This article was originally published in Human Progress.

Even if technological advances help mitigate the problems with a shrinking population, young people are an irreplaceable existential resource.

Summary: The decline in global birth rates has shifted concerns from overpopulation to potential economic and existential crises. Economist Julian Simon posited that humans are the ultimate resource due to their abilities to solve scarcity problems, but it’s also their need for meaningful existence that drives societal progress. As birth rates fall, it’s crucial to recognize the profound role of family and social connections in providing purpose and motivating efforts that enhance human flourishing and ensure a better future for coming generations.

Birth rates dropping below replacement level in much of the world has become a growing concern. However, this is a relatively recent worry. For a long time, the rapid growth of the world’s population led many experts to fear the depletion of our natural resources and the potential collapse of civilization. The late economist Julian Simon did not share these overpopulation concerns. Instead, he argued that humans are the ultimate resource, proposing that more humans would actually help solve our scarcity problems. His reasoning was that more humans means more brain power, which in turn leads to more discoveries, creations, and innovations. This insight is crucial. As Marian Tupy and Gale Pooley detail in their excellent book, Superabundance, our species has demonstrated a remarkable ability to leverage our cognitive capacities to solve scarcity issues throughout history.