the living outnumber the dead?
May 9, 2005 4:07 PM   Subscribe

So I was watching Wong Kar Wai's _Fallen Angels_ last night and Laurie Anderson's song _Speak My Language_ came on. The refrain was 'now that the living outnumber the dead' and got me thinking, my question: Has the living population of the earth ever outnumbered the number of all those who have come before us and died? Does it now? This seems a reasonable event to occur at some point given exponential growth, I just haven't been able to figure out when such a thing has/would happen(ed). Thanks!
posted by prettyboyfloyd to Science & Nature (10 answers total)
It's at least a widespread meme. I've read it in a number of different places, though usually without support or attribution.
posted by nebulawindphone at 4:18 PM on May 9, 2005

Just google.
posted by Specklet at 4:21 PM on May 9, 2005

Best answer: Also see here.
posted by teg at 4:23 PM on May 9, 2005

I heard that someone's born every eight seconds
So I guess that some dies every eight seconds
Just to keep things even

It makes me feel shortchanged
When I read the obituaries
Someone's holding back information

(Sorry for the random music lyric, but I've always liked this line. I have no idea where it comes from but I heard it on KTRU in Houston a lot in the late 80s.)
posted by Nelson at 4:29 PM on May 9, 2005

Response by poster: Doh, double post and crap google skills. Apologies, I'm a bit out of sorts today for various reason so my sloth factor may be higher than usual. Thanks for not totally bashing me and providing some guidance!
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 4:31 PM on May 9, 2005

Response by poster: Interesting. According to this cached page from the prev. discussion my guess about exponential growth was way off. Pretty hard for the living to outnumber the dead it seems. I guess that's why I'm in law school and not in a math program.

Sorry Laurie! (One random 80s(?) lyric deserves another!)
posted by prettyboyfloyd at 4:36 PM on May 9, 2005

In early human prehistory, just after homo sapiens became its own species, this would have been true for quite a while, I think.
posted by kindall at 5:25 PM on May 9, 2005

Laurie's not exactly known for having actual facts in her lyrics anyway. There are a couple of whoppers on US Live.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:17 PM on May 9, 2005

Nelson: It's "Little Dead Bodies" by Algebra Suicide. If you'd said you'd heard it on KPFT in Houston in the late 80s, we'd probably have many more memories to share.

posted by Liffey at 8:48 PM on May 9, 2005 [1 favorite]

In early human prehistory, just after homo sapiens became its own species,

However, since speciation is such a gradual process (for the most part), and we tend to recognize it only long after it has happened (and two species are clearly distinct), there may be no specific point in time that could be identified when "homo sapiens became its own species".
posted by Doohickie at 5:46 AM on May 10, 2005

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