, though.


Am I a less interesting person for having children? Maybe?

Please note that effort that goes into raising children isn't just dumped somewhere that may return dividends someday. You develop a lot of skills and improve others a ton by being a parent.


I had a lot of text written, but it's unfair to yourself for blaming yourself for a decision you've had no part in.

My children (2 and 4) don't "prevent" me from hobbies any more than one hobby "prevents" me from pursuing other hobbies. I choose to spend time with them because it's rewarding to me to see them learn and grow. Don't get me wrong, they are excellent at making me feel like crap at times, but on the whole I enjoy and value my time with them, especially as they grow older.


Hum... If they decided to travel through the entire world and know every place, they would also have to give up other possible hobbies, dreams, and money.

If they decided to be world-class professionals in some are they would also have to give up other hobbies, dreams, and travel.

If they decided to know the inside-out of some hobby, they would also have to give up other hobbies, dreams, money, and travel.

Life is made of choices. They made one, what excluded a lot of others. It's a big choice, but it's not like the alternatives are completely free of constraints. Children also do not completely restrict those things, it's just one of the many restrictions that make their affordability limited, but not zero.


Luckily, the success rate with children is much higher than startups. (I think? and hope? Don't actually have data on this.)


Fun thing I realized: with startups, you have a _maybe_ 1% chance you'll "change the future."

With children: ~100% chance because you'll be in your child's life.


And you don't need VC funding.


Well, in most countries, you get external funding from childless people which are paying higher taxes... If people were to pay entirely for the education and health of their offsprings, they would be way less babies in the developed world. And I don't even mention externalities. A human being in a developed country has a big impact on the environment, if people had to pay for it, having a child would out of reach of most.


Which is partly true. Those children will also grow up and pay taxes and contribute to companies which in turn fund the retirement accounts of the elderly community.


So an investment. But an investment is also a cost that you might not be able to afford upfront.


> having a child would out of reach of most

I think that just means more children get less fulfilling lives.

At least that seems to be the case in countries where children are not subsidised.


> If people were to pay entirely for the education and health of their offsprings, they would be way less babies in the developed world.

On the contrary I'd bet that if both these services weren't subsidized so much, they'd be far cheaper. Nature will create the need either way.


Until they get to college...


Only on Hacker News would someone post a response this patronising and argumentative. I think the point he made was fine, and I'm way glad to have heard his story. It was lovely.


I disagree and I think the comment is valid. I know many cases in which children and parents are not close emotionally or physically (live away). As they say, your mileage may vary.


It might be logically valid, but it's pretty emotionally tone-deaf to blithely dismiss a long heartfelt personal account by saying "Survivor bias. Caveat emptor." Read the room, as they say.


I don't even think it's logically valid. I think if you raise your children well, the chance that they'll be there for you in old age is very high. If you don't have kids, the chance you will have friends that loyal is low. Blood is thicker than water, people should be realistic.

How do you measure that statistically? All you have are personal experiences. Saying, "not statistics, isn't valid" is obtuse, it leaves you unable to understand anything that is difficult to measure at scale.


> Blood is thicker than water, people should be realistic.

Somewhat off-tangent here, but this is a frequent misunderstanding of this particular quote. The actual quote is: “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” and it means the exact opposite of what we now use it for. The intended meaning is that relationships entered into as adults are much stronger and deeper than those we are forced into through accident of birth simply because they are intentional. While I hope my children will be there for me in old age, I know that I will be there for my wife and closest friends even though we are not bound by any particular genetic imperative.


> Somewhat off-tangent here, but this is a frequent misunderstanding of this particular quote. The actual quote is: “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” and it means the exact opposite of what we now use it for.

I hadn't heard of that expression before, so I looked a little at the corresponding Wikipedia page [0] and the sources that talks about this quote [1 and 2]. I also looked at Quora question about the quote [3].

From what I understand, there is no way one with any certainty can say that: "the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb” => "blood is thicker than water".

There doesn't seem to be a direct "the blood of the covenant . . ." quote either.

