Created By: FREDDE on March 23, 2011

There Will Be Lots of People In The Future

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Main
Page Type:
Trope
(Do we already have this one? I can't find it anywhere.)

It's the future- either the close or distant future. You have the ray guns, the jet packs, and the spaceships. But you need a way of making things seem more 'real', more grounded in reality. How?

Up the population by a few billion, that's how. The human population is currently at almost seven billion, and it's showing no signs of slowing. Barring an major disaster, it's likely that the human population will continue to grow.

The numbers of people will often vary, depending on how far in the future it is. In Twenty Minutes into the Future settings, it's often between ten and twenty billion; if it's a few hundred years, expect tens or even hundreds of billions; if thousands, it's often trillions, maybe even quadrillions.

How such a large population is sustained is rarely brought up, though there's sometimes an in-show justification (often involving colonising other planets).

Needs More Examples.
Community Feedback Replies: 32
  • March 23, 2011
    CrypticMirror
    one Tag Line for Star Trek First Contact was "Planet Earth: population 9 Billion. None human".
  • March 23, 2011
    Ekuran
  • March 23, 2011
    rjung
    Both Soylent Green (and the Harry Harrison novel that inspired it, Make Room! Make Room!) have a 21st-century New York City populated by 35-40 million people. It's suggested that the rest of the planet is no better off.
  • March 23, 2011
    Rolf
    Very typical in "early future" Larry Nivon books. Earth have a city. Yeah world-wide city. Oceans is not included but whatever there is land its part of city. Before that they had "Super cities". Usa only had 3 of em, coving good parts of usa.

    Star Wars Catinina world city so big that theres only tiny patch of natural ground left, and it was part of extremely large and tall mountain. This city has been digging downwards too, according to certain novels.
  • March 23, 2011
    Fanra
    This trope is almost too common to use, as every single novel about the future has a larger population unless there is a major disaster. Indeed, past predictions about the current population (2011) were even higher then they are today, AIDS has slowed down the growth. Even with AIDS, the population continues to increase and unless some highly unlikely inventions (food replicators?) happens, massive collapse is inevitable soon.

    • Real Life: This is the greatest problem facing humanity. Poverty, unemployment, high energy prices, war, etc. are all directly or indirectly caused by this. In order to give everyone in the world a decent minimal standard of living would require the resources of three Earths. The rise of the standard of living in China and India is starting to strain the resources of the planet. Before this, most of the world resources went to the USA and other Western nations. There isn't enough for everyone.
    • Isaac Asimov wrote many essays on the issue of overpopulation. He felt this is the greatest problem facing humanity. He was highly annoyed that society has ignored this problem.
    • Robert Silverberg's novel The World Inside is set on Earth in the year 2381, when the population of the planet has reached 75 billion people. Population growth has skyrocketed due to a quasi-religious belief in human reproduction as the highest possible good. Most of the action occurs in a massive three-kilometer high city-tower called Urban Monad (Urbmon) 116. Most of humanity lives in these mammoth thousand-floor skyscrapers arranged in "constellations", where the shadow of one building does not fall upon another. The population is supported by the conversion of all of the Earth's habitable land area not taken up by Urbmons to agriculture.
  • March 24, 2011
    Frank75
    Judge Dredd may apply.

    In Chung Kuo, each continent is covered by one mega-city.
  • March 24, 2011
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    At least half the examples in the tropes Mega City and City Planet probably qualify.

    See also Dyson Sphere, Abusing The Kardashev Scale For Fun And Profit.
  • March 16, 2012
    FrodoGoofballCoTV
    One - Year Bump

    Literature:

