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Old 08-12-2019, 12:03 PM
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How long would civilization last if all males became sterile?


The hypothetical is that some disease sterilizes all human males. Without exception, and I realize that's virtually impossible, but don't fight the hypothetical. Say it's alien space bats that do it, if that makes you happier. Anyway, no one can find a cure or immunization for the sterility, so humanity is reduced to using whatever sperm banks have on hand.

The question is, how long could civilization last in this situation?

Some thoughts: only one sperm actually fertilizes an egg, but somewhere (likely here on the SDMB) I read that it actually takes a few million or so sperm to dig into an egg in order for that one sperm to do the fertilization. If that's true, the available sperm can't be spread out too thinly.

Civilization needs a certain minimum number of people to make it run, say half a billion or so, so the reproduction rate can't be reduced too far.

The thing is, I have no idea how much stock sperm banks keep on hand. I suspect not a lot. Also, I'm not sure how many countries even have sperm banks. I suspect they don't exist in much of the world, but could easily be wrong on that.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:12 PM
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In your hypothetical is it only the current living males who are sterile, or will all future males being conceived (from, say, sperm banks) also be sterile?
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:18 PM
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If it were a high priority (which it would be), we could develop the technology for women to reproduce without men, within the lifespan of those currently alive. So civilization could continue indefinitely. The biggest risk would be that the discovery of the sterility would be the catalyst for a global nuclear war, as various nations blamed The Others for causing the sterility, or thought that The Others had a cure that they were withholding, or decided that since The End is Nigh anyway, there's nothing left to lose.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:19 PM
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All future males will be sterile too. The disease is still around and it'd be impossible to keep kids from getting it.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:25 PM
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Under lab conditions, it is possible to have female-only reproduction. For example Mouse Created From All-Female DNA. If all men became sterile, I'd imagine that there would be a lot of work directed at finding similar techniques for humans.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:31 PM
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If it were a high priority (which it would be), we could develop the technology for women to reproduce without men, within the lifespan of those currently alive.
Since we haven't developed that technology yet, there's a possibility that it's impossible for some reason. OK, that's also not too likely, but lets assume it for this question.

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So civilization could continue indefinitely. The biggest risk would be that the discovery of the sterility would be the catalyst for a global nuclear war, as various nations blamed The Others for causing the sterility, or thought that The Others had a cure that they were withholding, or decided that since The End is Nigh anyway, there's nothing left to lose.
Also assume that nuclear war does not break out, or at least is limited to not being a major problem for humanity going forward.
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Old 08-12-2019, 12:50 PM
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And what if all females went sterile?
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:02 PM
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Just in really round numbers, the world has seen something like 7 or 8 billion successful impregnations in the last 80 or so years. There's no way that the world's sperm banks (and medical experts necessary to effect the procedure) could match that sort of volume. Not even close. For most everyone, there'd be no more children, and populations would start to decline rapidly, and what we call "civilization" would grind to a halt over the next few decades.
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Old 08-12-2019, 01:14 PM
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Is this a Valerie Solanas kind of question we're asking here? Radical solution to misogyny, etc?
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:24 PM
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Define civilization. With IVF and the available frozen sperm on hand, you could prolong a very small civilization (village) for a very long time.
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Old 08-12-2019, 02:43 PM
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Define civilization. With IVF and the available frozen sperm on hand, you could prolong a very small civilization (village) for a very long time.
The OP says:

