World population history tweaked


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The exact number of people living on Earth at the present moment is (7,264,145,184). This is an estimate, and the historical figures are clearly even more speculative. The previous Probaway post, World population history graphed and smoothed, took several authorities’ estimates and drew a more easily remembered line through their speculations. Below I have tweaked those charts to make them even easier to memorize.

World population from 3000 BCE to 2020 CE

World population history estimates from United Nations, Hyde, McEvedy, and Probaway

The intent of the World population history smoothed is to make more easily remembered the dates and their associated population numbers. That memorable line remains close to the estimates made by the authorities and well within the error bars marked in red lines. The Probaway estimate goes outside of the authorities’ own estimates for the year 1000 CE, but it is well within the error bars based on their data. The advantage gained by this method of presentation is easy memorization of some very complex data. The population of the world doubles each one thousand years for six thousand years. With that assumption the only fact that needs remembering is that at 1000 BCE there were 100 million people on Earth, and that the population doubled every thousand years.

World population graphed from 3000 BCE to 2020

Remember, 100 Million in 1000 BCE, and 4 Billion in 1975

The population since 1000 CE is different, but it too can be remembered easily within the error bars. The population in 1975=4 billion and doubles in fifty years both past and future. From 1925=2 billion to 1975=4 and will be 2025=8 billion. It had doubled in twice that time from 1825-1 billion, and doubled again in double the time from 1625-half billion. Learn these few facts and your estimate of the world population will be reasonably accurate for seven thousand years.

A World Lit Only By Fire, by William Manchester – review



“The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance” is the subtitle of A World Lit Only By Fire, which is misleading because so little is actually documented about the Dark Ages. The whole period is such nonsense it seems not worth the time to retell what little is known. The European folks went about slaughtering one another and the Roman roads endured. It seems impossible those few people who were literate, and in control, considered this devotion to spooks and speculation better than the civilization that their forefathers had abandon and destroyed.

The first of three sections ends with naming Ferdinand Magellan the destroyer of the Medieval mindset when the ships he sailed around South America returned from the Philippines, proving the Earth was a sphere. The last section of the book ends with the appallingly bad judgment of Magellan to get into a stupid fight and get himself killed, and much of his crew assassinated a few days later. The book ends with, “Hardest of all is the sense of loss, the knowledge that the serenity of medieval faith, and the certitude of everlasting glory, are forever gone.” This concluding line was, for some inexplicable reason, why Magellan had died. He somehow thought himself invincible because he had found and traversed the straits now named for him, and then sailed across the Pacific. No one had done that before, and therefore God was on his side and he could not be killed by bamboo spears.

This book reads well, and it gives stunning examples of depravity of some well known historical figures, but it was also unsatisfying, leaving only a distaste for the Dark Ages. It creates a dread that the forces that created that mental vacuum are alive and well in modern society, and that our wonderful world totters on the precipice of a dark age that will be far darker than the previous one.

David Deamer has another shot at Probaway Person of the Year



A couple of months ago David Deamer gave a lecture here in our remote little town of Bend, Oregon. He was reporting on his progress in creating life following in the footsteps provided by nature. His efforts follow the natural process and that required him to create a method for getting proteins from outside a cell to inside a cell, and that required him to create a special kind of pore in the surface of a cell.

Protein channel

Cell membrane showing a protein channel

While considering this problem back in 1989 Deamer sketched his idea of how that might be done.

Deamer's original sketch of a method for transferring proteins thru a channel

Deamer’s original sketch of a method for transferring proteins thru a channel

He realized that DNA strings composed of the four nucleobases, adenine, cytosine, guanine, and thymine, commonly abbreviated as A,C, G and T, going through the channel would be of varying sizes and charges. Those varying sizes would stress the channel walls and that if that stress could be measured it would be possible to sequence the DNA strings. A quarter of a century later, and a quarter of a billion dollars invested in a device, and that sequencing is now possible in a first generation product named MinION. This device is the size of a pack of cards and can be hooked to a USB on a computer and deliver reasonably accurate DNA sequences in very long strings. This device might, when manufactured in quantity, be as cheap as a cell phone, and then the price for sequencing DNA will plummet. Thirty years ago whole genome sequencing was impossible, fifteen years ago it cost a billion dollars, at present it is under ten thousand dollars, and who knows, but in a few years it may be so cheap everyone will have their DNA on a personal memory chip. The implications of this technology are fantastic.

In a few years you may have your DNA on a memory chip because of David Deamer, and that is why this is a second reason he is on my short list for Probaway Person of the Year.

The Life Haven Projects needs a retired cruise ship.


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The Life Haven Project is simple enough; it is to create a small community sufficiently distant from a major world war that the people living there would survive. The Life Haven Project is the human survival part of The Earth Ark Project, which is aimed at a more complete restoration of our current ecology. A small community of genetically diverse humans could repopulate the Earth after a total Apocalypse if they were able to sustain themselves for, say, ten years. They would need to have reliable stored food, water and protection from a very hostile environment.

Maritime Sales MRM10 Price: U.S. $ 15,000,000.

Maritime Sales MRM10 Price: U.S. $ 15,000,000.