    Web Original:
    • Double Subverted in Orions Arm. The population of "baseline" (not substantially genetically modified) humans falls from 15 billion to 2 billion between 2400 and 2900 A.D., and are considered an Endangered Species in the very far future (c. 10,000 - 20,000 A.D.). However, in that same far future, our genetically modified descendants number in the hundreds of thousands of billions.
  • June 3, 2012
    Goldfritha
    Actually, based on current rates of declining fertility, the human population is projected to start declining in the twenty-first centuries. And predications over the last century have generally turned out to be higher population that actually occurred.
  • June 3, 2012
    animeg3282
    Eh, I hope so, but I'm sure there some fictional example of the earth in 2025 having 20 billion people.
  • June 3, 2012
    Bisected8
  • June 3, 2012
    DanielCase
    I'm not so sure this, as conceived, would generate a lot of examples. With the exception of fiction from ca. 1970 like Stand On Zanzibar, Soylent Green (and its very different source novel, as mentioned above), the TOS episode "The Mark of Gideon" (not set on Earth, either) and JG Ballard's early '60s short story "Billenium" (which beat Robert Silverberg to his idea of a double-digit billion population crowded into dense urban confines so enough land exists to grow everyone's food), when that issue was very much on people's minds, there's very little sf that even mentions how large the population is. Perhaps it would be better reconceptualized as a trope covering the few overpopulation narratives in general.
  • June 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Possible page quote:
    One thing you will discover
    When you get next to one another
    Is everybody needs some elbow room, elbow room.
    It's nice when you're kinda cozy, but
    Not when you're tangled nose to nosey, oh,
    Everybody needs some elbow, needs a little elbow room.
    --Schoolhouse Rock, "Elbow Room" (about the Louisiana Purchase and Westward expansion)
  • June 4, 2012
    Frank75
    Two notes: a) Stand On Zanzibar, as The Other Wiki knows, refers to the fact that you could put all of the world population on the small African island of Zanzibar. If all of them managed to stand up in a disciplined way, without anyone starting chaos. But still - even if Earth's population tripled, we'd be far from a planet-wide city, even if you think such a city would be awesome. b) While the population is still growing, in many countries the birthrate has fallen below replacement levels (~ 2.1 children / woman). Not only most western and eastern European countries, but also some Muslim ones like Turkey, Tunisia and even ayatollah-reigned Iran.
  • June 4, 2012
    Omeganian
    In Foundation, there are 25 million inhabited planets in the galaxy. Quadrillions of people, although there are no exact numbers given.

    The Last Question mentions "a trillion, trillion, trillion" people, spread all over the universe.
  • June 4, 2012
    Lyendith
    I read somewhere that the human population would top somewhere between 9 and 10 billion in a few decades (the planet can feed 12 billion)... the population in some rich countries like Germany or Russia is already starting to fall. So scenarios with 20 billion on earth people don't have any kind of realism.
  • June 4, 2012
    DanielCase
    When all those nightmares fed by Malthus years ago and Paul Ehrlich's "The Population Bomb" that inspired this genre were fresh in everyone's minds, the assumption that no one questioned was that population growth would be evenly distributed. That has turned out not to be the case. As noted, some countries like Italy and Japan are seeing their populations decline. It is now projected that 8 billion will be the first population landmark that we reach (assuming, as I think we can, that the human race will largely be living on Earth for that timespan) in more time then it took to get to the previous one. Sixteen years elapsed between six billion (1995) and seven billion (2011); it's expected that we'll not hit eight billion until the 2030s.

    The exception to this, and the real locus of the bulk of the world's population growth, is the continent that can least afford this: Africa. By the time we hit eight billion worldwide, Nigeria will have about as many people as the United States does currently ... living in an area the size of Arizona and New Mexico put together. Now that's standing on Zanzibar.
  • June 4, 2012
    jatay3
    That may be true Goldfirtha, but assuming practical interstellar travel and planets that can be settled by humans, there is no reason for this trend to continue. If anything the reverse as it would be in everyone's interest to have a large population now; the Mega Corp needs laborors, The Empire needs soldiers, and the colonists need someone to drive their farm machinery, robots being for whatever reason insufficient to the needs of the growing human empire.
  • June 4, 2012
    animeg3282
    OK, but do we have any examples of this in works or suggestions for the description?
  • June 6, 2012
    DanielCase
    The handful already mentioned, and the works in this blog post would be a good list to start. I don't see it (ahem) growing quickly, because as I said these works are generally a creation of the 1960s and there don't seen to have been many new ones in the last 20 years (because, I suspect, it became apparent that in the developed world at least the worst fears weren't coming to pass).
  • June 6, 2012
    DanielCase
    "This trope is almost too common to use, as every single novel about the future has a larger population unless there is a major disaster." Indeed, but the point of it as a trope is that it is for works where the population growth, and often its strain on the available resources, is an essential aspect of the story.
  • August 4, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    Test.
  • August 4, 2016
    DAN004
    Either the trope, or at least the name, screams "well duh" to me. If there's no Depopulation Bomb then this will happen in any case of future setting, right?
  • August 5, 2016
    Morgenthaler
    I think this one can be narrowed to cases of Future Overpopulation such as Soylent Green. It looks like there's a bug with the editor for this one, though.
  • August 5, 2016
    Arivne
    Although the Description doesn't specifically say so, it appears to be written with the assumption that the planet involved is Earth. This should probably be expanded to include any over-populated planet.