My own thought: I think it is possible that the meaning of both quotes can be true at the same time:

a) If you make a blood covenant with someone => Strong bond, and maybe stronger than with family members.

b) If something serious happens in your life, family bonds tend to be stronger than that of a friend, at least if you don't have some type of covenant (in a broad sense) with that friend.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_is_thicker_than_water

[1] https://archive.org/details/shaggydogsblacks00jack/page/94/m...

[2] http://www.bac2torah.com/covenant-Print.htm#SectionII

[3] https://www.quora.com/Where-did-the-phrase-The-blood-of-the-...


That appears to be a matter of discussion - the oldest current recordings don't have the conventant comparison and it seems to be a couple of scholars claiming that bit.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blood_is_thicker_than_water


This fits my family to some degree. My dad was a little upset that his mom left so much to some friends over him. But, he lived 2000 miles away and while he made a point of calling to talk to her every day she still probably had a stronger relationship with the people that she hung out with than him at the end of it.


I think the reason the meaning shifted is that the original meaning is not particularly accurate. Although that said, I'm looking into it and it doesn't seem settled that that is the etymylogical root. That root also specifically refers to blood shed in battle. My guess is it was war propaganda.


I think the reason is the shorter version is easier to remember, and people love to attribute genuine wisdom to these kinds of statements. Because the shorter version is easier to remember it is near at hand and got used more.


I don't think people are that dumb tbh.

ryder9 [banned] 71 days ago

then you haven't been paying very much attention have you


Wouldn't "off-tangent" be closer to the original point than off of it? Heh


> if you raise your children well

straight up no true Scotsman. Literally, no true Scotsman.


Not really, it's a valid correlation that children raised well generally have better relationships with their parents.

Sometimes children are raised well and turn out to be little shits, but given that we're not drafting a scientific study in the comment section conversational generalities should be forgiven, unless you want every conversation to be so paralyzed by pedantry that no real content is discussed.


> it's a valid correlation

could you show us that data on that correlation to us from somewhere besides out your ass then?


I mean I deliberately said the equivalent of "True Scots usually wear kilts, but some don't," so not really.


> If you don't have kids, the chance you will have friends that loyal is low.

Probably have friends that loyal, but they’ll all be the same age and you might just end up being the last one.

Hopefully your kids have a comfortable margin on you in your old age.


>I think if you raise your children well, the chance that they'll be there for you in old age is very high.

Our old friend Dunning-Kruger rather spoils this strategy. I know many people who have been abandoned by their children, but none who could proffer even the vaguest hint of why they might be to blame. Very few people intentionally set out to alienate their children, but plenty of people do it anyway.


Well we can define "having enough self awareness to acknowledge one's flaws and failings" as a precursor for "raising children well". Or more succinctly: "Narcissists don't raise children well".

Note that the entire perception of children has changed over the previous century, and the modern notion of emotionally as well as physically providing for children as a universal constant is a VERY new concept. We still haven't figured out how to do it en masse, although a decent chunk of the population seems to figure it out on their own.


OK, but it's also hacker news. If we just want positive anecdotes and feel-good inspirational stories that don't get debated, and which don't fully address the point or get to the heart of the matter, we could go to a Tony Robbins seminar, and I say this as a both a dad and as someone who doesn't want to go to a Tony Robbins seminar.

Honestly, I appreciate the point counter point.


True, but as someone who has seen many a HN discussion that lacks any sort of empathy or comprehension of social norms or conventions, I cannot help but to advocate for emotional literacy and for the understanding of emotional appeal. Perhaps some of the tech companies and platforms we are seeing face so many problems right now could benefit from emotional literacy. Too much head and not enough heart, one could say.


Also agreed. I don't think anyone would argue that there aren't socially-challenged posters on the internet.

On the other hand, it's almost impossible to actually discuss certain socially-mandated topics objectively without someone playing the "emotionally stunted" card against anyone who takes the negative off the socially mandated position. And the poster in this case didn't call anyone names, and is also responding in a thread about worldwide birthrates. Far from being out of place and not reading the room, I think the second poster trying to effectively stigmatise his reply is the one in the wrong/ that can't read the room. If this is not the place for such a reply, it's hard to imagine where would be.


The root post is very emotional and personal to the point of not really germane to this discussion as a whole. But it was sweet and heartfelt, and the proper response is to simply let it be, and respond to other branches in this very long discussion thread. If one disagrees with the thesis, they can simply ignore it and engage with a different subthread that advances it using a non-emotional approach.

