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The Future of Humanity

How many humans will ever be born?

March 2024

Script

How many people have there been in the history of the planet?

While we don’t know the precise answer, researchers estimate about 117 billion people have been born since the dawn of modern humans.i

That means that about 7% of people who have ever lived are alive today — which is pretty remarkable given that humans have roamed Earth for about 200,000 years.ii

Here’s what’s even more remarkable: We may just be at the very beginning of the story.

Most species of mammals exist for about a million years before going extinct.iii

If humans follow that trend, we’ve got about 800,000 years left (four times longer than we’ve been around so far).iv

If the average life expectancy rises to 88, and if, as some experts suggest, the world’s population stabilizes at around 11 billion people ... that would mean that there are another 100 trillion humans yet to be born.v

To put that in context ... it would mean that almost 99.9% of humans who will ever live haven’t been born yet.

(Hang on. It gets weirder.)

Because humans have learned how to preserve and extend life we may end up existing longer than other species of mammals.

A lot longer.

It’s estimated that Earth will remain habitable for another billion years.vi

If humanity were to stick around through that entire run, these assumptions would mean there are around 125 quadrillion people yet to be born.vii

That’s 125,000,000,000,000,000.

Of course, that’s assuming that Earth remains humanity’s only home.

After all, the Sun will be around for another five billion years.viii

Which means that if we find a way to live elsewhere in the Solar System ... the number of people yet to be born could climb as high as 625 quadrillion.ix

How can we conceive of a number that big?

Put it this way: If there was a million-page book listing every human that will ever exist, then all the people who have ever lived up through today ... would only get you about 1/5 of the way through the first page.

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

  1. Including people currently alive, it’s estimated that around 117 billion people have been born since the dawn of humanity.
  2. The current global population represents just under 7% of people who have ever lived. 
  3. In a scenario where humanity continues to exist as long as the Sun, there could be 625 quadrillion people yet to be born. 

Source(s)

  1. "The Future Is Vast – What Does This Mean for Our Own Life?" (Max Roser)  Our World in Data 
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.

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Sources

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