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Posted by on 12 Jun 2015 .

Last updated 3rd June 2015, 14:52

Cognitive demography: a question in the numbers


In the week of this year’s Bilderberg meeting, it might be useful to reflect on a few numbers in assessing the issue of equality – not equality in terms of the customary metrics of wealth, or GDP, or access to resources, or educational attainment, but rather in terms of the brute number of human neurons on the planet. Consider that there are roughly 100 billion neurons in the human brain, and 7.25 billion humans: so, that’s almost one trillion billion neurons occupying the collective human skull.

Any one of a number of websites can provide the population figures broken down by countries, and reveals some telling facts. Since the exclusion of Russia from the G8, there is a clear distinction between the G7 (combined population of .76 billion) and the BRIC bloc (Brazil, Russia, India and China), with a total population just shy of 3 billion. Together, these countries comprise 50% of the planet. Add 4 countries that figure in the world’s top 10 by population without being either a G7 or a BRIC – and any one of Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria, and Bangladesh has more people than any one of the G7 countries other than the USA: what is emerging here is a huge imbalance within our species regarding the number of brains who decide things, and the number of disengaged brains living with the impact of those decisions.

This is more than simply a moral challenge, or just a case of “interesting numbers, but so what”. Humanity is awakening to the economic perils of financial power being concentrated in the 1%: what is the point of such hoarding when the reality remains that there are only so many bananas that one fat rich person can consume? If the currency is intelligence rather than money, the questions for the architects of AI must be: for whom is it being created, and how will its benefits be spread?