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An Anti-Population-Explosion Virus? (fiction, of course) - Gtx0 ?>


An Anti-Population-Explosion Virus? (fiction, of course)
Posted: Posted June 25th, 2013 by chiarizio
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I had an idea, or a few related ideas, about what might happen if someone were to release a virus, or a few viruses, to slow down the population "explosion".

First, there might be a virus that limits how many times an infected woman can carry a baby to full term.
Its effect might increase with each baby.
For instance, it might be that:
  • it would have no effect on the first pregnancy;
  • the second pregnancy might have a 20% chance of being spontaneously miscarried;
  • the third pregnancy might have a 50% chance of being spontaneously miscarried;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have a 90% chance of being spontaneously miscarried;
  • the fifth and all subsequent pregnancies might have a 100% chance of being spontaneously miscarried, that is, would certainly be miscarried.

    I wondered if it should also favor balanced-sex-ratio families.
    For instance, maybe:
  • the second pregnancy might have a 10% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were opposite sex from the first baby;
  • the second pregnancy might have a 20% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were the same sex as the first baby;
  • the third pregnancy might have a 30% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were opposite sex from both of the first two babies;
  • the third pregnancy might have a 40% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were the same sex as one of the first two babies but opposite sex from the other one of the first two babies;
  • the third pregnancy might have a 50% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were the same sex as both of the first two babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have a 60% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were the opposite sex from all three of the first three babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have a 70% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were the opposite sex from two of the first three babies, but the same sex as the other one of the first three babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have an 80% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were the same sex as two of the first three babies, but the opposite sex from the other one of the first three babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have a 90% chance of being spontaneously miscarried if the fetus were the same sex as all three of the first three babies;
  • the fifth and all subsequent pregnancies might have a 100% chance of being spontaneously miscarried, that is, would certainly be miscarried.

    I also wondered whether, if a virus caused a pregnancy to be miscarried, it might also sterilize the mother. Or, perhaps, a virus just carried an increasing risk that pregnancies might sterilize the mother.
    For instance;
  • the second pregnancy might have a 1% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were opposite sex from the first baby;
  • the second pregnancy might have a 4% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were the same sex as the first baby;
  • the third pregnancy might have a 9% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were opposite sex from both of the first two babies;
  • the third pregnancy might have a 16% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were the same sex as one of the first two babies but opposite sex from the other one of the first two babies;
  • the third pregnancy might have a 25% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were the same sex as both of the first two babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have a 36% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were the opposite sex from all three of the first three babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have a 49% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were the opposite sex from two of the first three babies, but the same sex as the other one of the first three babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have a 64% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were the same sex as two of the first three babies, but the opposite sex from the other one of the first three babies;
  • the fourth pregnancy might have an 81% chance of sterilizing the mother if the fetus were the same sex as all three of the first three babies;
  • the fifth and all subsequent pregnancies -- if any -- might have a 100% chance of sterilizing the mother, that is, would certainly sterilize the mother.

    A virus might also, or instead, have an effect on multiple births.
    Maybe it would sterilize any woman who carried triplets-or-more to full term; maybe it would (also or instead) sterilize any woman who carried a second set of twins-or-more to full term.

    Or, instead of sterilizing the mothers or miscarrying the pregnancies, a viruses might instead sterilize the infants before birth.
    Maybe it would sometimes not sterilize either twin, but sometimes would sterilize one of twins but not both. Maybe it would be likelier to sterilize one of the twins if twins had been born before; or likellier to sterillize both of them if twins had been born before. Maybe it would sterilize all but two of triplets-or-more, and have a better chance of sterilizing all but one of them if twins-or-more had already been born.

    And/or, maybe a virus could limit how soon a woman could conceive again after a birth. Or, perhaps, after her previous conception. Maybe it could make her "temporarily sterile" for the first 56 months, with fading effects until 84 months (7 years), when it would cease to have any influence on her ability to conceive. That would mean a woman could not have a fourth child (or, for some women, a third child) until her first child was at least 14 years old.

