Population 9 billion, all Borg

October 2011

At the start of the movie Star Trek: First Contact, the Enterprise is trapped in a temporal wake in which a vision of the Earth, assimilated by the Borg is revealed.

Population 9 billion, all Borg

exclaims Commander Data to the dismay of everyone on the bridge.

Although this is bad for the people of this fictional future-Earth, as a pending Father and on eve of the birth of the 7 billionth human, all I have to say is this:

If the Borg can only manage 9 billion, we’re screwed!

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not population scientist, and that much will become obvious as you read on, but all things considered the Borg are a darn efficient group of hive-minded, individuality shunning drones. They have many traits that make high-density-living something they are incredibly good at. Borgs, for example have the following traits which are desirable when supporting a large population on a planet with finite resources:

Are we more dangerous to Earth than the Borg?

*Personal Space – *Irrelevant: **Living in an alcove is a space efficient way to sort out your housing.

Personal Hygiene – Irrelevant: It is far easier to disable nasal passages than to wash. Being asexual helps.

Schools, Children, Old People & Recreation – Irrelevant: Borg children are brewed in maturation chambers until they are fully-developed & productive drones. Part of the hive mind and implanted with cybernetic systems, Borg children are able to comprehend vast amounts of information without needing to attend school or be cared for. I have also never seen a geriatric Borg.

Edible Food – Irrelevant: Nutritional supplements injected directly into one’s body removes the need to grow or prepare food for any sort of enjoyment. Imagine the energy that would be saved if humans didn’t need to cook. Borg don’t enjoy a nice steak. Borg don’t enjoy food full-stop.

Personal freedom & disease control – Irrelevant: The Borg employ a stringent policy on population control. Basically, if you’re infected with some sort of nano-virus, they’ll blow you up. If you’re no longer needed, they’ll blow you up. Saves on needing to provide borg-hospitals.

*Biological urge to procreate – *Irrelevant **- Sex is something that just doesn’t make the cut for drones. Whether it’s because of the tight, polymer uniforms, or because irrelevant bits of anatomy have been surgically removed and recycled (most probably turned into the afore mentioned nutritional supplements), assimilation is a far more efficient way of increasing a population.

Recycling – We haz it: Being a species that largely assimilates anything and everything of value, the Borg are a resourceful lot.

So you get my point. Although they would have a massive power bill, if anyone could cram a lot of people onto our little planet, it would be the Borg. My concern is that in this fictional future, they could only get to 9 billion.

If Earth is at 7 billion now, 2 billion more isn’t that much of a stretch.

I suppose I’m worried. I’m worried that our biology and our instinctive drive to breed will be the death of us. We already know that there are too many people for our plant to support, yet we keep multiplying. Why?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m about to become a dad. Basically, I’ve never been looking forward to anything more. I’m sure that parenthood is going to be one of the fundamentally defining parts of my life, so don’t take what I’m about to say next the wrong way.

On self-reflection, the logical part of my brain now realises (and this hadn’t really struck me before impending parenthood) that the population of the world is not made up of a single unit of 7 billion people, it is made up of 7,000,0000,000 x my child (or your child). Each one of these precious individuals has to be born as a result of a mother and a father, in most cases, deciding to have a baby.

So lets look at the facts.

I know that:

  1. The world is over-populated – perhaps chronically so.

  2. There are not enough resources in several Earths to allow everyone to live the lifestyle I do

  3. There are no current global plans to slow population growth

  4. My wife and I are having a baby (maybe even a second in a few years).

What I don’t understand is how as a species we can rationalise our physiological and psychological desire to have children with the fact we know that the world cannot continue to sustain such a large population. The drive to have children is very strong – many would argue that reproduction is our strongest instinct – but this also makes it one of the largest and most complex challenges we must face. If we cannot control ourselves, we will likely breed ourselves to the point where we hit the hard limits imposed on us as creatures inhabiting a planet with finite resources. As Maurice Strong, Secretary General of the 1992 Earth Summit said,

Either we reduce our numbers voluntarily, or nature will do it for us brutally

I think the crux of the problem is two-fold. Firstly, our desire to reproduce is incredibly strong, but secondly, similarly to global warming, it is far easier to disconnect our own actions with those on a macr0-scale. One more child is not going to a difference.

For some reason I was reminded on “Who Sunk the Boat“.

So what to do?

For me personally, my contribution is a) writing this article, and b) trying to convince my partner that having two children is enough. Biologically, this means that my wife and I have replaced ourselves. The circle of life is somewhat complete. I think it’s unreasonable to stop people from having children, but I can’t reconcile the desire to have more than two children with what I know.

Time will tell if this all plays out of course, but hopefully by writing this down it’s more likely to happen.