The power couple on a mission to save the world from demographic disaster
This month, the 8 billionth child entered the world. Demographers believe that the world’s population is moving towards 10 billion. But at some point, the curve will begin to move downwards. Families will shrink. People everywhere (except sub-Saharan Africa) will become older and older, leading to huge burdens on government social services.
The problem is that most countries have birth-rates below replacement level. And no one knows how to coax women into having more children, as China has discovered, to its dismay. It moved from a one-child policy, to a two-child policy, to a three-child policy – and fertility has edged even lower.
What is to be done? A solution comes from an improbable source – wealthy, geeky, tech and venture-capitalist pro-natalism activists.
Chapter 1: Elon talks about it
The eccentric billionaire Elon Musk has been married twice but now describes himself as single. He has had at least nine children with a combination of wives, girlfriends, and surrogates. Here are some of his recent tweets.
- “If the alarming collapse in birth rate continues, civilization will indeed die with a whimper in adult diapers.” Elon Musk on Twitter, January 11, 2022.
- “Contrary to what many think, the richer someone is, the fewer kids they have. I am a rare exception. Most people I know have zero or one kid.” Elon Musk on Twitter, May 25, 2022.
- “Watch the opening scene of Idiocracy. When I ask my friends why they’re not yet having kids (very few are), it sounds exactly like the movie.” Elon Musk on Twitter, June 18, 2022.
Chapter 2: Malcolm and Simone do something about it
Malcolm and Simone Collins radiate powerful self-confidence. As a married couple they have operated companies on five continents that collectively pulled in US$70 million every year; raised a private equity fund; directed strategy at top, early-stage venture capital firms; written three best-selling books; served as managing director of Dialog, an elite retreat for global leaders founded by Peter Thiel; and earned degrees in neuroscience, business, and technology policy from St Andrews, Stanford, and Cambridge.
Before marrying, they committed to having between 7 and 13 children. Since Simone was older, she had to ensure that her age would not be a barrier to their plans for an expanding family. In 2018, which they call the Year of the Harvest, they produced and froze as many embryos as possible. They already have three children: Octavian, Torsten, and Titan Invictus.
The evolutionary logic associated with transhumanism is an important theme in their plans. On the population level, whole cultures are in danger of extinction – like the Japanese or Armenians or Catalans. This would represent a tragic loss of cultural diversity. “We are about to experience the largest cultural mass extinction since the colonial period,” they write. Their “Project Ark” is to save as many cultures as possible by promoting higher birth rates.
On a family level, their proposals involve tinkering with embryos to ensure that their children have “good genes”. Their critics call this “eugenics”. They prefer to call it common sense. “What we advocate for is fairly vanilla—if aggressive—transhumanism: Improving and transforming the human condition with technology. Be against transhumanism all you want, but don’t call it eugenics.”
Chapter 3: Learn all about population implosion at pronatalist.org
From their home in rural Pennsylvania, this highly-connected couple is preaching the gospel of pro-natalism, the latest fad amongst the super-rich in Silicon Valley. For the past 20 or so years, billionaires have been obsessed with longevity – increasing lifespans to hundreds of years. Research on that continues, but some are turning their minds to demography. “The person of this subculture really sees the pathway to immortality as being through having children,” says Simone.
Pronatalist.org, a website created by Malcolm and Simone, alerts readers to the crisis:
Birth rates are falling precipitously around the world in both developed and developing countries. If dramatic action is not taken, we will witness the extinction of entire societies, expansion of totalitarian governments, and an unchecked rise of tribalism.
South Korea’s birth-rate is about 0.81, far below replacement level. The Collinses call this “genocide by inaction”. They have a knack for presenting the consequences of population decline in vivid analogies: “This is equivalent to a disease that wipes out 94% of the population. We need radical solutions to save endangered ethnic groups.”
They even see contemporary politics through a demographic lens:
“If you have ever wondered why different ideological factions in politics seem to be able to agree on less and less as time goes on, why they are becoming more authoritarian, and why tribalism seems to be increasing: You are witnessing the invisible hand of demographic collapse at work.
“Population numbers will eventually rebound within a few hundred years, but progress the world has made in terms of women’s rights, freedom of speech, environmentalism, racial equality, gay rights, etc. runs the risk of systematic erasure if we fail to intervene.”