    A virus also might make it difficult to conceive before age 20 and impossible to conceive before age 17. Or it might sterilize any woman who gave birth before age 17, and have a gradually decreasing chance of sterilizing a woman who gave birth at later ages, losing any effect at age 20. Or in some other way guarantee that a generation be at least 17 years long, or at least 20 years long, or some such number. For instance it might make it so that any baby born or conceived before its mother was age 20 (or 17 or whatever) was born sterile.

    Or, a virus might make it increasingly difficult to conceive when over age 25. A little harder than average uninfected women from age 25 to 30; noticeably more difficult from ages 30 to 35; very difficult from ages 35 to 40; and impossible from age 40 onward. This would make most generations be at most 25 years long, and make all generations be at most 40 years long.

    Possibly, the same virus could do more than one of those things.
    Possibly, more than one virus might be deliberately released; some doing some of those things, others doing others.
    Possibly the virus, or one of them, or some of them, were not deliberately released. Possibly they developed out of the wild. Or possibly they were released accidentallly.

    ____________________________________________________________

    Can anyone think of a way something like this could be done to limit male prolificity?

    Is there any way, other than magic, or installing computers in the viruses, to make the virus inhibit a man's fertility selectively depending on how many babies he has begotten, or what sex they were, or how long it's been since the last time he successfully impregnated a woman, or how many babies were conceived from a single impregnation?

    I don't think "installing computers in the viruses" is really llikely. That's like magic IMO.

    Perhaps some other kind of infectious organism would have more room for an "installed computer". A multi-cellular eukaryotic parasite seems likeliest. I am not sure a prokaryotic organism (a bacterium or archaean), nor even a one-celled eukaryote (a protist), would have room for such a "computer".

    But maybe.

    But IMO even gigantic viruses wouldn't have room for any "computer".

    _____________________________________________________________

    So, anyway.

    What does anyone think?

    Which of the above ideas is best? Which is worst?
    Which is 2nd-best, and which is 2nd-worst? (Usually it requires actual thought to pick out the second-ranking item from a set of items.)
    What about, weirdest and 2nd-weirdest?
    Or, most humorous or 2nd-most humorous? Is there any humor at all in any of them?
    What about most realistic and 2nd-most realistic? Least realistic and 2nd-least reallistic?

    _____________________________________________________________

    How would anyone improve on any of these ideas?

    --------------

    Thanks!

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    I had an idea, or a few related ideas, about what might happen if someone were to release a virus, or a few viruses, to slow down the population "explosion".

    I'v considered something similar, and noticed that it'd have some major side-effects, societally speaking. If birth rates drop dramatically, the average age of the population is going to increase.


    I wondered if it should also favor balanced-sex-ratio families.

    Why?



    A virus might also, or instead, have an effect on multiple births.
    Maybe it would sterilize any woman who carried triplets-or-more to full term; maybe it would (also or instead) sterilize any woman who carried a second set of twins-or-more to full term.

    I don't think twins are common enough for that to be worthwhile.

    Posted July 1st, 2013 by Quillwraith
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    I had an idea, or a few related ideas, about what might happen if someone were to release a virus, or a few viruses, to slow down the population "explosion".
    I'v considered something similar, and noticed that it'd have some major side-effects, societally speaking. If birth rates drop dramatically, the average age of the population is going to increase.

    How come?
    Just because there'd be fewer newborns to bring the average down?
    Maybe so.

    If a place is to have a stable population, then if average lifespan goes up, birthrate will have to come down. Number of births per woman's life might easily stay the same, but number of births per year per thousands of married women between 15 and 45 years old would have to go down.

    Likewise, if infant mortality goes down, birth rate would have to go down; in this case, the number of children who survive to an age to have children themselves, should be about two per parent. It has to be a bit more than two per parent (exactly two per parent would risk extinction, a mathematical fact I can't prove myself but could probably look up a proof for); but the "bit" could go down as the actual population went up (e.g. the population could increase linearly instead of exponentially).

    The "natural state" of mankind is for every adult woman who is not too young or too old to have a child every year. She'll spend three-quarters or four-fifths of her adult life until menopause, pregnant.

    AFAIK no modern culture IRL does that, but people like "the Quiverfull Movement" believe in a Biblical injunction against any kind of birth-control. But in most modern RL cultures the average number of children who survive to adulthood is marginally above the replacement rate. As childhood mortality declines, so does the birth rate, except IRL the decline of the birth rate always lags behind the decline in childhood mortality. A culture's ideas about how many children a person should have is IRL almost always based on how things were at least a couple of generations before its current adult members were born.

