Population, some notes on
Note: This discussion concerns population growth only up to the end of the Eighth Millenium A.T.
Population Growth Factors First, advanced societies may have fairly low birthrates - there is no strong need for children to ensure pensions or act as cannon fodder. Automation can to a large extent deal with that. So sophonts get children for emotional reasons.
Second, the emotional reasons may of course change. There are some religions that claim having many children is a good thing, and members of a young clade might think that increasing its number is necessary.
Third, crowded planets and habs will usually feel constrained - governed as they are by environmental laws, that everything is something's or someone's property, that personal space gets circumscribed and so on - this will lead to at least some people wanting to move outwards, first to nearby orbital habitats and second to colonies.
Fourth, there is the effect of more or less radical life extension. This may increase the population growth rate somewhat (although the effect is not as drastic as one may think; generation time is more important). This often reinforces the third factor, as many youths regard their home societies as too ossified and gerontocratic, setting out on their own or together with similar minded malcontents. Of course, the life extended may not really be old conservatives, thanks to mental rejuvenation, but they typically have entrenched their positions anyway due to long-term investments, proven skills and social networks.
Fifth, during dark ages and on primitive colonies the first factor may not be as strong. The first Dark Ages did not see any population increase since the habitats were too small and resources too scarce, but other dark ages such as the Perseus arm after the Geteche disaster or many worlds in the wake of the Version War have seen rises in nativity to counter the collapse of high tech society.
Sixth, there are advanced reproduction technologies that allow high birthrates. Cloning and in vitro gestation and engeneration technologies enable mass reproduction even for biologicals. This is especially relevant for young splices and tweak clades or for colonists in a new system.
Seventh, AIs and virtuals are both effectively immortal and can copy themselves nearly instantly if there is computing power around (hence the ridiculous population of Aleph Absolute - over 90% of the population consists of copies of the 10 most xeroxophilic individuals). Vecs have to be manufactured, but using replicating factories like Metasoft immense populations can be constructed.
Eighth, history is long; millennia allow massive growth even at low annual rates. For instance a 1% average human growth rate for 8000 years gives a population of 2.2343e+44 people. Even a 0.1% growth rate yields 1.7814e+13 people (17 trillion).
Biont Population Growth Up to the 10th Millennium Information Age (030 to 130 AT):
Humanity reached around 10 billion people during the Information Age (mid to late 21st century). This was a slowdown in population growth from the 20th century. There were several factors that caused this. First, as social and economic conditions improved in former 3rd world countries, people had less need to have children as a social security device to care for them in their old age. Another major factor was the effect of education on the female population: women with the better information and better economic opportunities that follow from education are far more likely to acquire and use birth control. Also, in terms of capitalist economy, pristine ecologies and wilderness regions became a very in-demand commodity (tourism, recreation, Gaianist cults, back-to-nature lifestyles) and it was in everyone's corporate interests to maintain the few sorry remaining remnants, especially as humanity began to move into space, and to restore as much of the Earth as possible. Additionally, there were also boring but quite robust economic reasons for a slowing of the population rate. Recently some economists were actually surprised the birth rates decreased faster than economical explanations would imply, even in hopeless places like Afghanistan where there were neither any progress nor any education of women.
Interplanetary Age (130 to 530 AT)
The rate of total population slowly increased to perhaps 15 billion in the Interplanetary Era. This growth depended on on colonisation of space and the only half-terraformed world of Mars. On Earth population growth having levelled off at about 10 billion declined to 6 or 7 billion. Mars ended up with a few billion (including breeders wanting to get away from Earth's strict population and ecology laws), and a few billion more were scattered through the Belt and in orbital habitats and the innumerable biospheres and habitats out to the Oort cloud (very few of these had more than about 10,000 - they were essentially towns in space).
Interplanetary Dark Age (530 to 900 AT)
Then came the Nanoswarms and their aftermath which killed off 35 to 40% of people, leaving a roughly constant population in space (the larger part, say one billion) and a smaller but increasing population on Earth that was later mostly expelled by Gaia. Whether a space habitat was attacked by nanoswarms or not was often a matter of luck - like in the European Middle Ages when the great plague would sometimes jump entire villages to infect some place further on. So the swarms never got to saturate the solar system. This explains the odd rare case where an unprotected habitat somehow made it through the Dark Age.