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Originally Posted by dtilque View Post
... Civilization needs a certain minimum number of people to make it run, say half a billion or so, so the reproduction rate can't be reduced too far. ...
I don't know that I agree with the number given, but if all that's left is a "village", I don't think that really counts for the OP's purposes. Just one "village" is probably going to see it's lifestyle regress to something more like 18th century living. They wouldn't be able to produce more automobiles, or refrigerators, or paint. Virtually no additional movies or books would be released. I'd be impressed if they could keep a steady supply of electricity for themselves. Research and development efforts in a whole swath of fields would come to a halt. Tasks like training new doctors would be a real challenge, etc.
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:01 PM
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There are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of already-fertilized frozen embryos in deep freezes in the US alone, plus more in Western Europe, Japan, etc.
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Old 08-12-2019, 03:44 PM
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There were something like 140 million live births last year. "hundreds of thousands" of frozen embryos are barely going to put a dent in replacing those, even if all the necessary technicians, doctors, facilities, (and willing patients!) were available to perform the procedures.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:01 PM
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There were something like 140 million live births last year. "hundreds of thousands" of frozen embryos are barely going to put a dent in replacing those, even if all the necessary technicians, doctors, facilities, (and willing patients!) were available to perform the procedures.
There were 3.8 million live births in the U.S., against the hundreds of thousands to low millions of frozen embryos here. If you want a kid, and the choice is a frozen embryo or no kid, then you'll find willing patients.

There are of course far fewer, if any, frozen embryos in the high-birth-rate countries of sub-Saharan Africa, etc.; I do not know how many may exist in Canada, Australia, Japan, the UK, etc.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:01 PM
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Is this a Valerie Solanas kind of question we're asking here? Radical solution to misogyny, etc?
I don't recognize that name. But the question is more in the line of research for a fictional story. Chances are I'll never write it, but I like to work out the details of the background in my head.

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I don't know that I agree with the number given,
I just pulled a number out of my nether orifice. Perhaps the number is only 100 million or even less. Certainly lots more than a million, though. If you think half a billion is too high, go with 100 million.

How many fertilizations per year do we need to maintain a population of 100 mIllion? Do we have enough medical people to do that many IVFs? Can the process be streamlined to do more with fewer people?

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There are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of already-fertilized frozen embryos in deep freezes in the US alone, plus more in Western Europe, Japan, etc.
Yes, those could be used. I expect most, if not all, sperm banks, fertility clinics, and any other potentially useful facilities to be nationalized in such an emergency and any rights anyone had to the contents thereof to be taken away.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:19 PM
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For some reason I find myself thinking about Cordwainer Smith.

“The Crime and the Glory of Commander Suzdal”

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_...mmander_Suzdal



From the Wikipedia article on the story:

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A deep space probe is found. It tells a brilliantly conceived but utterly false story about the plight of a group of settlers calling themselves the Arachosians. Suzdal is deceived and turns his ship towards the planet Arachosia and reenters hibernation.

When he arrives he learns the horrible truth. The original settlers nearly became extinct, succumbing to a plague that (in Smith's words) rendered "femininity carcinogenic." They were only able to save their women by chemically (and later genetically) making them male. However, the resulting society is deeply unbalanced by the lack of females and ordinary family structure. The Arachosians, not truly male or female and calling themselves "klopts", realize on an instinctive level what they are missing and as a result, hate normal human beings with unbridled fervor and regard them as abominations to be destroyed (even though they have not seen one in many generations). To carry out this plan, they have dispatched traps in the form of messages, such as the one Suzdal encountered, throughout the galaxy.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:25 PM
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I don't recognize that name. But the question is more in the line of research for a fictional story. Chances are I'll never write it, but I like to work out the details of the background in my head.
Just try not to make it too much like "Children of Men."

Because apart from your premise requiring that it specifically be the males that are sterile (why does it matter? Does it change your premise much if it’s just that for "reasons" people can’t reproduce anymore?) that’s basically the world "Children of Men" is set in. It’s been 20 years since the last infant was born, things have gone to shit, and then one day...
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:40 PM
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Even if alternate methods of conception were cheap and easy (e.g. at home kits sold at 7-11), it would likely mean that conception became more of a choice. Accidental pregnancy would not be an issue. I suspect that many people would not really try all that hard to get pregnant. Even when everything is working normally it can take many tries to get pregnant. I don't know how dedicated people would be if they had to keep buying kits or getting procedures done to get pregnant. Some people do endless IVF, but I don't think most people want kids that badly.

