While no major milestone in relation to modern human history, reaching a population of 8 billion is also no small feat. There was a time, many, many thousands of years ago when all of humanity was reduced to a number some scientists believe was about a few thousand. A harsh flu that very winter could’ve wiped our species out of existence and making it impossible, instead of probable, that your birth be expected. Not to cast you, whoever you will be, in the shadow of doubt, but in 150,000+ years of time we are still fearful of something equivalent of that harsh winter flu on a much grander scale. I don’t mean to scare you off pre-conception, but you’d probably do well to mentally prepare for what both of us are impotent to predict.
You should probably be aware that the geographic regions of this planet will largely dictate your variety of experience, if not prosperity. It’s an unfortunate truth that the countries with the largest populations also wield the greatest magnitudes of inequality and destitution. I would estimate there is slightly less than a 40% chance you will be Indian or Chinese. In addition to that, much of our African continent suffers from disease and malnutrition if not outright starvation. Several other regions in the world scrape the dregs of their time on Earth for a morsel of hope and find little. People in more affluent regions in the Western hemisphere would opine about how your life would be rich in culture. Should you be subject to a harsh existence, you would have no need for those sentiments.
That is of course if you make it beyond your infancy. Though fear not! In much of the world, medical advancements have taken us far beyond the precarious mortality of our species’ early career. Even if you land in an increasingly overpopulated Urbania, there’s a good chance your birth will be overseen by an expert. The care and maintenance of your body will be taught to you either through science or tradition, and barring an unfortunate accident of circumstance, you will make it through life relatively unscathed. Well, maybe not. As imperfect, evolved beings, we harbor the intrinsic possibility for defects. Many intellectuals will debate your moral standing in regards to your mental and physical capability. I think they are loathsome to do so; however you will see it is in part our nature, and in some cases, it is prudent. Consider: your genetics, you will learn, will not define you entirely, but have a good deal of say in the type of person you are. We all share this disadvantage, and it will not be solely your misfortune to have no input, prior to your birth, on whom your lineage will be. The consolation lies in the knowledge of this (and all things), whereas many hundreds of generations prior to yours relied upon myths and legends to explain the boons and curses of happenstance.
Knowledge. In my years, the greatest wealth of information has become available to us. Many people in the world can freely explore the depths of all humanity if they have the right equipment and are not blinded by their ruling parties. Oh right, there will be those who seek to limit your potential. We consider it your responsibility to overcome them, and there will be others who will encourage and help your cause. In the year of your predicted arrival, 2030ish, I can only hope the entire world has access to what we now call the internet and its myriad uses. It will help you to discover your identity, connect with other cultures, and embrace a lifestyle you will find necessary to contribute to the other 7,999,999,999 of us.
At this point, in the year 2012CE, we have reached a valley in the statistical occurance of violence. Though many people would reel at this assertion pointing at every visible piece of barbarism, statistical analysis shows that we are at our most peaceful stretch in human history. In the scope of hindsight, this isn’t any major accomplishment. But, it does go to show that the civilizing process by which our branch of modern Homo Sapiens has undergone, gives your progeny something to be proud of. There are those who believe trends in violent behavior are cyclical, and that it will crop up sooner or later. Perhaps this is true. It then leaves you, in your slightly more cramped living quarters shared with a billion more people than my time, to continue to prove these idealogues wrong.
I’m profoundly ashamed to say that in my time, it is of great significance to your freedom that you are born male instead of female. While race and creed, depending on your destined location, will compel you toward contention with other groups, your sex will bare a varying degree of importance no matter where you are born. Be wary of those who tell you what you are meant to do, and ought not to do with regards to your sex. We have not shed all the skin of our primitive selves and for some reason, point backward in time to defend our modern ways of life. This brings me to my last cautioning words.
If you make it through your mother’s pregnancy, through the fragile first year of life, through your curious toddler days and your formative adolescence, you will do well to heed one last cautionary piece of advice. While much of life is beautiful, and the vibrancy of your experience here on Earth will be meaningful and visceral beyond your yet-to-be-realized comprehension, please be inquisitive. We, as a species, have been cultivating skepticism for about 600 years now. In a time where information washes over you like the many winds of change that meet the bulwark of immovable objects, it is important to use your faculties to break down the needless habits that the 7 billion of us currently suffer from. We practice strange and folksy traditions and defend backward beliefs in the name of unreason, and it has choked the better inclinations of our nature into submission. Please bear, as many others have, the burden of contradiction. Maintain the audacity of contrarianism. Be skeptical of those who say “I believe” and ally those who say “I think.” Learn from errors of both yourself and your predecessors, and look to a future that seeks peaceable truth and beneficence. Argue against those who claim to have already achieved it. Influence all you meet to do the same. This the only way we can pass the torch to the next billion Earthly inhabitants with a passion for life burning brighter than before.
Our earlier days were dark indeed. With the growth of our population comes the need for more understanding and consideration and humility. The light of our future rests in the hands of many little fractions that fear not to wield it. Go with confidence into the strange new world you are born into. It is beautiful and horrible, and it requires our attention. It was written to my billions of Earthly inhabitants to, “Live in your own time, use what we know, and as you grow up, perhaps the human race will finally grow up with you.”
A Slightly Larger but No More Significant Fraction
This was clearly inspired by Salman Rushdie’s – Imagine There’s No Heaven: A Letter to the 6 Billionth World Citizen as published in Christopher Hitchens’ collection, The Portable Atheist.