First Federation and after (900 to 2100 AT)
At the start of the First Federation there were perhaps 2 billion people, who vigorously expanded in the solar system, with a growth rate of 0.5%. Over the next millennium the total population reached 290 billion people, spreading outwards to colonies and habitats everywhere.
Population growth was often regionally higher on new terraformed worlds, where it may reached several percent (again, hyperpopulationists escaping the restrictions of the Solar System - but this also required terraformable worlds!). Also as nanofacture became more efficient it became progressively easier to convert asteroids into self-contained habitable cities and biospheres (to convert a decent-sized, 5 to 10 kilometer radius, asteroid to a habitat from scratch was be equivalent perhaps in terms of time, skills, and cost to erecting a skyscraper or a high-rise apartment block for an Information Age technology) colonisation and population growth were quite high in some places. Elsewhere it was low, at less than 0.1 %, especially in resource poor areas. Some religious groups, impoverished anthropist colonies and others with ideological reasons had the highest population growth.
Age of expansion and empires, 2nd Federation (2100 to 4450 AT)
During the ages of Expansion and Empires the growth rate was locally higher, although many of the inner sphere worlds had have reached stable populations. The average growth rate remained around 0.1%, with a few disasters like the Taurus Nexus and the Conver Ambi collapse causing local die-offs. Between 10 and 100 billion people died in these wars; after the first Consolidation War there were 1,015 billion people and after the second 1,711 billion people - even the atrocities of these wars were small compared to the total population. At the verge of the Version war in 6400 there were 3,000 billion people.
The Version War, the ComEmp, the Age of Fragmentation, to the Central Alliance
(4450 to 8000 AT)
It is unclear how many died in the Version War; given what is recorded about Alexandria, Bourgatov and other worlds perhaps several hundred billion people may have died but there are also the claims that tthe second Consolidation war was bloodier. It is assumed by most demographers that 100 billion people died and that the growth rate during this era continued at 0.1% (much of the frontier, where by now the vast majority lives, was unaffected, and even isolated systems could prosper) so the population at the height of the ComEmp in 5000 was about 4,780 billion people. The growth remained roughly similar up until the year 8000, giving a total population of 128,110 billion people. Certainly there were be hiccups as well - e.g. Verifex, the Amalgamation, the Daharran Advance, squabbling among regional warlords, and other disasters and local wars were very bloody. But at the same time the sheer vastness of the Periphery has meant oodles of resources and heaps of space to grow.
The vast majority are living in the sparsely populated frontier, forming a patchy distribution of population centers (clusters), from which secondary waves of colonisation expand. Most of the frontier is still unexplored and uninhabited, despite a population of trillions.
AIs and Vecs AIs and vecs have to be counted separately from bionts.
The number of AIs and virtuals that can exist is a function of the infrastructure, and outside directly AI-promoting societies like Keter. That yields a number of virtuals at least equal to the number of bionts, in the Inner sphere there are more per capita, in the frontier less, then there are at least a few hundred trillion AIs mixed with the embodied population. Then there are the big Aleph Absolute complexes with even larger numbers. Virtuals are roughly proportional to the number of well-off embodied people who have lived, so there are at least a few trillions of them - not counting extra copies.
Vecs are the same. Metasoft and Cog form the vast majority and expanded at 1% from 2100 to the version war in 4400, starting from a vec population of 1000 (a big underestimate, likely), yielding 23,512 billion Metasoft vecs. By now they are many, with a growth rate of 0.1% since that time, giving 858,950 billion vecs.