I also don't know how dedicated people would be to the cause of carrying on the human race. If society is collapsing because of the resulting population decline, would people want to bring a baby into that world? Even now, people have concerns about bring kids into the world we have today with all the social unrest and climate issues. I would think there would be even more worries in a world in decline.
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Old 08-12-2019, 04:43 PM
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We've been able to clone mammals since the 1980's. So we have the technology available to create new humans even apart from ordinary reproduction or using frozen sperm (which will of course run out eventually). It would be an existential crisis, and we'd have twenty years to ramp up facilities for artificial insemination/cloning before the working-age population started to suffer. I'm pretty sure any high-tech developed country could manage this.

The developing world would be screwed, however.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:17 PM
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IVF treatment seems like a reasonable approximation of whatever no-sperm-necessary wizardry we might invent to keep the human race going once the sperm banks and egg freezers are drained. WebMD describes the process like this:

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The first step in IVF involves injecting hormones so you produce multiple eggs each month instead of only one.You will then be tested to determine whether you're ready for egg retrieval.

Prior to the retrieval procedure, you will be given injections of a medication that ripens the developing eggs and starts the process of ovulation. Timing is important; the eggs must be retrieved just before they emerge from the follicles in the ovaries. If the eggs are taken out too early or too late, they won't develop normally. Your doctor may do blood tests or an ultrasound to be sure the eggs are at the right stage of development before retrieving them. The IVF facility will provide you with special instructions to follow the night before and the day of the procedure. Most women are given pain medication and the choice of being mildly sedated or going under full anesthesia.

During the procedure, your doctor will locate follicles in the ovary with ultrasound and remove the eggs with a hollow needle. The procedure usually takes less than 30 minutes, but may take up to an hour.

Immediately following the retrieval, your eggs will be mixed in the laboratory with your partner's sperm, which he will have donated on the same day.

While you and your partner go home, the fertilized eggs are kept in the clinic under observation to ensure optimal growth. Depending on the clinic, you may even wait up to five days until the embryo reaches a more advanced blastocyst stage.

Once the embryos are ready, you will return to the IVF facility so doctors can transfer one or more into your uterus. This procedure is quicker and easier than the retrieval of the egg. The doctor will insert a flexible tube called a catheter through your vagina and cervix and into your uterus, where the embryos will be deposited. To increase the chances of pregnancy, most IVF experts recommend transferring up to three embryos at a time. However, this means you could have a multiple pregnancy, which can increase the health risks for both you and the babies.
The article mentions success rates of ~20-40%, but that's probably driven by the self-selecting group of women who are already having difficulty getting pregnant. If we started doing it for all sorts of young, healthy women, I suspect you'd get better results.

https://www.pennmedicine.org/updates...by-the-numbers says there were 61,740 IVF births in 2012 (in the US), roughly 1-2% of all births. To keep the population going at the present level, we'd need to train about 50-100 times as many doctors and lab technicians in the new process than we have IVF-performing fertility docs and support staff today. I don't think we have the med school capacity / internship opportunities / whatever to do that, and we can only really start after we've ironed out the kinks in the new cloning / sperm-free process, a fairly heavy R&D lift, I think, that could span years or decades. I imagine it'd be something like the Apollo program or the Manhattan Project in terms of national urgency, but still seems tough to pull off.

And that's, of course, focusing on the US. Other modern democracies might be able to roughly approximate our effort, but like Aspidistra said, "The developing world would be screwed", as in, essentially cease to exist in a few decades.

I suspect America would be the most populous nation in the world by 2100 at the latest.

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Old 08-12-2019, 05:23 PM
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.
Because apart from your premise requiring that it specifically be the males that are sterile (why does it matter? Does it change your premise much if it’s just that for "reasons" people can’t reproduce anymore?)
Because human eggs can't be frozen and still be viable. Sperm can and so can fertilized embryos, but not eggs.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:36 PM
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Incorrect. Human eggs can be frozen and successfully thawed and used - it's just not nearly as successful as either freezing sperm or freezing embryos. Only a third or less of such eggs will survive the process, but since women have quite a few eggs if you freeze a few dozen it should be plenty for any one women's reproductive needs. Or even the needs of several women as long as your last name isn't "Duggar"
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:50 PM
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Incorrect. Human eggs can be frozen and successfully thawed and used - it's just not nearly as successful as either freezing sperm or freezing embryos. Only a third or less of such eggs will survive the process
Was unaware of that. I'd heard somewhere that eggs could not be frozen and remain viable.

