Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Minimum Viable Population

Sunday evening, I was watching a 2017 TV series on Netflix: Salvation (IMDb). The word MVP or “Minimum Viable Population” caught by attention. This show claims that 160 people are enough. This number might even be 80 with some “social engineering“. Both numbers originate from anthropologist John Moore from University of Florida (New Scientist, 2002).

A minimum viable population of 160 supports a 2017 Quanta article on the number of Neanderthal who lived in Eurasia. Genetic sequencing reveals that the global Neanderthal population only amounted to a few thousand rather than the 150,000 assumed earlier. One theory suggests the Neanderthal already lived 750,000 rather than 450,000 years ago. This could/would explain the higher archeological estimates.

The Neanderthal barely survived their departure from Africa: “the genetic data shows the population passed through a severe bottleneck, never observed in previous studies.” (Quanta) “But whatever caused that brush with disaster, the archaic humans bounced back from it, and just a few thousand years later — by 744,000 years ago — they separated into two separate lineages, the Neanderthals and the Denisovans. The former then split further into the smaller regional groups []”.

The most remarkable thing is that the small global Neanderthal population survived some eight (!) Ice Ages or glacial periods over 700,000 years before they became extinct: see blue dips in the right Wiki diagram.

Glacial periods imply low sea water levels. This would support an Out-of-Africa theory. Currently, we are in an interglacial period with deglaciation, which implies high sea levels. 

The last glacial period ended some 15,000 years ago. The post glacial (global) sea level rise is +120 to +140 meters (400-450 feet), which is documented in the left Wiki graph.  

A minimum viable population of 160 (or 80) either fits human societies with limited knowledge or extensive knowledge fully supported by talking supercomputers (eg, HAL 9000J.A.R.V.I.S., KITTStar Trek, Wiki).

Currently, human societies have extensive knowledge which is only partially supported by (talking) supercomputers. Given the degree of human specialization and the absence of polymaths (Homo Universalis), our minimum viable population may run in the tens of thousands. Without (mobile) internet and/or electricity, many people are totally “lost”. Today, Homo sapiens is between a rock and a hard place.

Rock and a Hard Place (1989) by Rolling Stones
artists, lyrics, video, Wiki-1, Wiki-2

The fields of Eden
Are full of trash
And if we beg and we borrow and steal
We’ll never get it back
People are hungry
They crowd around
And the city gets bigger as the country comes begging to town
We’re stuck between a rock
And a hard place

Note: all markings (bold, italic, underlying) by LO unless stated otherwise.

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