The Vision

Child raising

by Roger Bourke White Jr., copyright December 2014


Child raising is a highly emotional activity. Many people will be devoting a lot of effort to having children and raising them in the best way possible. Child raising will consume a lot of emotional attention in 2050. It will suffer a lot of The Curse of Being Important.

But the total number of human children being raised by humans will be small. Too small, in fact, to sustain the human population. The surprise of 2050 is the big challenge of getting enough children raised. The Curse of Being Important will swirl deeply and widely as this challenge is faced. This means there is going to be some diversity in how children get raised, and lots of heated emotion swirling around in on-looking people wondering if it is being done the right way.

One of the blind spots in 2010's thinking is not recognizing that prosperous urban environments are a population sink, not a population source. An example of shrinking population due to prosperity is Japan in the 2010's. The cause of this is that people living in prosperous urban environments have lots of distractions that reduce their time and interest in child raising. The classic example of this is the "career or family?" question, but that is just one of dozens of distractions.

Because there is so much technology available, and so much emotional interest in the activity, child raising in 2050 is going to be a diverse activity, and done for diverse reasons. That is what this essay is about.

Many choices available

This business of child raising in the future is at the core of my previous Technofiction book Child Champs. It is something I have given a lot of thought to.

One of the realities is that there will be lots and lots of choices available for creating children and raising them. But the hard question is going to be magnitude: how to do enough of it? There will be a strong tendency for humans to take a "gourmet attitude" towards child raising -- they will want to do a fine job on just one, maybe two, kids. This will then leave as a chronic question: How to fill "The Baby Gap"? -- the difference between the number of kids humans want to raise and what is needed to sustain the population.

The prosperous urban distraction

This Baby Gap is not a new problem. Cities have been population sinks ever since there have been cities. But when the human population in cities is a small fraction of the total, it doesn't matter. But modern prosperity is changing the equation -- around 2010 half the world's population became urban and the percentage is continuing to rise steadily. This means that this Baby Gap problem is already transforming from a curiosity into an issue. If the population becomes 90% urban, which is likely in 2050, it becomes a high priority issue. This is not pie in the sky speculation. The current UN population projections call for a peak around the year 2050.

As stated earlier, this fertility change is not due to advances in birth control technology -- it dates back centuries. It is due to distraction. There are so many things for urban dwellers to do besides raising babies that it gets pushed far down the priority list, and few babies get born and raised. Example: In Europe of the 2010's the fertility rate is 1.59 children per woman -- a rate of 2.1 is needed to maintain a stable population. Places such as Europe maintain their population through immigration from rural areas in other parts of the world. When those rural areas depopulate -- because all the young people have moved to the cities -- the crisis hits with full force. It has hit in Japan already because Japan has long discouraged immigration.

Who will make babies in 2050?

Who will make babies in 2050? Here are some baby sources I envision being active in the 2050 environment.

o Gourmet Babies -- Many women will produce children in conventional arrangements such as marriage. Many couples in alternative coupling arrangements will also do conventional baby making. All these styles will also engage in alternative child raising such as traditional adoption and something up and coming: buying designer children.

The alternative couplings will be much more common in 2050 to avoid the legal and fiscal minefield that divorce has become and likely still will be. This toxicity has grown over the years because of instinctive thinking. The scorned person "I sacrificed for you, now you owe me... BIG TIME." mentality is instinctive thinking that is shared by both the people involved and the community around them. And like much instinctive thinking, if harsh reality is not constraining it, it gets crazier as prosperity grows.

What these various coupling styles have in common -- what makes them gourmet baby raising -- is being ready, willing and able to commit a lot of resource and attention to the child raising process. These kids will have the best their parents can afford and lots of parental attention. This is why I call them gourmet babies. There will be a lot of these, but not enough to sustain the population.

o "Baby Crazy" women -- A growing source of kids will be women who have a powerful instinct to have lots of children, and they let that instinct flower, even without a significant other to help out. In the 2010's environment these are the single moms. In the 2050 environment single moms will get a lot more social attention and support. They will be part of the mainstream, and single mom clubs for raising children will become common and they will have a lot of social influence. A few will go it alone, but going it alone will mean lots of cyber support rather than lots of human support, not no support at all.

o "Be Fertile" cults -- How humans gather into groups will be diverse. Some of those groups will be devoted to spawning and raising children. A 2010's example is the Fundamentalist Church of Latter Day Saints (FLDS) groups. These are fundamentalist religious groups which are big family-oriented. Many of these Be Fertile cults will also support deeply alternative ideas -- the FLDS are also polygamist. In 2050 these groups will not be numerous, but they will be around. And, as with single mom clubs, these groups will get lots of government support for their child raising activities.

o "My little tax deduction" -- In 2050 many communities are going to recognize this Baby Gap problem and ask their governments to do something about it. One of the quick and easy ways is to offer tax breaks. With time, and the crisis growing, and "income" not meaning what it does in the 2010's, many other kinds of incentives will also be offered. Those who take up these various kinds of incentives fall in this My Little Tax Deduction category. They are having and raising kids because the government is paying them in various ways to do so.