At any rate, it looks like the limiting factor, at least initially, is going to be number of trained personnel. I thought it was going to be amount of sperm. So even if they develop the process of two women making a baby, as was suggested earlier in the thread, the lack of trained fertility workers will still be the main issue. That's something I hadn't considered.
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:54 PM
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To keep the population going at the present level, we'd need to train about 50-100 times as many doctors and lab technicians in the new process than we have IVF-performing fertility docs and support staff today. I don't think we have the med school capacity / internship opportunities / whatever to do that, and we can only really start after we've ironed out the kinks in the new cloning / sperm-free process, a fairly heavy R&D lift, I think, that could span years or decades. I imagine it'd be something like the Apollo program or the Manhattan Project in terms of national urgency, but still seems tough to pull off.

And that's, of course, focusing on the US. Other modern democracies might be able to roughly approximate our effort, but like Aspidistra said, "The developing world would be screwed", as in, essentially cease to exist in a few decades.

I suspect America would be the most populous nation in the world by 2100 at the latest.
I think that amount of increase in doctors and lab techs is not unreasonable given that it's an increase in a particular quite small sector of the economy, not an increase in the total number of doctors and lab techs. I imagine, for instance, that retraining obstetricians to be fertility doctors would be a hell of a lot easier than creating new fertility doctors from scratch ... and there are going to be a whole lot of obstetricians in need of retraining for something
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Old 08-12-2019, 06:20 PM
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I think that amount of increase in doctors and lab techs is not unreasonable given that it's an increase in a particular quite small sector of the economy, not an increase in the total number of doctors and lab techs. I imagine, for instance, that retraining obstetricians to be fertility doctors would be a hell of a lot easier than creating new fertility doctors from scratch ... and there are going to be a whole lot of obstetricians in need of retraining for something
You're probably right about retraining existing medical professionals being easier, but we'd also have to retrain all the existing fertility docs to whatever the new process is going to be (once it's been invented). If you're a lab tech that knew how to take sperm + egg and make a fertilized embryo before, but this new process doesn't use any sperm, your existing skillset may be of limited value. And every year we wait while developing the new process and getting it up and running is leaving a giant hole in the world's population, kind of like a reverse baby boom. Imagine if we've got a 15-year gap wherein essentially no babies were born. 18 years later we've got no one going to college or entering the workforce, because essentially no people were created between 2021 and 2036. Imagine how disruptive that would be to the economy, to civilization itself: Diaper manufacturers would be out of business by 2036. Cartoon makers, elementary school teachers, colleges, etc, all had a 15-year rough patch of no customers. Imagine all the institutional knowledge that would be lost in that period. Companies would have to fight to lure away employees from other industries / competitors like starving dogs fighting over scraps, because the labor supply is drying up. Militaries and police forces (and every other physically-demanding job) would be manned by middle-aged men by the time the first test-tube-born youth were ready old enough to replace them.

We sometimes talk about the conflict / friction / differing perspectives that exist between Baby Boomers and Millenials, for example. That sort of inter-generational conflict would seem tame when we get to 2050 and we've got a crop of teenagers whose next-oldest role model is in their 30's. They grew up their whole lives without older brothers / sisters / cousins, neighborhood kids to look up to and learn from.

BTW, OP, this is an interesting hypothetical (at least to me), but the more I mull it over the more I think "civilization" would be largely screwed, even if we didn't nuke each other into oblivion while fighting over frozen sperm.

Last edited by HurricaneDitka; 08-12-2019 at 06:22 PM.
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Old 08-12-2019, 06:26 PM
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Okay given the conditions and parameters set by the OP, I'll say 80 years.

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Old 08-12-2019, 06:37 PM
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If our alien space bat nemesis remains present, we'll see a gradual but steady ageing in all populations as mortality without replacement will outweigh any success with frozen embryos. Total global population will fall steadily.

Some broad economic implications:

As with lots of things this will be less totally bad if you are white, western and rich. I suspect IVF and other related technologies are very unevenly spread across the planet. Obviously in a decade we won't have to worry about wasting money on pre-school or kids toys in much of the world, but many economies remain reliant on under-age labour.

