A few years ago, Laurie Anderson recorded a song with the following lyrics:

“Daddy, daddy / it was just as you said / now that the living / outnumber the dead.”

My first question is: do the living outnumber the dead? I know there’s no way to get exact figures, but let’s do estimates. And yes, let’s stick to humans.

And second, with current growth trends, when can we expect this ratio to flipflop?

Awaiting the vote tallys.

Both this page from Reader’s Digest and this Google cache of a defunct page from New Scientist concur that the dead outnumber the living by about 10 to 1. (It’s not really two independent sources by the way–it’s the same guy providing the info for both sites–but the fossil page seems to give a little more detail.)

Well this would require you to draw the line at when we should stop counting dead people. 200,000 years ago? 2,000,000 years ago? I’d think the 1st one would be a good mark. So if we took the roughly 6,000,000,000 people and spread them out their births evenly over the 200,000 years you would get … 30,000 births per year. Let’s use Roman data since we know it’s higher then times before that, but lower then it is now. Life expectancy at birth in Roman times was 25 according to this site.

So if we were to smear 6 billion people evenly across 200,000 years and they had an average life expectancy at birth of 25 years then the average population over that time would be 750,000 people.

So how does that help us … Well it doesn’t but it does give you a number to ponder over. I’ll post again with another take on this.

Here’s another approach. I’ll take the lower numbers from this Census web page

1900 = 1,550 million
1800 = 813 million (2,363 million)
1700 = 600 million (2,963 million)
1600 = 545 million (3,508 million)
1500 = 425 million (3,933 million)
1400 = 350 million (4,358 million)
1300 = 360 million (4,718 million) damn that black plague
1200 = 360 million (5,078 million)
1100 = 301 million (5,379 million)
1000 = 254 million (5,633 million)
900 = 226 million (5,859 million)
800 = 220 million (6,079 million)

This is of course ignoring that small percentage of people who live more then 100 years, and that large group of people who never lived through an 00 year. Net result? We probably don’t even outnumber the number of people who died within just the lst 1,000 years. And remember this was the lower estimate!

the lower limit on people who lived through within the following nine years (1000, 1100, 1200, 1300, 1400, 1500, 1600, 1700, 1800, 1900) is 5,633 million. The upper limit if your interested is 5,746 million so the difference isn’t that much.

I’m unable to make an estimate at the number of people who lived lives that never included a 00 year but like I said it should be very large. Probably well over a billion souls. Made up mostly of all those children under 5 who never made it.

I once read (sorry I don’t have the source) that 1/5 of all the people that have ever lived are alive today.

I’m surprised no one has turned to the Master yet. Even if we take the lower estimate by demographers, the dead outnumber the living approximately 63 billion to 6 billion.

I’ve heard that 95% of all the scientists throughout history are living today.

How this conjecture relates the OP, I’m not entirely sure. I’m going to go make breakfast now.

Where was it that I heard that someone (can’t remember who, partly why I’m asking) replied “The living outnumber the dead, for the dead are no more”?

or words to that effect, anyway. I’m not being helpful, am I?

The idea that there were more people living than dead meant that you had to have a big ego to think you had lived many lives before this one. What am I to do now that you have burst my bubble?

Of the two, I prefer the latter.

It’s truly amazing the mass of information the web can provide between posting at 3am and waking up at noon.

Pacific Living Person Time, that is.

Thanks, everybody!

Here is a non-fossilized version of the the second link in my first post, which includes a story containing the above quote. After Roger Thatcher gives the statisticians’ answer (the dead outnumber the living about 10 to 1), Shafi Ahmed of London weighs in with this more philosophical story:

Well, I think it’s still safe to say that the number of Obscure Peasants surely outnumbers all of the Goddess-Queens and Pharaohs who have ever lived. So you can still accuse a lot of believers in reincarnation–at least in its more vulgarized and Americanized version–of having swelled heads.

Or as Woody Allen put it:

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.”