A general view is: Humanity is a zero sum game, and there are already too many of us. There is a fixed amount of resources, a population increase means less resources per person, and this scarcity leads to famine, then disease, then war; also the accelerating extinction of complex and beautiful species.
But I don’t see any place where having a certain number of people, by itself, has created an insoluble problem. What I see are lots of stewardship failures– things like wasting resources, polluting, and using power to divide and harm.
The true concept is: if we were behaving wisely, we could create everything we need to live well and improve our earth.
Here’s another general view: “I am better off if others fail.” This idea is reinforced in different ways– for example, in classes that grade on a curve (you can only get the top score if everyone else performs worse than you), in starting a small business (customers will leave if your competition does a better job than you), in patent law (you can only benefit from your work if no one else is allowed to make it), etc.
But look at, say, putting on a musical. When a cast member who couldn’t match pitch, let alone carry a tune, puts in the individual effort needed to sing with technical aplomb, the entire cast sounds better, and everyone shares in that person’s achievement.
Or look at team sports. The quarterback looks terrible if the receiver runs the wrong route, or the offensive line leaves a hole. The only way the quarterback succeeds is if everyone on the team succeeds. The better everyone else performs, the better each individual looks.
Or take crime-fighting. The public is safer when everyone does well: the dispatcher taking the 911 call, officers responding to the scene, lab technicians processing the evidence, the trial lawyer taking the case to the court, the judge running the trial and instructing the jury on the law, the jurors listening to the evidence and deciding the facts based on the law, the appellate lawyers and judges ensuring the case was decided correctly, and the prison workers helping the convicted person learn from the past and prepare for a better future upon release.
The true concept is: each individual is happier when everyone improves to the point of success.
Which brings me to critical mass. A choir of 500 excellent singers can perform music impossible for a quartet. A movie studio with a huge team of great artists can bring stories to life in ways that a small studio can’t. A large group of capable volunteers can build houses and clean up after disasters and bring relief to displaced groups in ways that a small group of volunteers can’t.
Not that individual effort, small groups, and small beginnings, aren’t valuable– I don’t mean that at all. These are beautiful and essential.
But what I do mean is that there is a level of achievement that will never be realized without vast teams of people, all working together in excellence, towards a common goal.
Now, let me ask you: Is there something we, as humanity on earth, have yet to achieve, because there simply aren’t enough of us? What if there are problems that can’t be solved yet, because we lack the numbers we need? What if there are wonderful things to be experienced, that we can never experience, because our population is too small?
It feels weird to even suggest that.
But I think it might be true.