Also old unproductive people get taken care of by the attention and taxes of the rest. In my part of the world there is already concern that the ageing baby boomer generation is imposing increased elder care and health costs on the rest, so this uneven taxpayer-welfare model will continue to skew and only get worse.

We invest money on the logic that it will retain its value and then some in the future. We build infrastructure with a 100+ year design life. Will that even be relevant when the global population will dwindle to a fraction of itself. Why bother saving or planning for tomorrow?

Given how much will be invested in each new IVF human, will we be able to sustain a large enough proportion of them to produce food for the rest? Or to maintain the knowledge we need to keep the hi-tech society that may be able to deal with this running? Will it be a good use of the diminishing supply of youngsters to care for the growing sea of old folk? It may be more effective to kill everyone when they turn 50, because they will be a nett drain on whatever system eventuates.

I always thought Logan's Run was crap logic, but I can see pockets of cocooned geriatric privilege and an ocean of uncertain quality of life after Space Bats arrived.
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Old 08-12-2019, 06:54 PM
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... It may be more effective to kill everyone when they turn 50, because they will be a nett drain on whatever system eventuates. ...
It would seem counterproductive to start killing people, even old broken ones, when we're in the middle of a shortage of people.
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:03 PM
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Since any answer to the OP requires a lot of speculation, let's move this to IMHO.

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Old 08-12-2019, 07:08 PM
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Since any answer to the OP requires a lot of speculation, let's move this to IMHO.

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You didn't think sterility-causing space bats was strictly factual?
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:30 PM
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We can maintain civilization with a lot fewer than half a billion people given that we'd have plenty of time to retrench. First, automate like hell. No more arguments from Tucker Carlson.
Second, as already covered, get IVF really going.
If this is a story, you might wonder who gets the benefit of IVF. I'm betting poor countries will crash a lot more than rich countries, unless the aliens implanted some empathy. Fewer people means fewer farmers are needed. We'd spread out after land becomes unoccupied as people age and die faster than IVF can replace them. But maintaining an infrastructure for working at home doesn't take that many people.
That's long term. Short term there is going to be a problem when there is more old people than young people to take care of them. But that isn't civilization ending.
When we run out of sperm, we might wind up with women only. But that won't destroy civilization either.
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Old 08-12-2019, 07:33 PM
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One group who'd probably do surprisingly well at least initially would be poor children in the developing world. It would suddenly be in the interests of their own governments to start spending resources on keeping them alive, well fed and productive in a way that it wasn't when there were plenty more where they came from. Assuming that fertility techniques would be developed that ultimately were able to provide replacement-populations, but at a greatly reduced population size to what we have today, the birth rate in the developing world would go down a lot more than in the rich West, but not to absolutely nothing, since there are still wealthy elites who can afford expensive medical procedures pretty much everywhere. Developing countries would be trying to get their own fertility facilities as a matter of priority, and would probably clamp down on medically trained people leaving the country for higher paying jobs in, eg, the NHS. Simultaneously, people with newborns would jump to the front of immigration queues all over the West ... in fact, we might even see a reversal of the current pattern of rich countries desperately trying to keep poor refugees out, though anyone over 30 without kids would still be SOL
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:29 PM
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It may be more effective to kill everyone when they turn 50, because they will be a nett drain on whatever system eventuates..
You seriously think everybody quits being productive by 50?

Average age of farmers in the USA is currently 58. Even with modern equipment, it's a fairly physical job.
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:38 AM
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Fair enough - i picked an age more or less at random, and the notion of sacrificing the elderly itself to be provocative. Does it work better if we pick 60? 70?

Geronticide(?) is not necessarily what I'd be voting for in the informed plebiscite which governments would use decide how we deal with this existential crisis, independent of our personal interests (a fantasy that makes Alien Space Bats seem even more real by comparison).
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:13 AM
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Under lab conditions, it is possible to have female-only reproduction...
That was the premise of Michel Houellebecq's The Elementary Particles, although this only becomes apparent at the very end of the book.

