Population of the Dead

How many people have ever lived? While doing research about populations for my last piece, I began to wonder just how many people had ever walked the face of the earth. The articles I found [here and here] were intriguing so I decided to visualize them as well. Link to the high-res.

Text from the image:

The numbers are highly speculative but are as accurate as modern science allows. It’s widely accepted that prior to 2002 there had been somewhere between 106 and 140 billion homo sapiens born to the world. The graphic below uses the conservative number (106 bn) as the basis for a concentric circle graph. The red dot in the center is scaled to represent how many people are currently living (red) versus the dead (white). The vertical line represents time. The spectral graph shows the population ‘benchmarks’ that were used to estimate the population over time. Adding up the population numbers gets you to 106 billion. The two spheres are then used to compare against other numbers.

Update Jan 29, 2010: Minor Spelling and Numeric Errors Corrected.

Update Feb 12, 2010: Now with 77,000+ views on Flickr.

The hypothetical maximum ‘carrying capacity’ of the earth based on current trends, known resources and existing technologies. The world population is expected to reach this size around 2050.

As one might guess, carrying capacity means scientists have no idea if the world can sustain human life beyond this point, but most would be inclined to say not. Especially since we’re seeing many signs of our affect on the planet with the current 6.8 billion. We know all too well that with the current estimated 3 billion people living in poverty, things will be a lot worse for the vast majority of the unborn, as many of them will be born into conditions of ‘extreme poverty’.

Economist Jeffery Sachs discusses sustainability, not just for the sake of those living now, but for unborn billions in this interview with EarthSky.

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About the author: Jonathan Gosier is a UI designer, software developer and writer. He currently lives in Kampala, Uganda where he incubates and invests in East African entrepreneurs as the CEO of Appfrica Labs. He's also a TED Fellow.
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