Which recent historical person, if never born, would mean 100% different population in 2016

The specific events leading up to any one person’s conception are practically uncountable. At that moment, hundreds of millions of sperm are fighting to get into the egg. Any slight deviation in those events could either mean those parents never met, or even if they did, the timing would be changed such that a different sperm makes it to the egg and a different person is born.

“Would you go back in time and kill Hitler?” is a common thought experiment, but that action would likely greatly change the population of current-day 2016. I would surmise that pretty much everyone in a 1st world country born after WWII somehow owes their conception to the events which followed. If WWII doesn’t happen, most us would likely be replaced by other people.

This got me thinking about how significant events from history shaped the timeline such that it produced the current world population of 2016. If someone like Jesus, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan , etc. was never born, the timeline would have developed differently and many of us would not be here.

So then looking back at history, who is the most recent person who changed the world significantly enough such that 100% of the current population of the world is due to that person?

Because of chaos theory, you cannot change even one ordinary person without changing the entire human population at some point in the future and that point is likely shortly before the oldest person now alive was born. Conception is a chaotic event especially on the male side and virtually anything can change the outcome of which one of hundreds of millions of sperm wins each race. Once those outcomes become altered on a small scale, those new people will spread a wave of newer, stronger chaotic effects that will quickly snowball across the globe affecting everything including deaths and all new conceptions.

Norman Borlaug probably increased the population with his contributions to agriculture.

I wonder if there is any one person whose non-existence could have stopped the AIDS crisis from becoming international or if it was inevitable.

Both my parents were born well before WW2 and married in 1965. However, my paternal grandparents likely met as a result of WW1 - Kaiser Bill’s shindig. I think that at least for Western Europe, apart from Jews, the population loss both of WW1 and the flu pandemic which followed were a much greater factor than WW2.

But as a person, I’ve got to go for Marx. If it were not for him, the 20th century would have been very different. So many people died in his name all over the world.

Moderator Action

This requires too much speculation to be answered factually.

Moving thread from General Questions to In My Humble Opinion.


Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On contends that a Canadian airline steward named Gaetan Dugas (“Patient Zero”) may have been responsible for bringing HIV to cities like New York and LA, although that theory is disputed. I think it’s safe to say that HIV was going to spread with or without him, but he certainly helped it along with all his traveling.

Just think though, if Patient [NAME REDACTED] hadn’t died quickly of [NAME REDACTED], it would have spread throughout the world, and [NAME REDACTED] would be a major world epidemic today, instead of being completely unknown as it is in our timeline.

Also, think about if [NAME REDACTED] hadn’t died in childhood, and had went on to become leader of [NAME REDACTED], leading to the [NAME REDACTED] war that was so devastating to [NAME REDACTED]. Boy the world sure is a better place because that bastard died early.

Honestly, I think the process depends enough on quantum-level effects that there would be no certain outcome at all. If you opened up your multiverse simulator and had everything take on the same starting condition, simple quantum-level random variances would produce two different offspring.

First you have the issue of which spermatozoa ends up fertilizing the egg. While some are defective and have essentially no chance of success, you start with millions of them, and there are hundreds working on the egg’s outside barrier at the time one gets through. Even if we assume that only one sperm in a million has a chance at fertilization, that’s 250 equally likely outcomes.

Then once you pick the sperm that get through, there’s the issue of which genes are selected. Again, this happens at a small enough level that quantum effects would be significant.

Gavrilo Princip.

margaret sanger

I think the oldest person is 116, so the historical person would have had had their effect felt round-the-world by about 1900 or so. In addition, they’d have to have a big enough effect to even change conception events in small tribes in remote locations with no outside contact. For example, Columbus likely changed the population in the entire new world since logging, hunting, and climate changes affected everyone regardless of how much outside contact they had.

Maurice Hilleman

No figure from the 20th century is eligible, because we have people nearly that old alive today.

I think you might be right that this may actually be the true situation in reality, but for interest sake, let’s pretend it’s not like that. Let’s say our multiverse simulator works like a computer game save point where you can restore it and each time it will progress forward exactly the same.

You have a point. But arguably people would be different due to their experiences even if they’re genetically identical to somebody born in our timeline.

That only adds, at most, two weeks, and probably a lot less for something as sensitive as conception. We know that the weather is chaotic on that timescale, and even if those remote tribes don’t interact directly with any other humans, they certainly interact with the weather.

Yes, the real answer is fascinating on its own. It doesn’t take a historically significant figure at all. Every single person, even a newborn that dies in childbirth produces a chaotic and unpredictable sequence of events that alters the progression of people that are born from that point forward as much as anyone else.

The only real answer is anyone born before 1900. All answers are equally valid.

Chaos theory is fascinating and much more sensitive than most people assume. It takes almost nothing to produce large changes in complex systems and those get amplified rapidly over very short periods of time.

Human conception is a great example of that. Simply saying “Hi” to your coworker that is trying to have a child has an overwhelming chance of switching that potential child from one manifestation to another. Repeat that all day, every day for everyone and you can see why it is so chaotic. Casually chatting with a stranger will change their potential children. It is an extremely sensitive biological system in which every specific outcome has roughly the same odds as a multi-state lottery.