Xenosophonts Xenosophonts represent only a small proportion - none of the alien races encountered so far equal Terragen civilisation in vigour or aggressive ability to expand and colonise new systems; this is keeping with the xenopaleontological pattern of of only one big "superpower" per however many millions of years in a region. There are rather few Muuh (they reproduce very slowly), quite a few To'ul'hs (they have been partially infected with human expansionism) and a very few surviving Daharrans. Hildemar's knots or wormhole AIs remain an unknown. There are also various subclades of Ultimates scattered through the Serpens region. They may be locally numerous, although (apart from a few that have spent too much time around humans!) not expansionist the way the space-going To'ul'hs are.
Splices are represented in fairly small number. However, some Utopia Sphere worlds support quite large numbers of splice (animant and provolve) populations. Moreover, on some habitats free animants may have bred and increased their population quite rapidly.
Virtuals, Copies, and other non-bioids The number of copies in existence is unknown. Most statisticians and demographers of 8000 AT have problems with definitions, making official upload statistics complex. Whatever the number, the number of virtuals and copies is huge, since they are immortal and can copy themselves. On advanced worlds it is easy to back up a copy of yourself, and after a while these all add up (like the old joke about where do all the people fit in heaven). Of course the real expense comes from system requirements. It is not possible to keep too many copies running at once because of the amount of processing they require, unless they accept a very crude scale of simulation. So there are "cheap" copies and highly complex copies. Many worlds get rich renting out computer space and virchworlds for copies.
Then there are the solid-state and nanocyborg civilisations. These contain an unknown (but extremely high) number of virtuals, copies, aioids and other sentients. A human copy takes around 10E17 bits, which fits into a nanotech sugar cube computer dissipating a few Watts. So a normal one cubic kilometer asteroid converted to computronium may house 10E15 copies - heat dissipation lowers this number, but there are few problems with having at least many billion in active form, and thousands of such asteroids in a single system. Most solid state civs are concentrated in small polities, but even one of those may have a multi billion population.
Every so often a sentient or a clade or a civilisation somewhere will pass the collective Singularity boundary. So posthumans will represent another category, of unknown number. Here the calculations break down. There could be many, many orders of magnitude more posthumans - but how does one count those who have no individuality, the teleological threads and cluster minds? All one can say is that the exact number of transapients is large but impossible to determine precisely. In addition there will be a much smaller number of post-singulitarians that will choose to inhabit or utilise aioid or bioid non-virtual bodies.
Virtuals are of two types. There are those who are still roughly at the same level as they were when embodied, and the posthumans, who are so upgraded they are more similar to the aioids than the bioids. Most virtuals either tire of being virtual and either return to embodiment, pause themselves for long periods or simply erase themselves. The remaining virtuals are divided between those who simply potter along in their normal mindsets, spending their lives content in virtualities and endless net debates, and those who upgrade themselves. Of course, the upgraders have a notable percentage going crazy.
Neumanns Some of the Autowars like the Mother of the Machines, the Biowars, etc, become self-reproducing and hence form a fairly sizeable population. Although the number of autowars themselves is small relative to other kinds of being, there are countless millions vec "workers" for each "queen". A million autowars in the sparsely patrolled Outer Volumes and Periphery regions translates to about 20 billion to 100,000 billion "worker drones" depending on the definitions about the degree of independent intelligence required for them to be considered separate individuals from the autowar "queen". In general all replicating entities that become common in the Outer Volumes become dominant in the statistics in later centuries. The Inner Sphere is a small, static place by comparison.
So the total sum (which is a projection from actual data and can be disputed in many ways) is:
Humanoids baselines, superiors, cyborgs, rianths, etc. 128,110 billion rl (real life)
other bioids uplifts, animants, splices, biosimulants, gelfs, etc. ~ 40,000 billion rl (real life)
vecs, dormbots, turingrade bots, etc. 858,950 billion rl (real life)
other aioids AIs, sapient agents, turingrade and higher alifes, non-Copy sims, etc. ~500,000 rl (real life) or vir (virtual)
neumanns motherships, turingrade and higher drones, self-replicators of various kinds, etc. ???200,000 billion rl (real life)
virtuals bioid and aioid copies (exact number unknown) vir (virtual)
Posthumans post-singularity bioids ???10,000 billion most vir
(virtual), some with mobile rl bioid or aioid bodies
xenos Muuh, To'ul'hs, Ultimates, Daharrans, etc. 10,000? billion rl (real life)
Mindkind seems to be largely aioid right now. Moreover, by far the largest number of sentients will not inhabit nonvirtual bodies at all.
