There is a quote I have often seen: There are more people alive today than ever lived.
It's an interesting thought. It's also wrong. Ludicrously wrong. For a demonstration of why it is wrong, use the sliders below to run a population simulation!
Test this theory yourself:
- This simulation assumes geometric growth held at a constant rate. Growth rates have increased in the past 2 centuries as advances in sanitation, safety, agriculture, medicine, and other areas of knowledge have helped humans live longer and reproduce more successfully. In the end, it is just a simple mathematical formula that cannot do justice to the real fluctuations in population over thousands of years.
- This simulation starts with only 2 initial human beings, Albert and Evelyn.
- This simulation restricts parameters. For example, the maximum age of the human race in this simulation is 50,000 years. There are arguments to be made for 100,000 or even 200,000 years. We ignore those arguments for convenience.
Nevertheless, the simulation stands as a powerful refutation of the idea that the living outnumber the dead. You can generate a simulation that produces more people living today than have ever died, but the resulting living population dwarfs anything the Earth could reasonably sustain.
I wrote about this in more depth on my blog, Accidental Developer.