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Is the Planet Full?$
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Ian Goldin

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199677771

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199677771.001.0001

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Overpopulation or Underpopulation?

Overpopulation or Underpopulation?

(p.46) 3 Overpopulation or Underpopulation?
Is the Planet Full?

Toby Ord

Oxford University Press

This chapter argues that often population ethics focuses on the costs of population growth while ignoring the instrumental and intrinsic benefits of having more people on Earth. It suggests that instrumental benefits such as the added value brought by information goods must be considered alongside the intrinsic value of the joys and loves of human lives. These benefits cannot be adequately weighed using total or average utility metrics. Instead, emerging theories must weigh the instrumental and intrinsic benefits of additional lives against the costs of capacity, which should be defined in terms of ‘soft limits’ and ‘hard limits.’ While the hard limits may be absolute, technological advances can be coupled with social and behavioural changes to shift the soft limits of population capacity. Given this malleability of population constraints, a re-evaluation of population ethics is required, with more attention paid to the benefits of larger populations.

Keywords:   population ethics, utility, intrinsic benefits, instrumental benefits, technology

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