The fundamental problem with these anti-Malthusian arguments is they ignore the fundamental reality that exponential growth is unsustainable. There are physical limits to the universe, whether you believe the earth can support 10 billion or 100 trillion, or if we can expand through the universe and achieve a billion billion times more than that, it won’t take that long, with exponential growth, to get there. At a certain point, the entire mass of the universe has been converted to human flesh. Some point before that, we either stabilize, or collapse.

Maybe we get past the obvious physical limits by ditching human bodies and uploading to the matrix. But, that only gives us a few more orders of magnitude.

And note that sub-exponential growth is mathematically equivalent to saying that the growth rate approaches zero.

So, it becomes a question of what the ideal max population level should be. The answer will clearly change based on available technology, but is not unlimited.

First, this seems to be arguing against strawman. No one is advocating literally infinite growth forever, which is obviously impossible.

Second, the current reality is not exponential population growth. It is a decelerating population. The UN projections show world population likely leveling off around 10 or 11 billion people in in this century, and possibly even declining:

Even if we were to get back on an exponential population growth curve, the limits seem to me to be many orders of magnitude away. I don’t see why we would worry about them until we get much closer.

The question of what IS happening versus what SHOULD happen with population growth are certainly two different things. My point is that arguments for growth ultimately need to address the questions of how big should we grow, and what happens when we reach that point. If our economy depends on continued growth, that’s going to stop working at some point.

While the physical limits of the universe are a long ways off, there are other limits that we could hit much sooner. Underlying your pro-growth arguments, there is an assumption that collective intelligence can continue to grow without limits, leading to technology that can grow without limits. I would question those assumptions.

And of course, your post is ignoring the costs of growth. Ideas are non-rival goods, but space on this planet, and physical resources, are rival goods. If intelligence (and the resulting technology) reaches a point of diminishing returns, but the costs of growth hit an upward inflection, you quickly hit a limit. For example, larger, more complex systems risk becoming less stable, while coordination problems can grow factorially.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether the current population is too big, too small, or about right, but “ever larger” is not going to work as an answer. At some point, we need to either figure out how to have a stable population, or deal with the less pleasant alternatives.

While ever larger obviously can’t work in the theoretical sense, I think the original post still stands for why the ideal population is larger than it is now.
For the past 150 years, the prices of resources have been falling, and their availability rising.
When this trend stops—there’ll definitely be an argument for halting growth. But as things stand now, it seems clear that we’re still below capacity.

The fundamental problem with these anti-Malthusian arguments is they ignore the fundamental reality that exponential growth is unsustainable. There are physical limits to the universe, whether you believe the earth can support 10 billion or 100 trillion, or if we can expand through the universe and achieve a billion billion times more than that, it won’t take that long, with exponential growth, to get there. At a certain point, the entire mass of the universe has been converted to human flesh. Some point before that, we either stabilize, or collapse.

Maybe we get past the obvious physical limits by ditching human bodies and uploading to the matrix. But, that only gives us a few more orders of magnitude.

And note that sub-exponential growth is mathematically equivalent to saying that the growth rate approaches zero.

So, it becomes a question of what the ideal max population level should be. The answer will clearly change based on available technology, but is not unlimited.

First, this seems to be arguing against strawman. No one is advocating literally infinite growth forever, which is obviously impossible.

Second, the current reality is not exponential population growth. It is a decelerating population. The UN projections show world population likely leveling off around 10 or 11 billion people in in this century, and possibly even declining:

Even if we were to get back on an exponential population growth curve, the limits seem to me to be many orders of magnitude away. I don’t see why we would worry about them until we get much closer.

The question of what IS happening versus what SHOULD happen with population growth are certainly two different things. My point is that arguments for growth ultimately need to address the questions of how big should we grow, and what happens when we reach that point. If our economy depends on continued growth, that’s going to stop working at some point.

While the physical limits of the universe are a long ways off, there are other limits that we could hit much sooner. Underlying your pro-growth arguments, there is an assumption that collective intelligence can continue to grow without limits, leading to technology that can grow without limits. I would question those assumptions.

And of course, your post is ignoring the costs of growth. Ideas are non-rival goods, but space on this planet, and physical resources, are rival goods. If intelligence (and the resulting technology) reaches a point of diminishing returns, but the costs of growth hit an upward inflection, you quickly hit a limit. For example, larger, more complex systems risk becoming less stable, while coordination problems can grow factorially.

Reasonable people can disagree on whether the current population is too big, too small, or about right, but “ever larger” is not going to work as an answer. At some point, we need to either figure out how to have a stable population, or deal with the less pleasant alternatives.

While ever larger obviously can’t work in the theoretical sense, I think the original post still stands for why the ideal population is larger than it is now. For the past 150 years, the prices of resources have been falling, and their availability rising. When this trend stops—there’ll definitely be an argument for halting growth. But as things stand now, it seems clear that we’re still below capacity.