For years on or near my birthday, October 1st, I do a risk analysis of risks to my life. I also do an occasional overview of risks to humanity about January 1st. In risk analysis of the world the human population is always an issue because we can’t keep doubling in size every forty years forever. However, today there is enough food, and surprisingly few wars, so the population is growing. The ability of crops to convert sunlight, water and soil into human food will improve for the next few decades because of CRISPR’s genetic improvements that will enable plants to do more with less. Of course there will be less soil because of continuing erosion, but marginal land will come under cultivation because of CRISPR’s ability to artificially accelerate evolution of crops. Water to irrigate the crops will come under stress because of the melting of the world’s glaciers. Glaciers are important because they help the frozen precipitation to run off the mountains at an even rate, but when the glaciers are gone the intermittent rain storms will run off into the sea more quickly, before the water can be fully used. Petroleum to run farm machinery and fertilizer to nourish the crops may become a problem, but this year we are in good shape. A present problem is where to get more energy to create the stuff of civilization, like cement, which consumes something between five and ten percent of total energy making concrete for construction. None of these things appears to be at a tipping point, but one never knows; back in 1929 the day before the Great Depression everything seemed wonderful.
There is always the chance of a major war coming about by accident, but at the moment all of the national powers possessing atomic weapons would have far more to lose by starting a war than enduring the problems that in bygone days would be causes for war. The present conflicts are horrible for the individuals, but so far they have reportedly killed less that a million people since the year 2000. That is awful, but between 1900 and 2000 approximately 200 million people died in armed conflicts, and that averages 2 million per year. So continuing that rate to the last fifteen years would make 30 million killed since the year 2000. But, having only killed less than 1 million we are presently 30 times less deadly than the average of the last century. But, between WW1 and WW2 the world population was only 2.0 billion, and it is now 7.3 billion and that means we may multiply by 3.65 to compare rates. 30 times 3.65 equals 109.5. That means humans are presently over 100 times less militarily homicidal than we were last century.
I’ve never seen anyone make that statement, and it is based on big assumptions, but so far this century has been astonishingly safer than any other time in history. We like to think about how wonderful times were back before civilization and its problems, but in fact most adult skeletons recovered from primitive times show trauma of combat.
Even though predictions about the future are always wrong, this next year looks likely to be good. So . . . .