Coincidentally, I read it exactly 20 years ago.
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:04 PM
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If children born from IVF and implanted embryos also become sterile due to the space bats, we have maybe fifty years or so to come up with human parthenogenesis. And it is going to have to scale up PDQ to replace the current method.

"The human brain is the only computer that can be made with unskilled labor." We would have to make the conclusion of The Iron Dream into a documentary.

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Old 08-13-2019, 01:34 PM
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Do people even know this is happening? I mean, it's not like if people's legs (or third leg) are falling off, and most people aren't trying to impregnate anybody most of the time. An increase in failures to impregnate is going to take a relatively long time to be noticed - possibly months or even years could occur before a full-blown societal panic set in, if people weren't made aware of the disease's effect by other methods.

I don't believe that existing sperm supplies could possibly make any significant difference, so the question in my mind comes down to how well society would fare if people suddenly stopped having babies. Coupled with what would happen when people found out there would be no more babies.

The latter could be bad. I could see society as a whole becoming despondent, angry, or panicked. Religious groups screaming about the end of times, leading to rioting, general destruction. If you wanted to your story could functionally have society coming to an end days after the alien space bats tell everyone what they did.

If this doesn't happen, you're probably going to see things carry on for a while, with people carrying on with their daily lives largely unaltered, give or take things like elementary school teacher being a less appealing college major. Society could carry on for several decades, but gradually everyone is going to age out, and society will collapse due to lack of things like power/sewage plant maintenance and food production/distribution. This'd probably happen when the current babies are around fifty or sixty (as a total guess); at that point I figure there won't be enough fit, trained, and motivated people left to keep everything necessary going in most regions.

Or, alternatively, you could have presumed that society would have stepped up its automation in the face of future decline, and that over the next fifty years reasonably aware robots had been created to take over all the jobs nobody was inclined or able to do anymore. Due to the nature of the extinction these robots would have to be continually stepping in and replacing departing workers, so after a certain point all the humans would be gone and society would continue on with robots alone.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:23 PM
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Do people even know this is happening? I mean, it's not like if people's legs (or third leg) are falling off, and most people aren't trying to impregnate anybody most of the time. An increase in failures to impregnate is going to take a relatively long time to be noticed - possibly months or even years could occur before a full-blown societal panic set in, if people weren't made aware of the disease's effect by other methods.
Years? I don't think it would even make it a week.

The relatively small fraction of people who are actively trying to get pregnant might not notice for a while if they don't get pregnant for a few months because it often takes a few months or longer to get pregnant even when trying, but every OB/GYN in the country is going to notice when they just stop getting new patients. After a few days they'll be calling their colleagues in disbelief and a few hours later it'll be the biggest international news story of tall time.

This is not the sort of thing that could go unnoticed.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:24 PM
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I suspect that if all of a sudden nobody was getting pregnant, we would notice within six months, tops. Probably more like three.

Dr. Babycatcher is going to sit up and take notice when he hasn't received a single new patient for two weeks. Then he starts asking around, and finds the same for every OB-GYN in town, and the country, and the world.

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Old 08-13-2019, 02:37 PM
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Do people even know this is happening? I mean, it's not like if people's legs (or third leg) are falling off, and most people aren't trying to impregnate anybody most of the time. An increase in failures to impregnate is going to take a relatively long time to be noticed - possibly months or even years could occur before a full-blown societal panic set in, if people weren't made aware of the disease's effect by other methods.
In the story, at first it'll just be a boom time for pregnancy clinics as lots more than the usual number of infertile couples seek help. Eventually someone is going to note the extreme number of sterile males (when not only the males from the couples, but also their sperm donors come up blank) and sound an alarm.1 No doubt there'll be studies that verify it and then a search for any non-sterile males. Perhaps they'll even find a few who haven't gone completely sterile yet (haven't decided on that, yet). No doubt there'll be panic and such when the word gets out. The story I'm actually thinking about will happen some years after. As I said, this is background for the story.

ETA: it's not going to be sudden in the story. It's going to be a gradual thing. Forget the Alien Space Bats, they aren't actually part of the story.


