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Thursday, 11 February 2016

We don't need you

The increase in the average age of women giving birth, the decrease in birth rates, the increase in divorce rates, the increase in fights for Equality, the increase in economic / financial independence of women, the increase in single households, the increase in one parent families, the increase in distance between families, these are all ingredients of a potentially scary cocktail.

I fear that men and women will no longer feel that they need each other. Obviously, there is a huge distinction between need and want. Usually wanting each other is of a short term nature while needing each other is more of a permanent nature.

The root cause for my fear is similar to the famous words by Bill Clinton in his successful 1992 presidential campaign against president George Bush: "It's the economy, stupid!"

In human evolution, raising large families has long been an essential tool for survival at old age. I still remember a Dutch expression from my youth: "kinderen zijn je oudedagsvoorziening" which would translate like 'having children provides your pension'. A 2006 article in a Dutch newspaper claims that this is an old African saying. I think it used to be a global saying.

The former economic need for having children has evolved into a view of an economic burden of having children. Over the years, I have read several articles which all claim that raising one child into adulthood will cost you 100,000 euro - or the chance of driving a Porsche. The economic mindset about having children has changed from an asset into a liability.

Removing the economic need for having children raises a fundamental 'why' question. This 'why' question may already (partly) explain the trends listed in my 1st paragraph. I am convinced that (not) having children will become a well considered choice for future human generations. The economy will again be the reason for that choice: Will it even be possible to raise children given future salaries, cost of living, and - most of all - the chances of (un)employment?

The increasing hedonistic nature amongst people in their teens, twenties, thirties and sometimes even forties, might be an implicit answer to this 'why' question. The prospect of raising "yourself" might already be enough reason for not having children yourself.

The short-term (< 100 years) consequence of these trends are "greying" populations sustained by the influx of foreigners (eg, Germany). The medium-term (>100y and <500y) consequence would be "melting" human populations sustained by machines (eg, care robots). The long-term (>500 years) consequence would be the introduction of genetically engineered human fertilisation farms (eg, Gattaca), the absence of biological parents, and the use of institutional child care.

I must admit that the above is a rather depressing view on future societies: companies no longer need men and women, men and women no longer need each other, and - most of all - we no longer need children. And it's doubtful that planet Earth even needs humans.

Nevertheless, we should not give up and lose hope. We always have a choice even when events in society (eg, technology) increasingly just seem to happen to us. To be continued.

Kate Bush & Peter Gabriel - Don't Give Up (1986) - lyrics, Wiki

don't give up
'cause you have friends
don't give up
you're not the only one
don't give up
no reason to be ashamed
don't give up
you still have us
don't give up now
we're proud of who you are
don't give up
you know it's never been easy
don't give up
'cause I believe there's a place
there's a place where we belong


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