Tesla CEO and billionaire Elon Musk has said the biggest threat facing the world is population collapse, not explosion.
The entrepreneur described the notion that we have too many people on the planet as an “outdated view”, and said the shortage of people in the future will be not be checked by immigration.
Birthrates in the developing world have been falling fast for decades, and most western countries including almost all of Europe have fertility rates below the replacement level required of 2.1 children per woman.
Musk’s statement will come as a shock to many who have been constantly bombard with doom-laden warnings about population explosions harming the planet.
The famed innovator, who made his first fortune with PayPal and is listed by Forbes as one of the world’s most powerful people, made his comments in a live-streamed debate with Alibaba Group Chairman Jack Ma at the August 29 World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai. Both billionaires agreed that the birth rate ‘problem’ was one of too few people rather than too many.
“Most people think we have too many people on the planet, but actually this is an outdated view,” said Musk.
“Assuming that AI (artificial intelligence) is fine — we’re assuming there’s a benevolent future with AI — I think the biggest problem the world will face in 20 years is population collapse,” he added.
He then doubled down on his claim: “Collapse: I want to emphasize this. The biggest issue in 20 years will be population collapse, not explosion, collapse.”
The Alibaba chairman agreed with Musk saying: “I absolutely agree with that, the population will be facing a huge challenge.”
China brutally enforced a one-child policy for decades with serious negative effects on population growth and balance – and the male to female ratio is seriously skewed in many of the country’s rural areas in particular, as parents choose baby boys over baby girls.
Musk said the “accelerating collapse” will not be able to be checked by immigration.
“The common rebuttal is: ‘Well, what about immigration?’” he said.
“Like from where?” he added, presumably recognising that more than half of the countries in the world have fertility rates below the replacement rate.
Population growth is seen as essential to economic growth, and many demographers are now talking about the problems of a demographic winter.
In particular, the ratio of older to younger people will mean serious issues not just for pensions but for elder care and wellbeing.
Musk’s statements are in sharp contrast to other billionaires such as Warren Buffett and Bill Gates who have pumped billions into population control measures.