The ship above is in good operating order, but a ship about to be scrapped would be much cheaper, and since it is intended to be taken out of service it wouldn’t compete with the seller’s or the scrapper’s business.

Love Boat as scrap

The “Love Boat” cruise ship comes to a ship scrapping station.

The ship used by the 1970s TV show “Love Boat” sailed its final trip to Turkey, where it was turned into scrap. It would have been an iconic boat to have been set permanently into Adams Island, south of New Zealand.

Adams Island bay at -50.865 166.028 would be a good place.

Adams Island bay at -50.865 166.028, or -50.8654 166.0556 would be good places.

Adams Island is very remote from any probable conflict, and a ship in this natural harbor would be away from ocean waves, even tsunami waves. Ideally it would be raised above the ocean level into a dry dock, and the hull totally tarred over to reduce rusting so the ship would last for a very long time. It is so remote from anywhere that only someone really prepared would endure the difficulty of going there.

Adams Island docking site for a Life Haven ship.

Adams Island docking site for a Life Haven ship.

Here is a list of other potential Life Haven locations.

The very 1st B-52 bomber flight lands at Moses Lake


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April 15, 1952, a B-52 prototype flew from Boeing Field in Seattle to Moses Lake, Washington. Now it’s sixty years later and those B-52 intercontinental bombers are still being used by the US military. It is hard to imagine how many hours the fleet of B-52s has logged in those sixty years, but what is so very strange to me is that I was there when that first plane landed. I was a junior in high school that spring at Moses Lake, the B-52s’ first base.

A year later I graduated from Richland high school, fifty miles south, as a Columbia Bomber, where the plutonium for A-bombs to be used by those B-52s was being made. Just a few years later I was in J. Robert Oppenheimer‘s home, in Princeton, New Jersey, asking him to give an antiwar talk to the Unitarian church in Pullman, Washington. Only two years later, as a B-47 pilot, I was sitting on a multi-megaton bomb thinking this was the last place in the Universe I wanted to be. There were other strange occurrences in my life journey, but this first flight of the B-52 truly came out of the blue in yesterdays news.

I have been plagued by super-weapons all my life, and I believe it’s only through surprising statistically unusual good luck they have never been used. Most people rarely think about those ultimately destructive weapons, but I do every day. These weapons are much worse than the WMDs the media worries our public about. Adding nine or ten zeros for the power of individual weapons, plus another four zeros for the number of weapons available, doesn’t enter the yelling-head pundits’ brains as significant. The difference between the Boston Bombers’ pressure-cooker bomb that created so much silly fury and what’s currently available flies right past them.

I have wasted my life trying to understand the human situation well enough to make a path to human survival even if those thirty thousand A-bombs are used. In one way and another that has been the guiding principle and continuing motivation for this Probaway blog. How can we have a human population ten thousand years in the future equaling that of ten thousand years ago? Hoping that those weapons wouldn’t be used in that expanse of time seems an impossible hallucination.

The New York Times doesn’t know how to live.


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“Perhaps, instead of Death Panels, we can start talking about Pleasure Panels” was the concluding line of Jason Karlawish’s article Too Young to Die, Too Old to Worry. The article was filled with wrong-headed suggestions for supposedly living the good life. The ideas about how to live well are apparently too subtle for modern humans, even the New York Times, to fathom. Life isn’t about maximizing pleasure. Pleasure is of course pleasurable, but that is a momentary side effect of living the way one wants to live in the instant, when things are going well, and by that standard most life is suffering, because most of the time life is challenging.

The well lived life is one in which the individual participates fully in opportunities that are available, and that is much more than just finishing off another beer. The article asks, “When should we set aside a life lived for the future and, instead, embrace the pleasures of the present?” Does it make sense to take up smoking, drinking and wild partying at age eighty, because there is so little time left to enjoy those sybaritic pleasures?

There is a subtle nuance there, but it is one that makes all the difference. Doing those things occasionally can add some pleasurable experience to life, but they aren’t the goal, they are part of the participation in the moment. If they add to the moments of pleasure for you and your companions, that is great, but if their consumption is to distract oneself from pain, or even worse take pleasure to the point where there is no pleasure and one is just suppressing pain with distractions, then it’s a poor thing to be doing. The reason is simple enough, because doing sybaritic things to avoid pain doesn’t solve the problems; instead it leads to ever greater consumption of the mind numbing things, and a worsening of the pain creating problems. Sybaritic pleasure leads to continual degradation and eventually to an early death. Numbing pain interferes with solving the problems leading to the pain. This way of coping with pain should be used only in the final moments of life. It is like the Prisoner’s Dilemma experiments where it was demonstrated that the only time cheating works without negative blow-back is on the final play, when there will never be another interaction with anyone – ever.

To live well is to participate in your opportunities and to be content with the results.

Information is vanishing!

There is a great vacuum of good information being created in this world of ever-increasing access to information. I have noticed this because what I know to be my best blog posts are impossible to find even with a detailed search, whereas some of the most trivial of them, at least for me, were getting thousands of page views. It is the articles with flashy but common titles that gather hits, but exploring a new and potentially valuable idea gets no notice at all.

