Kurzweil's fervent belief in technology also relates to the "A" (affluence) component of IPAT. Alternative energy technologies and most other technological research and development happens in the richest nations. And wealthy countries are almost always the first to adopt these new technologies. This links Kurzweil's viewpoint with another prominent counterpoint to IPAT and the neomalthusian approach: the Environmental Kuznets Curve (Figure 2.10). Both Kuznets and the neomalthusian models assert that consumption increases with affluence, but the Kuznets model argues that the environmental impact of that increased consumption eventually levels off and decreases as more affluent populations adopt more sustainable consumption habits and technologies.
Simon is essentially arguing that throughout history technological advances have made it so that natural resource and food production have more than kept up with population growth and demand. He also suggests that human impact on the environment is not as negative as some have claimed. These are important aspects of the IPAT equation: if more population, affluence, and technology do not bring resource scarcity and greater environmental impact, then the equation does not hold. Simon won his bet with Ehrlich (as described in the Wired Magazine reading), so there must be some substance to Simon’s ideas. He was certainly correct that in virtually all cases, natural resources and commodities like food are more plentiful now than in the past, and supply has certainly kept up with demand. What Simon does not mention, and what Ehrlich and his colleagues failed to realize, is that commodity prices are not merely a reflection of overall supply or scarcity. Consider the price of oil. Oil prices in 2016 reached record lows even though oil is absolutely a finite resource. Much of this is due to hydraulic fracturing technologies, which have temporarily increased supply, but at a potentially great environmental price. Thus, when looking at these debates, it is important for us to be able to analyze the evidence and the arguments for ourselves, so that we can avoid making the same mistakes as others may be making.
Advancements in agricultural technology have made possible tremendous food production, which so far has been able to keep up with the expanding population without overt Malthusian checks.
But the fact that Malthus' dire predictions have not come true does not mean his basic ideas were without merit - indeed, they are the ancestors of economic and sociological theory today.
Population has increased far beyond what Malthus predicted possible, and starvation, in the First World countries at least, is not a significant problem.
In every country some of these checks are, with more or less force, in constant operation; yet, notwithstanding their general prevalence, there are few states in which there is not a constant effort in the population to increase beyond the means of subsistence. This constant effort as constantly tends to subject the lower classes of society to distress, and to prevent any great permanent melioration of their condition.
The sum of all these preventive and positive checks, taken together, forms the immediate check to population; and it is evident that, in every country where the whole of the procreative power cannot be called into action, the preventive and the positive checks must vary inversely as each other; that is, in countries either naturally unhealthy, or subject to a great mortality, from whatever cause it may arise, the preventive check will prevail very little. In those countries, on the contrary, which are naturally healthy, and where the preventive check is found to prevail with considerable force, the positive check will prevail very little, or the mortality be very small.
On examining these obstacles to the increase of population which I have classed under the heads of preventive and positive checks, it will appear that they are all resolvable into moral restraint, vice, and misery.
The positive checks to population are extremely various, and include every cause, whether arising from vice or misery, which in any degree contributes to shorten the natural duration of human life. Under this head, therefore, may be enumerated all unwholesome occupations, severe labour and exposure to the seasons, extreme poverty, bad nursing of children, great towns, excesses of all kinds, the whole train of common diseases and epidemics, wars, plague, and famine.
These effects, in the present state of society, seem to be produced in the following manner. We will suppose the means of subsistence in any country just equal to the easy support of its inhabitants. The constant effort towards population, which is found to act even in the most vicious societies, increases the number of people before the means of subsistence are increased. The food, therefore, which before supported eleven millions, must now be divided among eleven millions and a half. The poor consequently must live much worse, and many of them be reduced to severe distress. The number of labourers also being above the proportion of work in the market, the price of labour must tend to fall, while the price of provisions would at the same time tend to rise. The labourer therefore must do more work, to earn the same as he did before. During this season of distress, the discouragements to marriage and the difficulty of rearing a family are so great, that the progress of population is retarded. In the mean time, the cheapness, of labour, the plenty of labourers, and the necessity of an increased industry among them, encourage cultivators to employ more labour upon their land, to turn up fresh soil, and to manure and improve more completely what is already in tillage, till ultimately the means of subsistence may become in the same proportion to the population, as at the period from which we set out. The situation of the labourer being then again tolerably comfortable, the restraints to population are in some degree loosened; and, after a short period, the same retrograde and progressive movements, with respect to happiness, are repeated.
(This-Ed.) Means the entire human race at its climax level for permanent balance with nature."
In recent history, we have seen the influence of occultic population control advocates here in America.
If this restraint do not produce vice, it is undoubtedly the least evil that can arise from the principle of population. Considered as a restraint on a strong natural inclination, it must be allowed to produce a certain degree of temporary unhappiness; but evidently slight, compared with the evils which result from any of the other checks to population; and merely of the same nature as many other sacrifices of temporary to permanent gratification, which it is the business of a moral agent continually to make.