A Malthusian Scenario refers to humanity returning to an subsistence-level of existence due to population growth outpacing production. Tomas Malthus originally proposed this scenario in the 18th century, predicting that unbounded population growth would outpace food production and inevitable famine would follow. The remaining humans would be left at a level of bare subsistence.
Dramatic agricultural production efficiency increases and reduced population growth have avoided this specific scenario. In the last ten years, the population has grown 15% while total production has grown around 100%. Today, “Malthusian Scenarios” encompass the scarcity of any essential resource that an expanding population needs.
Whilst food production has expanded in the developed world, its sustainability could be jeopardized due to limited resources such as oil (which agriculture is heavily dependent upon) being rapidly depleted. If population continues to grow a Malthusian catastrophe would appear to be inevitable as there will always be a finite amount of resources to exploit.
Robin Hanson has also suggested that Singularity-level technology, such as mind-uploading, would possibly result in Malthusian scenarios. Because uploaded minds could be so easily copied, reproduction costs would fall so dramatically that population growth could outpace even the production levels of an advanced society. Hence, all wages would be reduced to upload subsistence levels.
- Non-Malthusian Scenarios by Wei Dai
- Economic effects of the Singularity by Robin Hanson
- New Limits to Growth Revive Malthusian Fears Article from The Wall Street Journal.
- World Agriculture 2030 Report by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
- An Essay on the Principle of Population by Thomas Malthus
- Malthusian Catastrophe Wikipedia