    [color=white][rant]I think the Quiverful Movement and others like them (Lubavichers? if I even spelled that right?) are traitors to the species and to the planet.

    There can't be any reasonable doubt by any reasonably-well-informed person that IRL very many problems could be made less bad by not having quite as many people or by not having the number of people grow quite so quickly. [/rant]


    I wondered if it should also favor balanced-sex-ratio families.
    Why?

    Two answers:
    1) Why not?
    2) Certain genetic traits, especially sex-linked traits like those carried on X-chromosomes or on Y-chromosomes, or one-parent-only traits like those carried on mitochondrial DNA (which is inherited only from the mother), are less likely to drift to extinction, or likelier to take a lot longer to do so, if nearly every parent has both a son and a daughter.

    To be probably-safe you'd need the average number of sons per parent to be >1 and you'd need the average number of daughters per parent to be >1. It needn't be constant, as long as it remains above 1; for instance it could start out at 1.05, then go to 1.048, then to 1.045, then to 1.043, 1.042, 1.04, 1.038, 1.037, 1.036, 1.034, and so on.

    This is also why the virus-or-whatever-microbe-it-is shouldn't have such a strong selection against having "too many children" that the average number of children per couple would drop as low as or below 2 children per couple. If the average number of children per couple is as low as the replacement rate, the population is in danger of eventual extinction. But we don't want it to be too much bigger than the replacement rate; it might be smart to make it go down asymptotically toward the replacement rate, as the population grows.

    Can you think of a way to do that? Even if you can't, can you think of a good way to write in convincingly that your characters have thought of a way to do that?


    A virus might also, or instead, have an effect on multiple births.
    Maybe it would sterilize any woman who carried triplets-or-more to full term; maybe it would (also or instead) sterilize any woman who carried a second set of twins-or-more to full term.
    I don't think twins are common enough for that to be worthwhile.

    Worth whose while?

    The virus's? Who cares how much effort a virus has to put out?

    If the designer/manufacturer of the virus found that once some more important part of the virus's function had been designed- and built-in, that it was relatively easy to also put in the limitation on multiple births, then why not?

    OTOH if it were quite difficult to put in such a limitation, I would say that it might be reasonable to leave it out, especially if the designers/manufacturers/deployers of the virus felt that they had to get the thing released into circulation within some tight timei- or budget-constraint.

    I was just thinking that I wouldn't want the virus to have an unplanned side-effect of selecting in favor of multiple births as a way to get around the intended main effect of limiting the number of births per woman. But I wouldn't want it to completely eliminate the possibility of twins, and maybe not even of triplets; I'd just want whatever part of the tendency to have twins-or-more that happens to be genetic, to not spread through the population very quickly at all.

    IRL there are about 32.2 twins-or-more births per 1000 births. That is, 3.22% of births are multiple births. (I suppose that means about 6.24% of all people are twins.) I think that's a high-enough incidence that the designers shouild be careful the virus didn't accicentally select in favor of multiple births.

    There are about 148.9 triplets-or-more births per 100,000 births. In other words about 0.15% of births are triplets-or-more. About 2.39% of all twins-or-more births are actually triplets-or-more. If there's any selective pressure against twins-or-more then there might not need to be any additional selective pressure against triplets-or-more. But if instead there is selective pressure in favor of triplets-or-more, care would need to be taken that the pressure wasn't too great, and/or didn't last too long.

    ____________________________________________________________


    You didn't mention the by-design selective pressure against conceiving while too young or while too old.

    A lot of real-world problems come from babies having parents who are too young.

    If babies conceived by very young mothers were unlikely to reproduce, and women who conceived while very young were less likely to have as many reproducing offspring as other women, then there would be no selective pressure in favor of early puberty. Right now IRL the age of puberty is going down noticeably fast. Maybe -- indeed likely -- it's not because of any selective advantage. But, what if it is? Then this feature of the virus would turn off that pressure, and maybe the age of puberty would quit going down or even go back up.

    You also didn't mention the by-design selective pressure against conceiving too often.