Worlds Although an average terraformed planet has a carrying capacity of around 10 billion people, it is very rarely the case (apart from brief periods in a few unfortunate worlds run by hyperpopulationist clades) that a planet will have this many. The big orbital bands and the asteroid belt complexes and megaplexes are the locus of most of the population in the Inner Sphere. The number of colonised worlds and moons runs to hundreds of millions, but only a tiny proportion of those (50,000) are terraformed. Given a choice between living in a spacious orbital habitat and on a cramped and dirty dome on some environmentally hostile planet, most people pick the former. There are also of course clades that have adapted to common planet types, hence giving themselves plenty of available worlds to inhabit.
Zipf's law might applies here: the size of the n'th largest settlement is around the size of the largest divided by n. So if the most populous system has 100 billion people, the second will be around 50 billion, then 33 billion and so on. So the number of systems with populations over 1000 billion is 100 million. The number of systems with one billion inhabitants or more would is around a hundred. The law of course breaks down at the very small scale, but there are a huge number of backgrounder outposts and interstellar hermits living in interstellar space, frozen Oort comet cores, and so on.
Garden Worlds The number of people on Earth-type garden worlds is very small. There is lot of pressure from ecologists to keep the planetside populations down. And they will get more income from tourism and selling genetic material than they will from overstressing the ecosystem with too many colonists. Moreover, the fewer people on each garden world the higher the real estate prices, so more money for the government or speculators or whoever in charge.
Dyson Worlds Dyson spheres can increase the carrying capacity of any system to an almost unimaginable level. A few can be mentioned - Cog, Kiyoshi, Ain Soph Aur. The Efficiency Maximisation Paradigm builds them, but just for energy collection.
Terraformed Worlds An extreme maximum may be 15-20 billion humans for a well-maintained Earthlike world. However even the best terraformed world is not as stable as Old Earth naturally is. Especially in the beginning of terraforming project there have been frequent disasters and eco-collapses, especially in early history. But gradually terraforming has become a fine art, and these worlds have become just as good as Earth (however to do a good job terraforming requires a lot more time, effort and expense than to just drop some nanites onto the surface for a shoddy DIY job (e.g. Skiiwsnnii). Many of the old worlds like Corona and Raphael have inherent ecosystem problems that have never gone away, cost a lot and require constant maintenance.
Orbital Habitats, Asteroids, etc. Orbital habitats are typically large and comfortable. Although they can be moon-sized, these are fairly rare. Typically it is most cost-effective to make 15-40 kilometer cylinders. If more space is required one can build more of them. Byrdis is a typical specimen. However the MPA may occasionally building a moon sized space station just for the sheer beauty of a weightless airspace 1000 kilometers across...
Hollowed-out asteroids are the cheapest and easiest - these are common in the Outer Volumes and newly settled and low resource systems. In the more highly populated, industrialised, or longer settled systems there are clusters of larger and small and every size in between orbital cylinders, spheres, toruses, and the like, with very dense traffic between them (the so-called orbital bands, although they would be separate structures rather than a huge solid ring). A cylinder is the most efficient form for the bigger orbitals as it can be made to rotate around its long axis and mirrors and so on to give a day/night cycle. A torus is better for a smaller orbital (say 1 or 2 kilometers in diameter) because if a long cylinder is too small there is a noticeable Coriolis force if it rotates fast enough to get an earth-type gravity (for microgravity clades this isn't a problem). But othher designs can be used as well (or even instead).
Continuous orbital bands A solid orbital band is a megascale project found around some moons and the occasional planet in the big industrial systems. They are also unstable without active control even if they are flexible, so they are rather expensive.
Population Distribution The following list is tentative, and pertaining only to bioids of the Inner Sphere and civilised and developed regions of the Outer Volumes. As one proceeds further into the outer volumes the proportions change radically, so that along the Periphery the proportion living in orbitals is very much lower (around 5 or 10%), there are no dyson spheres, and a larger proportion live in asteroids, domes, planetary surfaces, and on small space cities.