Many of these are going to be single moms, as mentioned above, and one of the new social structures we will see emerging in the 2050 environment is single moms clubs of various sorts. Some of these styles will be spontaneous, and others will be government-sponsored groups, who get more benefits, in return for following government-recommended ways of child raising. Done well, these single mom clubs can produce good results. This style can be built upon instincts which support a "sea" of child raisers raising a "sea" of children.

o Genetic engineering to produce better babies -- One of the chronic white-hot topics will be how much genetic engineering to apply to fetuses. The instinctive thinking on this will be much like the instinctive thinking on how much drug-taking an athlete can do and still be "pure" enough to compete. The Curse of Being Important will be strong here, which means lots of opinions, lots of regulations, lots of regulation dodging, lots of misinformation, and lots of scandals. This will remain a very human topic, and one that gets a lot of time in the afternoon dramas of 2050.

o Genetic engineering to produce specialty people -- As humanity and the cyber community master the skills of genetic engineering, new species of humans can be created that will thrive in conditions too extreme for regular humans. An example is low-gravity conditions. Long term the low gravity environment is hard on human health. It causes problems such as calcium loss in bones. If genetic engineering can overcome these problems, then space-faring people who are not bothered by years of low gravity can thrive. These engineered kinds of beings will be human-like, but not fully human.

These people will be different. This brings up questions like: Will humans raise them, or will cyber creations raise them? Will they be conceived in normal human mothers? Or will other conception and fetus raising tools be used? As these engineered styles of people get built for more extreme environments, such as living on Mars or the moons of gas giants, humans can do more and be more innovative in these environments. They can contribute more to the spread of humanity through the solar system.

o "Vat babies" and cloning to produce regular people -- Those people on earth who get into "extreme gourmet", will want to use all the tools available. This is the "Tiger Mom" feeling on steroids. These people will use more fetus growing environments that are not a human uterus, and child raising that employs a lot more creation assistance.

o "We just need people." people -- Even with all of the above, the world will need more humans if population is to be sustained. When a community, human or cyber, thinks more humans are needed, these "necessity humans" will be the humans who fill the gap. These babies will fill the gap that immigrants do in the 2010's -- they are being produced to service a need that "regular" humans or cyber can't. Given that TES provided by cyber is filling basic human needs, what these people will be needed for is dealing with surprises of some sort. At this stage I can't forecast what the surprises will be.

This is where racial discrimination in 2050 is likely to center on. These kids, and the adults they grow up to be, are not going to be pampered like any of the other groups are. They are warm bodies grown to service some odd need. Fitting them in socially is going to be a challenge.

The Sex Ratio: How many boys versus girls?

One of the most visible choices in child raising is whether to have a boy or girl child. As birth control and abortion became widespread this transformed from a wish into a choice in more and more cultures. Since the 1990's this has shown up in East Asian cultures as skewing towards more male children, and in the 2010's it is affecting marriage choices there.

This is going to be an even easier choice in 2050, and just one of many that a child raiser makes in picking the best fetus for them. The big question for 2050, a much more feminist world, will be what ratio gets picked? For example: Are single moms and single mom clubs going to want to raise mostly girl children? Is this ratio going to completely flip-flop from what South and East Asia experience in the 2010's? Is the thinking going to be, "Men! There's nothing they can do that a woman can't do. And they can't even get jobs these days. They are basement addicts. Why should I bother to raise one?"

If so, this is another surprise cultural change that will hit many of the TES cultures.

Tiger Mom Kids

Another group that is going to have a hard time fitting in are the Tiger Mom Kids. The parents who are trying hardest, and most successfully, to have their children make meaningful contributions to society will keep in mind the prime human virtue: adaptability. Cyber will excel at handling routine and switching between various routine activities, while properly trained humans will excel at handling surprises and things that are beyond routine.

For the humans to be good at this adaptability virtue, they must be well trained in it. They must exercise in it long and hard. This means that the good child raising practices for enhancing innovation and adaptability are not going to be the ones that support "tender snowflake" child raising that works well for raising TES-comfortable adults. This means there will be a culture clash. It will be similar to the home schooling culture clash of the 2010's. And The Curse of Being Important is going to make this a high-profile culture clash in 2050. This will be in the news right behind the "bleeding" stuff.

Fitting into the Social Environment

All of these children, spawned in different ways and raised in different ways, are going to fit into the 2050 lifestyles. 2050 is going to support a lot of diversity, but the foundation will be the various TES lifestyles, and most of those will be urban lifestyles.