    That could mean both/either "too many times in your life" and/or "with too little time between one pregnancy and the next or previous one".

    Mothers who have more than two -- or maybe it's more than three -- children at home younger than 14 years old, are likelier to get depressed.

    Also, in hard times, for instance if the parents often have to pick up the children and flee with them, parents may see little point in having more too-young-to-take-care-of-themselves children at home than there are old-enough-to-take-care-of-a-child people there. You wouldn't want more than two children until the oldest had grown old enough to help out with the youngest, or with the next baby. You might have two children -- one per adult -- then when the oldest was 14 and your household has three adults and one child (not meaning "offspring", but rather meaning "pre-adult"), have two more children, thus still having one child per adult. When the second oldest was also 14, you'd have four adults and two children at home, so you might have two more children, if you could still have that many.

    By the time the third child is 14 the mother will have been having children for 28 years, and so she might have passed menopause. So six pregnancies might be the max; if they're all single-births, six children might be the max. Times would need to be good enough that a couple might be willing to have more than two children younger than 14, for them to have more than about 6 chldren in total.

    But if women's reproductive careers start to last longer -- say, they can reproduce until age 50 or 55 or 60, instead of just to age 45 or 40 or 35 -- then they can start having more children per lifetime. To avoid any selective advantage for that, the virus-or-whatever might need to make it less and less likely that a woman could successfully reproduce, the older she got; as well as, or maybe instead of, making it less and less likely that she could successfully reproduce again, the more times she had already reproduced.

    (But note that for human women childbirth is so difficult and so dangerous that past a certain age a mother is likelier to get more grandchildren by helping her current children grow up and reproduce than she would by having yet another child herself. Or, at least, that's "the grandmother hypothesis". That's supposed to help explain why human women have menopause.)

    Nor did you mention figuring out a way to make it apply to men as well as (or instead of, maybe?) women.

    What you did mention is very intriguing, however. Maybe you could say more about it?

    Or, maybe you could say what you've thought about any of the issues I just mentioned? I'll bet you've already had thoughts about some of them.

    Posted July 2nd, 2013 by chiarizio
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    I had an idea, or a few related ideas, about what might happen if someone were to release a virus, or a few viruses, to slow down the population "explosion".
    I'v considered something similar, and noticed that it'd have some major side-effects, societally speaking. If birth rates drop dramatically, the average age of the population is going to increase.

    How come?
    Just because there'd be fewer newborns to bring the average down?
    Maybe so.
    That's what I had in mind. If the population actually decreases (and we might want it to, in the short term), older generations outnumber younger ones.

    1) Why not?
    2) Certain genetic traits, especially sex-linked traits like those carried on X-chromosomes or on Y-chromosomes, or one-parent-only traits like those carried on mitochondrial DNA (which is inherited only from the mother), are less likely to drift to extinction, or likelier to take a lot longer to do so, if nearly every parent has both a son and a daughter.
    Good point.
    But we don't want it to be too much bigger than the replacement rate; it might be smart to make it go down asymptotically toward the replacement rate, as the population grows.

    Can you think of a way to do that? Even if you can't, can you think of a good way to write in convincingly that your characters have thought of a way to do that?
    Maybe the virus makes each child less fertile than previous siblings. Then larger populations would tend to grow slower than smaller ones, right?


    I was just thinking that I wouldn't want the virus to have an unplanned side-effect of selecting in favor of multiple births as a way to get around the intended main effect of limiting the number of births per woman. But I wouldn't want it to completely eliminate the possibility of twins, and maybe not even of triplets; I'd just want whatever part of the tendency to have twins-or-more that happens to be genetic, to not spread through the population very quickly at all.

    Okay, that makes sense; it didn't occur to me that accidentally selecting in favour of multiple births was a concern.


    You didn't mention the by-design selective pressure against conceiving while too young or while too old.

    A lot of real-world problems come from babies having parents who are too young.
    I agree, but haven't much to add on that topic.

    You also didn't mention the by-design selective pressure against conceiving too often.

    That could mean both/either "too many times in your life" and/or "with too little time between one pregnancy and the next or previous one".

    Well, limiting number of births per woman has the advantage of working no matter how much the average lifespan increases.