Being prudent about which battles to fight and which debates to pick up and what statements merit argument is part of understanding social norms.


How would you suggest they broach the point that not every family turns out well? That some end up with kids watching from the car while their mom fights dad's drunken mistress in the Safeway parking lot while dad himself watches on, smoking a cigarette and having a beer?


It doesn't need to be broached. It's obvious.


It's also obvious that some people have had great experiences with kids, yet someone posts it anyways, because this is a discussion forum where we share ideas, question and provide couterpoints. When someone posts a sentimental story as a singular data point on why kids are great, and follows it with a recommendation on having kids, they should expect feedback of all sorts, no?


I find adversarial pedantry much more common than opening up about deep emotional experience, in general, and the latter is way more informative. I don't care that you can say, "not true 100% of the time, QED." Yes, ok, well done. I couldn't possibly have realised that on my own. So glad you have now stifled any emotional depth that the conversation was taking on.


Tony Robbins is bad because he's a huckster, not because his genre is inspiration.


>It might be logically valid, but it's pretty emotionally tone-deaf to blithely dismiss a long heartfelt personal account by saying "Survivor bias. Caveat emptor." Read the room, as they say.

I think the (inadvertent) tone-deafness can work both ways. The gp (gregfjohnson) in telling his personal account was also inadvertently tone-deaf to some potential readers.

If I can compress his comment into 2 parts:

- part 1: "I would like to contribute a bit of information. [...heartfelt story of the joys children and grandchildren...]" <-- can't criticize the part about personal joys

- part 2: "I highly recommend it." <-- this advice inadvertently rubs some readers the wrong way

Although some replies (from nostromo, drukenemo, etc) didn't agree with gregfjohnson, it was triggered by the "recommendation". A reader can dismiss part 2 (recommendation) without dismissing part 1 (personal joys) at all. There are 2 separate concepts there.

Likewise, someone else could write the opposite story, "I don't have the hassle of kids and can go vacations whenever I want. I highly recommend it." -- and a reader with happy children will dismiss the "recommendation" without invalidating the freedom of vacations.

tldr: just because you're relaying a wonderful personal story doesn't mean your "advice" will be accepted at face value because some readers don't see the positive personal anecdote as (logical) evidence for the advice.


I was in here earlier and the vast majority of comments were something along the lines of "I did the social maths and children have been determined unworthy, QED" so the GP I think was just responding with their anecdote to provide another perspective.

It's not surprising that someone immediately jumped on it to argue the maths so to speak, but it is slightly disappointing even if predictable. IMHO it should be ok for someone to recommend something to you that you don't like without it being seen as an invitation to a fight.


You misunderstand the goal. Both the OP and the responder are engaging in a conversation where they are presenting different sides of understanding so that everyone involved has more total information.

They are not arguing over who is right or wrong, they are cooperating so that everyone is more informed.


The person I knew who had the most people visit in his old age was as far as I know childless. Through a chance encounter he welcomed me to San Fransisco when I moved there. Everytime I'd visit he'd seem to have a new guest over, but most of them he had known for many years.


But it seems to me like if you do not have children all the effort you would have spent raising them must be spent in cultivating social relationships throughout your life instead, otherwise you do not reap the benefits of child free life and will be alone and lonely in old age.

So either way, there’s going to be work if you do not want to be alone.

The worst is when you put in the work and end up alone anyway. No one calls, no one cares, a life wasted on something that was ultimately meaningless. You could have done other things that brought you intrinsic joy.


Be the change you wish to be in the world.

How many of y'all are visiting elederly and helping them now? If you never help the elderly now, how can you expect anything else than lonliness when you are in their place?

One of the most tragic results of the "modern" American life is that we throw away are elderly as obsolete while any other sane societies treates them as the holders of wisdom.


To be fair an excessive amount of power given to the elderly in the Spartan legal system also contributed to their slow decline in power as those who benefited from the status quo continuously stifled any attempts at adaptation or reform.