1 There already has been an alarm for greatly reduced fertility among men, at least in most of the developed world. It was first noted back in the 90s. So far, no panic among the general populace.

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Old 08-13-2019, 03:51 PM
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Do people even know this is happening? I mean, it's not like if people's legs (or third leg) are falling off, and most people aren't trying to impregnate anybody most of the time. An increase in failures to impregnate is going to take a relatively long time to be noticed - possibly months or even years
In any one person, or any few people, it would take a long time to be noticed at all, yes. A sudden cessation of all pregnancies whatsoever I think would be quite obvious within two or three months, maybe sooner, to anyone working in a related medical field; and to everyone on the planet within well less than a year.

[ETA: this was written before I saw dtlique's latest post.]

If people have no idea why it's happening, it's going to be really messy, with various people, groups, and probably nations blaming various other people, groups, and nations, and a wild range of religious as well as political and individual reactions. And even if people are told why it's happening, not everybody's going to believe that's the actual reason, and not some sort of coverup; so it's going to be messy anyway.


I suspect it would be technically possible to get from where we are now to some form or another of medically-assisted female-only reproduction well before our ability to do so broke down completely. (And would all those children be female, and if so how does that shift society?) But the first question would be whether the disruption caused by freaked-out individuals and countries would be bad enough to prevent this happening; as well as what sort of society/ies would survive the initial disruption. I very much doubt everything would just trot along as normal except for schools etc. closing down year by year one grade at a time -- humans aren't sensible enough for that.

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Old 08-13-2019, 04:20 PM
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Dr. Babycatcher is going to sit up and take notice when he hasn't received a single new patient for two weeks. Then he starts asking around, and finds the same for every OB-GYN in town, and the country, and the world.
The Dr. Babycatcher department at the largest hospitals likely gets tens of new patients a day (hundreds?). They might dismiss a single day with none as a statistical fluke, but they'll for sure notice it. I bet they start calling other hospitals the afternoon of day 2 and the story breaks before nightfall.

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Old 08-13-2019, 04:27 PM
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The Dr. Babycatcher department at the largest hospitals likely gets tens of new patients a day. They might dismiss a single day with none as a statistical fluke, but they'll for sure notice it. I bet they start calling other hospitals the afternoon of day 2.
I find this highly implausible - I mean, it's not like they'll suddenly be devoid of work or anything. Besides all the people who were impregnated prior to Day Zero but don't realize it until weeks later, there are still all their existing patients that are going to be coming in for regular checkups over the course of their ongoing pregnancies.

I do concede that my "years" comment was flat wrong - by about nine months after Day Zero the ob-gyns will be completely devoid of work, and would have had cause to get suspicious several months before that. But there's no chance whatsoever that anything amiss will be noticed in mere days.

And all the above squared since it was clarified that the onset of sterility is going to be gradual rather than abrupt.
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:28 PM
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In the story, at first it'll just be a boom time for pregnancy clinics as lots more than the usual number of infertile couples seek help. Eventually someone is going to note the extreme number of sterile males (when not only the males from the couples, but also their sperm donors come up blank) and sound an alarm.1
It would almost certainly be noticed first by busy maternity wards. Because there are so many more people having babies than going to fertility clinics, fluctuations in numbers are more obviously serious. A 10% increase in the number of patients to the fertility clinic is merely an interesting oddity - a 10% decrease in the number of women starting their pre-natal care plan is "holy fuck, what's happening here?"

Add to that, a lot of people get pregnant without really trying - the fertility clinics aren't going to see them, but their sudden absence in maternity wards is going to be remarked on


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1 There already has been an alarm for greatly reduced fertility among men, at least in most of the developed world. It was first noted back in the 90s. So far, no panic among the general populace.
Not surprising though - number of children is currently most often limited by desire to have children, not ability to have children. Fertility would have to get dramatically worse before it started to seriously impact numbers of children born more than social factors do
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:46 PM
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I find this highly implausible - I mean, it's not like they'll suddenly be devoid of work or anything. Besides all the people who were impregnated prior to Day Zero but don't realize it until weeks later, there are still all their existing patients that are going to be coming in for regular checkups over the course of their ongoing pregnancies.