    Posted July 4th, 2013 by Quillwraith
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    How come? Just because there'd be fewer newborns to bring the average down? Maybe so.
    That's what I had in mind. If the population actually decreases (and we might want it to, in the short term), older generations outnumber younger ones.

    I think you're right.


    1) Why not?
    2) Certain genetic traits, especially sex-linked traits like those carried on X-chromosomes or on Y-chromosomes, or one-parent-only traits like those carried on mitochondrial DNA (which is inherited only from the mother), are less likely to drift to extinction, or likelier to take a lot longer to do so, if nearly every parent has both a son and a daughter.
    Good point.

    Thank you!


    But we don't want it to be too much bigger than the replacement rate; it might be smart to make it go down asymptotically toward the replacement rate, as the population grows.
    Can you think of a way to do that? Even if you can't, can you think of a good way to write in convincingly that your characters have thought of a way to do that?
    Maybe the virus makes each child less fertile than previous siblings. Then larger populations would tend to grow slower than smaller ones, right?

    I think you're right. That idea fits right in with the ideas I'd already posted.


    I was just thinking that I wouldn't want the virus to have an unplanned side-effect of selecting in favor of multiple births as a way to get around the intended main effect of limiting the number of births per woman. But I wouldn't want it to completely eliminate the possibility of twins, and maybe not even of triplets; I'd just want whatever part of the tendency to have twins-or-more that happens to be genetic, to not spread through the population very quickly at all.
    Okay, that makes sense; it didn't occur to me that accidentally selecting in favour of multiple births was a concern.

    Thank you for saying it makes sense. When dealing with natural selection, I think, it's always a good idea to consider the possibilities of accidents and unintended consequences. Also, when dealing with viruses, or any other infectious agent that could escape into the wild.


    You didn't mention the by-design selective pressure against conceiving while too young or while too old. A lot of real-world problems come from babies having parents who are too young.
    I agree, but haven't much to add on that topic.

    I guess I don't have much to add either.


    You also didn't mention the by-design selective pressure against conceiving too often. That could mean both/either "too many times in your life" and/or "with too little time between one pregnancy and the next or previous one".
    Well, limiting number of births per woman has the advantage of working no matter how much the average lifespan increases.

    I guess that's right.

    Posted July 5th, 2013 by chiarizio
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    BTW I just read Sheri S. Tepper's "Gibbon's Decline and Fall".
    At the end of the book the heroines are offered the chance to make a choice among several of the options mentioned above.
    It's done by what's essentially magic; that is, an alternative science and alternative technology developed by a different species and different civilization long living in hiding from humans. Presumably there is (in the backstory) a technological, scientific, rational, non-magical, non-religious explanation; but it's not explained in the book, and the book's human characters (most of its characters are human) never understand it.

    Posted August 9th, 2013 by chiarizio
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    BTW I just read Sheri S. Tepper's "Gibbon's Decline and Fall".
    At the end of the book the heroines are offered the chance to make a choice among several of the options mentioned above.
    Would you recommend it?
    If not, what do they choose?

    Posted August 12th, 2013 by Quillwraith
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    Would you recommend it?

    If you mean, "would I recommend reading that novel by Sher S. Tepper", the answer is "Yes! Quite highly!".


    If not, what do they choose?

    Spoiler alert!: [color=#B0D0F0]The novel ends just before we would find out. They choose, but we don't get to know what they choose.

    Posted August 29th, 2013 by eldin raigmore
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    Would you recommend it?

    If you mean, "would I recommend reading that novel by Sher S. Tepper", the answer is "Yes! Quite highly!".

    That is what I meant, yes.

    Posted September 2nd, 2013 by Quillwraith
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    If you mean, "would I recommend reading that novel by Sheri S. Tepper", the answer is "Yes! Quite highly!".

    That is what I meant, yes.

    So, do you, or anyone else, have any other comments?

    Posted September 3rd, 2013 by chiarizio
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    If you mean, "would I recommend reading that novel by Sheri S. Tepper", the answer is "Yes! Quite highly!".

    That is what I meant, yes.

    So, do you, or anyone else, have any other comments?

    Not at the moment, sorry.

    Posted September 4th, 2013 by Quillwraith
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