The United Nations says we have just crossed the threshold of a global population of eight billion people
. The US Census Bureau thinks we’re still at 7,934,000,000
, but what’s a discrepancy of a mere 66,000,000 people between friends? There have always been plenty of voices urging that there are too many people, but consider a few of the realities in perspective.
■ Albert Einstein
was born in 1879, at which time Earth’s population was probably 1.42 billion
. Even if you assume that Einstein was a singularly brilliant figure for his time – the solitary most brilliant person on the planet, even – then the odds should have it that we have at least five or six people roaming the planet today who are equals to Einstein.
■ Before anyone scoffs at the comparisons or dismisses the figures as too remote, consider what has gotten better since the births of any of those great minds. Our food supply
is vastly greater. Infant and child mortality
has plunged. We have gained antibiotics and worked to purge lead from paint
■ But more importantly, while there remain many substantial challenges to be overcome, there is more human freedom
and more fundamental equality
than in any era of the past. For most of human history, only men were broadly free to pursue their maximum self-actualization – and even then, that freedom was only open to some men.
■ There remains much work to be done, but the odds have never been higher that a truly gifted person could do the most possible with their endowments. And, assuming that talent has been fairly equally distributed throughout history, the odds are extremely high that we have more great geniuses living among us than at any time in history.
■ Eight billion is a lot of people. And big crowds can beget big problems. But the numbers – and the conditions – should give us hope that the very best days for the world remain ahead.