What’s the answer? Only a profound cultural change will save us, they argue. Tax credits and baby bonuses are just tinkering around the edges:
“Only cultures with a strong external motivation to have kids are well above repopulation rate at the moment; all others will enter the dustbin of history. Essentially, every world culture that does not have strong religious convictions or educate and treat women as equals is being systematically deleted. …
“A single family having eight kids that successfully passes that practice to their own children can save their entire ethnic group. (One family having eight kids for ten generations leads to over a billion descendants.)”
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Chapter 4: Malcolm and Simone's survival plan
The best-known groups with high fertility are all religious. About a quarter of Israel’s population will be Haredi Jews by 2050, according to a recent estimate. In 1980, they were an insignificant minority of 4 percent. The American Amish may have the world’s highest birthrate; one demographer joked that in 200 years, all Americans will be Amish.
Of course, Malcolm and Simone are not conventionally religious. If pressed, they describe themselves as “secular Calvinists”. They are not Sunday church-goers but they are hard-working, hard-driving, abstemious, frugal souls on a mission from … Evolution.
Their unconventionally religious stand is to encourage fans to create family cultures which welcome children. “We're trying to create a playbook for people who want to work their values and morals into durable cultures that are far more likely to endure intergenerationally (rather than go extinct due to low birth rates),” Simone explained in an email to MercatorNet. “One can create a durable culture from scratch, without any religious element, or one can reinforce an existing religion or culture to make it ‘durable’ (capable of lasting intergenerationally).”
They have nearly finished writing another book which sketches their philosophy of the intertwined themes of demography, evolution, family structure, and religion, called The Pragmatist’s Guide to Crafting Religion. “At its core,” they write, “this book is a meditation on how we can intentionally construct a culture/religion that will be ‘evolutionarily successful’ and spread.”
They have a Sisyphean job ahead of them. As they observe wryly: “It may be easier to coax a caged panda to reproduce than it would be to convince a cosmopolitan progressive to raise their own kid.”
Malcolm and Simone describe themselves as conservative Republicans, although in some ways, they are fully-paid-up progressives. They will be attending the LGBT-friendly Log Cabin Republican shindig at Mar-a-Lago in mid-December. They endorse experimental family structures, and their views on moral issues would disconcert traditional Christians.
But beneath the hipster veneer, they really are the “secular Calvinists” they claim to be. They are not shy of expressing stern and judgemental views about “pop culture” which offers sex, power, acceptance, prestige, wealth, and the life of Riley without hard work. They take a dim view of the “cultural super virus” – which is how practicing secular Calvinist hipsters describe woke culture.
As an aside, they are nonchalant about woke lunacies. From an evolutionary perspective, they contend, bad ideas literally go extinct. That cultural super virus is “a sterilizing disease and almost none of its husks reproduce above repopulation rate, hence our grandkids likely won’t have to deal with them.”
And on family dynamics, they are astonishingly conventional. They point out in their book that the best motivation for the next generation to have kids is a happy home life as a child:
“If a young girl grows up and sees her mom and people like her overburdened, unloved, and ignored by society, why would she choose to have kids herself? Why would she aspire to that? While we can’t fix this at the societal level, we can address this problem intentionally-designed cultures. If you want to create a durable culture for your family and inspire your children to have kids of their own, one of the best things you can do is ensure you have a strong relationship with your spouse.
“For our family, this means ensuring daughters see their mothers glorified, appreciated, and even deified within family culture for the sacrifices they make while also demonstrating that none of those sacrifices require foregoing a career or stepping back from public life.”
In some respects, they may be even sterner than their God-fearing Calvinist forebears. Child-bearing is natural for women, they write in their book. There’s no reason to exaggerate its difficulties:
“In our House, having kids is just part of the yearly routine. While Simone is appreciated for it, she never hints that it would be justified for her to use pregnancy or childbirth as an excuse to step back from work. The productive glorification of motherhood requires never giving into society's tendency to conflate gratitude and approval with justification to winge, whine, indulge, or lean out.”
No way that these guys have been infected by the “cultural super virus”!
Chapter 5: networking for pro-natalism
The Collinses want you to join them. “We are actively building a diverse network of families with the grit to make it through this maelstrom,” they say on the website. “If you are committed to a high birth rate and building a healthy culture for your family, we want to talk!”
Michael Cook is editor of Mercator
Image credits: Malcolm and Simone Collins / pronatalist.org
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