Only a tiny minority of elders have any wisdom worth purveying in my experience. Most are as mediocre at 70 as they were at 25, and can't tell you anything except how to be as mediocre as they are. An even larger fraction actually are obsolete and haven't kept up to date with the latest cultural changes or technology.

I'll take advice from the 70+ year old who's still working and staying abreast of their field/maintaining good relationships with friends and family, or the 70+ year old who did something great once upon a time (and I'll limit the advice I take to said great thing and related subjects). The retiree who worked a mid-level factory job, begrudgingly learned how to check their email and largely lives alone/with their spouse in a rancher with Christian TV playing 24/7 who rants about whatever Sean Hannity said (a direct description of some of my relatives) probably less juice in the squeeze there from a wisdom perspective.


Finally a post I can wholeheartedly agree with!

Most of everything is trash, there are no exceptions -- if we think there is an exception somewhere, it often comes from emotional bias.

Old or young, most people live a dull live of no practical value. People may be angry to hear that, but the fact they don't try to randomly make friends outside of their usual circles only shows a degree of hypocrisy.


> tiny minority of elders ... in my experience

That can be true. There is a difference, in my heart, between an "Elder" and an "old person".

I would advise you, if I may, to expand your experience.

By holding onto that narrow view (can we dare call it ageism?), you could be missing out on some truly amazing individuals whom might have something very important to convey to you and your generation.


That’s why we are obsessed with anti-aging, to avoid being seen as elderly, to avoid being treated as one.


While I don't have the data to support it, I would imagine the chance of success raising a child versus the chance of a success with a startup are in favor of the former.


And that was a pure personal viewpoint. Consequences of children for society and whole planet were not analysed at all.


This claim falsely assumes childless people will have successfully developed enough intimate and reliable relationships by the time they are on their deathbed.Research shows establishing “fictive kin” at any age is challenging and nearly impossible when the elderly show signs of dementia or Alzheimer's.


I read somewhere, (I think it was USA Today, no less) that almost half adult children in the US have no meaningful contact with their parents. Many of them have parents who do not even know where their children live.


This is a great take, but also one that will change rapidly as the US is reaching Europe- and japan levels of aging. After precipitous falls in birth rates, it is becoming increasingly difficult to expect that children will be taking care of elderly parents, especially for a long and protracted "third age". This is a default expectation in the current generations but i think younger people have different expectations for themselves and their children's lives.

This presents an opportunity where technology can make (and is making) a difference. It is also the reason why we want Longevity biotech to make our healthspan equal to our lifespans. We are already seeing the need of this during the COVID shutdowns

ryder9 [banned] 71 days ago

>The Hacker News comment section tends to be factual, rational, and logical.

lmfao


A lot of those people alone in care homes have children. They just don't care. You can never know what the future holds so make reasonable plans but above all just enjoy your life and make yourself useful while you can. You have a therapist so you're not really selling the whole child lifestyle to me.


Only tangentially related but, speaking of taking care of people in their old age, my mother is taking care of my step father and she's clearly not happy about it.

She's only got one life to live and she's stuck staying at home with him until he dies or at least that's seems to be how she feels.

Maybe to be put it another way she can't get herself to check him into an old folks home and effectively leave him so she can enjoy the last few years of her own life while she's still able to. She's healthy enough she could travel and do things that she want's but feels she has to stay put until he passes. That could be tomorrow or 5 years from now. 8 years ago they said he had 3 years to live.

That doesn't mean she doesn't love him but she does feel somewhat trapped.

I suppose my sister and I could help her and volunteer to watch over him for a week or two at a time though neither of us have jobs that would let us do that. But also, she married this man after we were both adults so while we like him as a person we feel no obligation like we might if he was our father or even the step father that raised us. Instead to us he's basically our mom's boyfriend.

It does make me think what I would do if I was him. Would I be self aware enough to check myself into an old folks home to let my wife or kids not have to take care of me? I believe I'd personally feel horrible by restricting the life of my loved ones. I'm sure I'd also feel horrible if they all abandoned me. I don't know which is worse. My currently healthy self wants to believe I'd value their freedom over my needs but my, future "old and needs constant care" self will probably feel different.


Therapy ≠ dysfunction


Shh, you don’t tell that to people scared of assuming their own weaknesses...


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