I do concede that my "years" comment was flat wrong - by about nine months after Day Zero the ob-gyns will be completely devoid of work, and would have had cause to get suspicious several months before that. But there's no chance whatsoever that anything amiss will be noticed in mere days.

And all the above squared since it was clarified that the onset of sterility is going to be gradual rather than abrupt.
Ah, I missed that clarification and was assuming a sudden change. I agree that if it's a gradual change it's going to take longer to notice as measured from the start. Certainly not days.

But even then people are going to notice well before the change is complete, and well before a few months before the last baby is born.

I don't know how gradual it is supposed to be, but let's imagine it's, say, linear over 3 years.

The Mayo Clinic delivers 2,400 babies a year, which means they're going to get (order of magnitude) around 10 new patients showing up a day. That's enough people that there's probably a person or two whose primary job is to onboard new patients. That person is 100% going to notice when they go from 10 new patients to 7 new patients a day over a year.

There are probably also multiple accountants associated with the department. They are going to start getting suspicious after just a month or two of an off-trend.

Childbirth is a pretty expensive thing that is covered under insurance, while IVF usually isn't. The insurance industry is largely composed of public companies that make quarterly earnings reports, and analysts are going to notice that their profitability suddenly increased.

There are minor news stories every year about the number of babies born based on statistics the Social Security Administration puts out. Everyone is going to go absolutely crazy if fertility drops 30% in a year, not a few months before the 3-year mark at which no babies are born.

Etc.

There's just too much data out there for this to go unnoticed for any appreciable amount of time.

So I claim that someone will raise the alarm well before we hit say 80% of "normal" fertility, unless the change is so gradual that it gets lost in demographic trends for a long time.

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Old 08-13-2019, 04:49 PM
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...ETA: it's not going to be sudden in the story. It's going to be a gradual thing. Forget the Alien Space Bats, they aren't actually part of the story. ...
So, the Alien Space Bats are being blamed unfairly. Nice twist, but it's really .... the Deep Government in that pizza place? Chem-trails? Mark Zuckerberg? I'll bet you anything it Mark Zuckerberg.
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:53 PM
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So, the Alien Space Bats are being blamed unfairly. Nice twist, but it's really .... the Deep Government in that pizza place? Chem-trails? Mark Zuckerberg? I'll bet you anything it Mark Zuckerberg.
Have there been any studies on how people spending all their time on social media is effecting birth rates?
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Old 08-13-2019, 04:56 PM
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- by about nine months after Day Zero the ob-gyns will be completely devoid of work, and would have had cause to get suspicious several months before that.
They'd be considerably more than suspicious a long time before that; because most people, at least in societies in which decent medical care's available to more than a few of the population, don't wait to show up at the doctor's until they're in labor. There is such a thing as pre-natal care, and it's strongly recommended. Most women are going to schedule the first pre-natal check as soon as they suspect that they're pregnant.
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Old 08-13-2019, 05:04 PM
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It's the booking department of the maternity hospital that will notice. "Oh look, it's half way through January, we've got our wards booked at about 80% full through to June, 50% first week of July, 20% second week, and absolutely zero after July 15th. Gosh, that's odd."
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Old 08-13-2019, 05:06 PM
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They'd be considerably more than suspicious a long time before that; because most people, at least in societies in which decent medical care's available to more than a few of the population, don't wait to show up at the doctor's until they're in labor. There is such a thing as pre-natal care, and it's strongly recommended. Most women are going to schedule the first pre-natal check as soon as they suspect that they're pregnant.
Sure, but their signups are going to be staggered and still coming in weeks after Day Zero (to the degree there is a day zero). Any given office would probably notice a statistically significant dip in applicants within a month, but given that these things aren't going to have been coming in at a constant rate anyway they probably aren't going to freak out until they've had time to confirm that the dip is not only present, but unusually persistent - which means giving it time to see whether the numbers will come back up.

I mean, absent foreknowledge that birth rates are going to be ending forever everywhere, a week or two of lighter work isn't cause for a panic; it's cause to actually go home on time and get a good night's sleep for a change.
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