Robin Hanson Channels Paul Erhlich
Let’s try some numbers. Today we have about ten billion people with an average income about twenty times subsistence level, and the world economy doubles roughly every fifteen years. If that growth rate continued for ten thousand years the total growth factor would be 10200.
There are roughly 1057 atoms in our solar system, and about 1070 atoms in our galaxy, which holds most of the mass within a million light years. So even if we had access to all the matter within a million light years, to grow by a factor of 10200, each atom would on average have to support an economy equivalent to 10140 people at today’s standard of living, or one person with a standard of living 10140 times higher, or some mix of these.
An economy that doubled every century for a million years would grow by a factor of 103010. To support this using the 1070 atoms found within a million light years, each atom would have to support an average of 102950 people at our living standard, one person with a standard 102950 times higher, or some mix of those extremes.
It seems just physically impossible to create 10140 or more lives we would value like ours per atom, even considering quantum computing and black hole negentropy. But could individual living standards be that high?