    Literature
    • Three of George RR Martin's Haviland Tuf stories (''Loaves and Fishes", "Second Helpings" and "Manna from Heaven") chronicle his encounters with the people of the planet S'uthlam ("Malthus" Backwards Name). Their religion has the doctrine that all life is sacred and that humans should therefore breed as much as possible. As a result their planet is dangerously overpopulated.
  • August 5, 2016
    Snicka
    Future Overpopulation is the most concise title I can think of.
  • August 5, 2016
    KingZeal
    • Mass Effect: Even after the development of Faster Than Light Travel, it's noted In Universe that in the late 22nd Century, Earth is still vastly overpopulated, with over 11 billion humans and an unknown number of aliens living on the planet, and dealing with problems caused by environmental damage which peaked a century ago. Earth's overpopulation and pollution is mocked by many aliens in the series, as an indication of humanity's inability to get its own "house in order", so to speak. A possible origin for protagonist Commander Shepard is to have grown up in a gang of orphan criminals in a polluted megatropolis on Earth.
  • August 5, 2016
    zarpaulus
    Frequently combined with Population Control.

    • A recurring theme in many of Robert Heinlein's novels, to which the solution is always Faster Than Light Travel:
      • When the Howards' families return to Earth at the end of Methuselahs Children they find that the planet has become so crowded that there's literally no room left for them, fortunately one of the Howards has invented FTL and offers it freely. Still, in the distant sequel Time Enough For Love Lazarus Long mentions in one of his stories that at one point Earth's government declared everyone over 70 to be legally dead in an attempt at population control.
      • In Tunnel In The Sky China apparently conquered Australia and paved over the entire continent to make room for its growing population before the Portal Network was developed, now they chuck hordes of settlers to new worlds through the gates.
      • In Starship Troopers Rico writes an essay on how war is always the result of overpopulation, from the Crusades to the current Bug War. And that humanity doesn't dare institute Population Control else some other species like the Bugs expand first and wipe them out for more real estate.
  • August 5, 2016
    StarSword
    Maybe Absurd Future Overpopulation?

    Video Games:
    • EV Nova: All the Auroran capital worlds are insanely polluted and overpopulated, with the populations in the high tens of billions stuck in large arcologies. The only planet in the Federation that even comes close is Viking.
  • August 5, 2016
    zarpaulus
    • In George R.R. Martin's Tuf Voyaging the planet S'uthlam suffers from massive overpopulation, about 34 billion, due to a native religion that believes humanity can evolve into gods and that population is the primary driver of evolution. All land on the planet is either cities or farmland, animals other than livestock are considered vermin and eradicated, much of their food is produced in factories from petrochemicals, but they have a lot of geniuses and some of the most advanced technology in human space as a result of their massive population. Tuf comes to S'uthlam to outfit his Lost Technology seedship, but the government tries to seize it under some pretext so they can use it to conquer other planets. Twice Tuf attempts to appease them with new food crops from his ship's gene banks, and suggests instating some form of Population Control, but both times the people take it as a reason to breed even more. The third time he gets fed up and spikes their new crop with a Sterility Plague.
  • August 5, 2016
    Generality
    • In The Fifth Element, the President of Earth mentions "some 100 billion of my fellow citizens", although these might not all be on Earth.
  • August 6, 2016
    Metroid26
    In Decision at Doona overpopulation is so bad that the roads are completely packed with people and stepping on someones heel is the equivalent of rear-ending them with a car for us. Mobile Suit Gundam emphasizes that War Is Hell by noting that the first week of the war cost both sides half of their respective populations. This casualty count is later noted to be greater than the earths entire population at the time of airing.
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