Those who are gourmet children will aspire to meaningful lives that involve being more tangible about accomplishments than average the TES-thrivers. These tangible achievers will be a mix of dilettante and disruptively innovative. The dilettantes will concern themselves with artisanal activities and be liberal arts in their thinking. The disruptively innovative will be fiercely analytic thinkers who do a lot of coordinating with the cyber community so they can help improve cyber-dominated manufactures and services. Those who are raised for other environments, such as space travel, will be analytic thinkers as well.

Those who are raised as tax deductions and fertility cult members are more likely to be instinctive thinkers. Their reality is not going to be manipulating harsh reality in serious ways, so they can let their hearts be their guides. Entertainment and sports, as both performers and spectators, will be the center of their lives. Supporting causes de jour will also be a common activity. And for these people wild mind altering will not cause much harm or disadvantage. In fact, it may bring advantage if compatriots start admiring them.


These are some thoughts about child raising in the 2050 environment. There will be many ways to do this. The instinct to give children the best is strong, so all kids will get the best their parents can come up with. One of the big differences will be just that: What the parents can come up with.

Raising styles will also be diverse. There will be parents in the traditional sense, parents in alternative senses, single mom baby clubs, and fertility cults to name a few styles.

The adults that grow out of these styles will be different in their outlooks and thinking styles. As a result, the diversity in lifestyles and thinking styles will remain large, but the range will be quite different from that experienced by the humans of the 2010's because the harsh reality that these children and adults are experiencing will be so different.

Further Reading

For more thoughts on human adaptability try this 11 Dec 14 WSJ article Artificial Intelligence Isn’t a Threat—Yet by Gary Marcus.

This 19 Apr 15 Daily Mail article, Why men won't get married anymore: Women complain chaps today won't settle down. Sorry, ladies, but it's all your fault, argues a wickedly provocative new book by Peter Lloyd, describes how marriage rates are declining because the married environment, and the divorced environment, are becoming so toxic for men. This trend is likely to continue.

From the article, "According to the Office for National Statistics, marriage in Britain is at its lowest level since 1895. In 2011, there were just 286,634 ceremonies — a 41 per cent free fall from 1972, when 480,285 couples tied the knot.

For an army of women, Mr Right is simply not there, no matter how hard they look for him. And the reason? When it comes to marriage, men are on strike.

Why? Because the rewards are far less than they used to be, while the cost and dangers it presents are far greater."

This 18 Apr 15 Economist article, The marriage squeeze in India and China Bare branches, redundant males Distorted sex ratios at birth a generation ago are changing marriage and damaging societies in Asia’s twin giants, talks about how the high ratio of male children over the past decade is affecting marriage today.

From the article, "The revision of 500 years of custom by its conservative guardians symbolises a profound change not just in India. Usually dubbed the “marriage squeeze”, the change refers both to the fact of having too many men chasing too few brides and the consequence of it in countries where marriage has always been nearly universal. Sex selection at birth is common in China and India. The flight from marriage—with women marrying later, or not at all—is long established in Japan and South Korea. But until recently, Asia’s twin giants have not felt the effects of sexual imbalance in marriage. Now they are."

This 11 Jul 15 Economist article, Tales of the unexpected China has relaxed its one-child policy. Yet parents are not rushing to have a second, describes that even though China's One Child policy has been relaxed, the fertility is not rising.

From the article, "That worries the government, which has tweaked the rules not out of sympathy for lonely only children or for parents who want a spare heir, but because of a population crunch. The country is ageing rapidly. In 2012 its labour pool shrank for the first time in 50 years. In the largest cities the fertility rate—meaning the number of children an average woman is likely to have during her lifetime—is among the lowest in the world, at around one. For the country as a whole it is less than 1.6—far below the level of 2.1 needed to keep the population steady (see chart)."

This 25 Jul 15 Economist article, Breaking the baby strike People in rich countries can be coaxed into having more children. But lazy husbands and lovely cities stand in the way, describes the current efforts of several countries in Europe and Asia to increase their fertility rate.

From the article, "In Singapore couples receive S$6,000 ($4,450) for having one child, another S$6,000 for a second child and a further S$8,000 for a third. Families with babies go to the front of the queue for government housing, in which most Singaporeans live. In South Korea the state reminds lovers that they can marry cheaply, without throwing an expensive wedding. In Russia couples are encouraged to get it on for the sake of the motherland on an official “fertility day”; a patriotic woman who gives birth exactly nine months later might be entered into a raffle to win a car.

In every rich country except Israel the total fertility rate (a measure of births per woman) is below 2.1—the level required to keep the population stable. In Japan it is 1.4. Some not-so-rich countries, including China and Russia, are also below the replacement rate. Singapore watches its fertility the way other countries track their balance of payments. Mathematically, that is foolish. But it is understandable: Singapore’s fertility rate is just 1.2. South Korea’s is no higher."


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