It is to be expected that popular, easily accessed stuff would get the most attention because the great bulk of people are interested in the same sensational things. The Maturity Chart, which has five basic levels, Immature, Adolescent, Adult, Mature, and Sage, is useful for measuring popularity. It is the Adolescent-styled material that gathers the most interest. This is because the immature level probably doesn’t have much access to information yet, although that is now changing because touch screen tablets have been set up for infants so they will have pre-verbal access to information of interest to them. At present adolescents are probably the most active computer and online information-driven people with young adults coming in close behind. Adults’ attention is focused on practical matters and that is where their online searches would be aimed. Some older people grow to a maturity that requires their having more relationships that require more attention to other people’s needs, and to motivating other people to being productive. There are fewer of these types of mature people and they are seeking a different type of information, and thus search engines based on word popularity bury their mature searches beneath the more common adolescent ones. Sage-level information might be published online, but it would be buried in a current web word-search by the avalanche of more popularity-driven information.

The more abstract the style of information the more difficult it is to find. There are flashing ads of seemingly relevant information that is intended to distract and generate confusion and guilt for the adolescent viewer, leading into purchasing some piece of nonsense junk. That information leads to sales, and so it floats to the surface, but in so doing really valuable information is pushed into unfindability.

Hopefully the newer style of search engine strategies based on meaning will be more efficient at discovering the more mature ideas, and revealing them to the public.

An Akashic records session was inspiring.


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In an effort to explore all the facets of the human experience, today I attended an Akashic records session. We did a near-hour meditation coupled to a question-the-guru session. The guru remained in a meditative state, and answered all the questions promptly and with a strange other-worldly tonality. The whole experience was mild, friendly and filled with deepity. I liked the answers better than the questions; the questions were mundane, but the answers had a heavenly quality about them, like they were coming from a holy place. It is obvious why this movement has had traction at times when questions were overwhelming people in need of practical answers to their real problems.

Having done improv for over a year I had the feeling this process was like an improv experience where we delved into a previously unexplored situational possibility with another person and then pushed each other with agreement and expansion – YES-AND. I think this type of delivery might be a learned technique, learned by listening intently to and then copying the delivery of the master. There did seem to be a quality of reading the answers from a written record, not so much a memorized script of written words but a remembrance of a tonality.

There was a quickness of speech, followed by a brief quiet, and then another quick response, followed by another second of quiet. Now, a couple of hours later, it reminds me of how Obama answers questions, that is, clear, concise, to the point and filled with brief thoughtful pauses. This style of speech gives the mind a chance to think, and to absorb and to prepare for the next idea, but it requires an audience that is in the right mood of listening and not interrupting.

The hour was similar to a spirit reading, but in this case there was no channeling, at least none was claimed, just getting into a group spirit and sourcing on its power. Of course this was a single experience, so I want to go for some more, and in a free hour explore doing that style of thinking and speaking.

Maximizing total human potential is my goal.


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Ebola is rearing its very ugly head this month, and the response of humanity has been both glorious and horrifying. The United States government has stepped up quickly and is sending what is hoped will be timely aid, but even this quick response to a remote threat may be too slow because the nature of uninhibited life forms, such as disease, is to grow exponentially. This is just nature doing what it does, but in this situation we humans are the growth medium, and from our point of view this is potential disaster. Perhaps the ancient methods of coping with epidemics will be the only ones that work, and that is simply isolation and exclusion, not permitting any exchange of people or even goods. What is being done at the moment in the infected areas is having three-day curfews in hopes of slowing the spread. Perhaps that will work because this disease develops quickly, but what of the people that are confined in a house with a sick person? This procedure would be nearly condemning them to catching the disease and thus to death. How do you confine people to their homes when people don’t have stored food, and what happens when a large city has its people coming out to their grocery stores and mixing? What if a city catches the disease and the only option is to shut the borders, because letting hundreds of thousands of infected people go streaming into the world would get ugly?

Now for the even uglier part. Some people welcome the culling of humanity back to 10% or less of its current population. A google search came up with Eric R. Pianka, who is a proponent of disease as a functional method of population control, and he is used as the straw man to politicize the arguments into the most extreme forms possible. There is some reason to support any of the arguments, but shoving every idea into absurd ideological boxes makes finding a comfortable solution even more difficult. What happens with this procedure, when applied to Ebola, is that it will function to let nature take its course, because everyone pursues his own course of action, and some of them are deadly. In this case that will be a very nasty one, because containment will prove impossible, with some people supporting and demanding every individual’s right to do as they choose. This comes down to people fleeing the infected areas and there soon develops an even larger area of disease which is even more difficult to contain without even more draconian measures.

“Minimizing the suffering of the innocent” is an overview that takes into account the individual’s rights but balances their rights with the rights of all the other people of the world. And a second ideal goal, “Maximize the total human potential” takes into account people of the future as well as those now living.

It seems likely that the human population will eventually drop to a much lower level than it is today. Unfortunately to maintain a stable human population will require popular laws that enforce who has children and how many. Of course nature will inevitably win, no matter what we do, but the most pleasant existence for humanity will be where we behave reasonably toward one another, and that includes population control.


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