May 2008

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My maths arent so good so euuh....
i did guess 3Million, not very close i think ^^


thanks guy perfect word.


Honestly my answer was "No idea, but it'll be a heck of a lot". I'm not sure if 10 billion would die in a person's lifetime - at least 6 billion, sure - but we don't know how large the earth's population will get in the future, and there are signs that it will stabilize a bit after 10 billion.


Well, I came up with "billions". I won't claim to have gotten the exact answer like some commenters. (I'm a bit skeptical of their claims, but I figure they're also actually likely to be a self-selecting group, as they would take pride in their achievement if they did in fact come up with the correct answer in 5 seconds.)


I was off by a factor of 10. Yowza.


do you realize that the World does not finish in America?
May be there are not x people in America, but, what about those countries South of Rio Grande, on the other side of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans?
You know that the World exists over there? You know that some "human beings" live and die over there?




10 billion!?!?! You guys do realise that there aren't that many people in America don't you??



I panicked that I was going to go over 5 seconds, so blurted out 100 billion.


Well, I admit -- I had to think about it. It took me longer than 5 seconds to figure it out.


The thing you're talking about is what DR Hoffstadter calls "numerliteracy" (I think it was him.)

My immediate answer was "well, there's the 6B+ people alive NOW, plus another bunch, so probably 10B+"

I think the problem of people not getting it is just basic numerilliteracy. Ask these same people how many needles on a typical 8' Christmas tree, or grains of sand in a 5gal bucket.

Here's one I think is funny: We all know (thanks to Segan) that there are "billions and billions" of stars. How many of them can you see on a clear night, unaided? Try to answer in 5 seconds.

Don't read on until you've answered, and try to do it quickly.

5 seconds. No cheating.

The answer is "about a thousand." (Depending on where you are, and how hazy your horizon is. Even under perfect conditions, "low thousands.")


(Those of you've personally logged 10k stars with your telescope, and are just getting started on sector-5 -- that's not what I asked. Go to the back of the line & start again ;)


Hi - my first guess was 0 because it's not happened and it's a story. Does that make me a smartass or what?
Yes, I know it makes me a what.


I guessed 10 billion. Because life expectancy is somewhat less than 100 years and there are 6 billion on the planet so I guessed a nice round 10 billion.


I am as dumb as you think, cause I guessed a million.


are these metric humans or imperial humans

where are we going to put all these graves?????


Great...My immediate answer was "one heck of a lot", then I read over the question after, and in 100 years I knew there were 6 billion on the earth and they would all die within that, and then your part the unlucky ones who won't live to that old age. Very great post, I'll try this on my friends :D

Ascii King

Let's get that baby before it gets us. The world is obviously at stake.

David Anderson

What popped into my head was "about 99.99% of everybody on Earth" actual figure didn't even beging to occur to me.

This reminds me of a joke I heard long ago...'How many dead people are there in that cemetary back there' [my wise-ass uncle asked me this as we were driving along a country road]. I looked back and tried to make a numerical guess based on the number of headstones. When I said 'A few hundred', he cocked an eye at me and said 'I figure that they're all dead..." Big laugh.

Context is everything...


In five seconds I was able to think to myself, "Huh, does he mean people that the baby knows or everyone on earth? I bet he means on earth. Current pop is about 6 billion and I don't have time to make growth projections so maybe 10 billion." Heh.

Lord Foul

Oh wow. And I only got a mere 10.000 in to the five second frame. Seems like I´m a somewhat optimistic type of dude.

And of course I knew instantly that tenthousand was horribly wrong, to low and all that. But its fascinating that my mind as an answer instantly dropped out "10.000!" as if the number was prewritten somewhere in the subconscious part of my brain and only waiting for a release.

with fine regards,

Lord Foul


even for a guess I somehow didn't go for an actual number but for "about twice the actual population of earth".

White Ox

Forgive me people who may have already pointed this out as I'm in a hurry and did not read repliesd but Scott...

Didn't you suggest that immortality was only so far away and not as unattainable as many of us believe?

True it may only be available to the ultra-rich and therefore not achieve customer penetration to the merely moderately wealthy plebians like myself, but is it not one of your own considerations you had not considered?

For the record I said 2 billion. And you are quite correct with your answer and your logic is sound, it really demonstrates the inadequacies of trying to answer a calculated question in a small amount of time. I'll leave that to politicians and CEOs with good hair.


Based on a rough calculation of what is said below. I guessed 12 billion.
With more time I came up with this:
I figure 100 years is roughly 3 to 4 generations. people live to be about 3 generations old (on average) so if the total earth population stayed constant, you could expect 3 generations to die and 3 to be born. 3*6.5 billion = 19.5 billion. Pretty close to Scott's final guess.

anjan bacchu

hi scott,

i guessed 40 billion. I'm assuming that the world will have a lot of people soon. (around 2050, we should have 12 billion population)



OK so I'm lazy.
My first thought was 'buggered if I know'.

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