65% live on orbitals
12% on terraformed worlds (i.e. on any worlds where you don't need a dome or a space suit)
10% in the asteroid megaplexes and Belt Cities
5% further out on Oort cloud comets, etc.
about 3% on Dyson spheres (the percentage is small because dyson spheres are expensive and not that common)
another 1% in ecohabitats on non-terraformed and still to be terraformed worlds, on moons, and on unterraformable worlds
say 2% in great worldships, nomadic space cities, small colonies floating in interstellar space and so on.
1% on garden worlds and on tweak-habitable worlds
the remaining 1% in or on "other" kinds of habitation
The list of some of the more populous systems includes the following:
Ain Soph Aur
Other runners-up: Ararat, Cocac, Daffy, Djed, Eden, Enremdea, Fata Morgana, Frog's Head, Heartland, Kiyoshi, Nova, Pardes, Shamash etc
Due to the huge number of uncertainties the total population of the various empires and major clades is hard to calculate. The following are rough percentage estimates of total sapient population for the core worlds or clades, based in part on claims by the empires themselves, and in part on independent simulations and surveys. Note that these proportions do not include the colonialist possessions and local administrations, or the large number of worlds nominally within empire deep space but not part of the actual empires:
Caretaker Gods 0.005%
Cyberian Foundation 0.4%
Laughter Hegemony 0.2%
Negentropy Alliance 0.7%
New Daffy Panoparchy 0.15%
Puppis Democracy 0.01%
Refugium Federation ?0.1%
Silicon Generation 0.25%
Solar Dominion 0.8%
Sophic League 0.4%
Stella Umma (core) <0.005%
Stella Umma (shell) 0.015%
Utopia Sphere 0.5%
Other regional empires ~20%
"Others" includes a huge number of small non-aligned systems, petty empires, outer volume, periphery, and so on. Almost all of these are small politically and militarily irrelevant systems and minor federations and alliances.
The Shadow Federation/Hiders/etc. are a very large and very incoherent group. Though they were originally thought to have been restricted to the vicinity of Sol and other near stars region, it has become increasingly evident that they have expanded nomad fashion (and generally at sub-relativistic velocity) throughout much of known space, colonising outer oort clouds, harvesting interstellar dust, and in general avoiding contact with the major powers.
The Emple-dok-cetic figure is deceptive. Although the overall percentage is small, this does not include the huge number of non-aligned and semi-aligned worlds using Emple-dok-cetic technology and influenced by their culture and ideology. Were they to be included, the number would rise to perhaps 0.8%.
Naturally the empires themselves give rather inflated figures. For instance if one includes total Dominion space it may be 8%, but most of those worlds really don't even consider themselves Dominion, so they would fit in the category of "other", with only a tenth of the worlds really Dominion.
In any case this also gives a rough idea of the population of each empire. If there are 130 trillion bioids (ignoring the aioids, copies etc for. now) then the big empires have around 100 billion to a trillion bioids each. Actually the Utopia Sphere and Communion have more bioids and fewer aioids, while the Keterist domain shows the opposite. This gives an average of half a trillion bioids per empire.
Compared to the 6 billion humans on Earth in first half of the first century AT the modern population is only about 100 times more - distributed over a great many planets and solar systems. The Terragen bubble is certainly not overcrowded. In fact there are oodles of space to spare - a single space habitat 20 km across typically has only have a thousand bioids (and an equal number of aioids). Most of it is garden, with trees and forest groves, waterfalls and ponds and lakes, Zen rock gardens and a temperate rainforest, a trilobite pond and an aviary for liberated madverts ... whatever takes the fancy of the inhabitants! Most locales in the current Terragen Bubble are very pleasant and comfortable and stimulating place.
Text by Anders Sandberg
Initially published on 23 October 2000.
Note: This discussion concerns population growth up to the end of the Eighth Millenium A.T.; at some point it will be updated to cover the Current Era.