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#1 Skywalkre

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 1422 PM

This book was just a side note in another book I was reading late last year but it had an interesting enough premise that it caught my eye - what if we have everything about population trends all wrong?

 

The authors claim that the population predictions coming from the UN are basically rubbish (the authors' experience and my own seems to be the same in that these UN projections drive the discussion when one is had on population growth).  In short UN models have global population hitting 11 billion by 2100 and continuing to climb.  The authors talked to a host of researchers across the globe, along with traveling to select nations themselves to do their own study, who stated the reality is far different - we'll likely top out at 9 billion before 2100 and once we hit that we'll start dropping fairly quickly.

 

The reason?  A host of factors (urbanization, religiosity, education, income, etc.), once they become established in a population, push the fertility rate down.  Once that rate hits a figure of 1.5 children per woman (a country needs 2.1 children per woman to simply maintain their population) it doesn't go back up.  The result is a shrinking population and this trend, once limited to the most affluent first world nations, has reached even into the developing world faster than expected.

 

At first this probably sounds like a good thing.  If one is concerned about Climate Change a shrinking population is a good thing.  If one is concerned about the struggles in feeding all these people (from enough land to farm to sustainable practices with fishing) a shrinking population is a good thing.

 

The authors point out all the negatives that folks often overlook.  The big one is that a shrinking population, especially one that's so heavily skewed towards older individuals as the coming years will be (a combination of folks living longer from previous population surges coupled to fewer young people from recent fertility drops), is terrible for the economy.  In our consumer driven economies both purchasing power and innovation are traditionally driven by young and middle-aged consumers.  Fewer people buying homes means home prices drop, etc.

 

Even though the authors didn't address it specifically this way the book was also an interesting argument to the dangers of nationalized systems within this reality.  Shrinking populations means a smaller tax base to support everything, in particular public heath programs and pensions (the world average right now is a 6:1 ratio of working individuals to retirees... in some European countries this ratio has already dropped to 2:1 and is still falling).  What they did touch on indirectly is that with this added burden on the fewer young people it drives the fertility rate even lower ("why would I want to bring a child into this environment?").

 

So, when hearing this, the first thought would seem to be focus on national systems or laws that encourage having kids.  Unfortunately... they don't work (or rather, the ones tried so far don't work).  The authors touched on some of the better systems in place in Europe and in short they do push the fertility rate up but not enough (like from 1.5 to 1.6, far below sustainment rate of 2.1) and at great cost.

 

For Americans (and Canadians) the book is actually kind of promising, however.  The authors spent a fair bit of time on the calamity facing China after their disastrous one child policy was left in place for so long.  China could, under some of the models the authors saw, dip down to as low as 600 million by 2100.  By that same time the combined population of America and Canada could be in the 550-600 million mark.  (There's also the issue facing China in the coming  years of the gender inequality in their population skewing so heavily towards men.)

 

The authors touched on the coming century being America's in large part because our population will continue to grow (along with Canada's).  The only reason our population and Canada's is growing, however, is because we welcome immigrants.  Fertility rate of natural born Americans (and Canadians) is below the 2.1 replacement rate (though higher than in most other first world countries).  Our populations are only growing from immigrants coming in and having large families.  Their offspring, however, acclimate to the norm and have fewer children.  Thus, our population growth will only be sustained through continued immigration. 

 

Welcoming immigrants (the authors touched on legal ones) is something most country's across the world don't do even in the face of a shrinking population.  As such our economy will grow (immigrants have a host of positive traits for an economy) and we'll face fewer of the strains other first world nations will be dealing with.

 

There were some other interesting side discussions as well.  For example, from a cultural perspective the reality is certain groups will likely disappear in the coming few hundred years.  If you're a small ethnic group or country and your fertility rate is low you only have two options.  Either you welcome in new people from outside the group that, even if they try their best to adopt your culture, will still change it in the process or you simply let yourselves die off.  That begs the next question... is it a real tragedy if the latter happens?  The authors were a bit somber on this last point but I'm struggling to see an issue here.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm American and our culture is only a few hundred years old.  Or maybe it's the old History major in me looking back on how all cultures continue to evolve... nothing lasts forever.

 

Anywho, amazing little book.  Quick read.  Highly recommend.


Edited by Skywalkre, 03 May 2019 - 1444 PM.

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#2 Tim the Tank Nut

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 1457 PM

there are already some pretty prime examples of population limitation by natural and unnatural forces.

I think it would be fair to say Japan is the text book example.

Many Japanese seem to have lost the reproductive urge and the population is in stasis.  Japan certainly doesn't welcome immigrants.

When virtual technology makes recreational sex an "at will" activity for any single person (and that tech isn't very far off) the population will drop yet again.

 

I'd say Empty Planet posits a more likely future than many of the prognosticators out there


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#3 Brian Kennedy

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 1527 PM

Great review, thanks! Re Tims point, there are a bunch of recent studies that younger folks in the US are getting married less, having less sex, all that stuff. Maybe Internet porn really will destroy the planet. :)
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#4 rmgill

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 1603 PM


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#5 JasonJ

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Posted 03 May 2019 - 2314 PM

there are already some pretty prime examples of population limitation by natural and unnatural forces.

I think it would be fair to say Japan is the text book example.

Many Japanese seem to have lost the reproductive urge and the population is in stasis.  Japan certainly doesn't welcome immigrants.

When virtual technology makes recreational sex an "at will" activity for any single person (and that tech isn't very far off) the population will drop yet again.

 

I'd say Empty Planet posits a more likely future than many of the prognosticators out there

 

That was the case from something like 1990-2010. Sitting in that rut for so long has resulted in a turn around. Its a slow turn around, but a trajectory that has changed. First is the fertility rate. It reached an all time low of 1.26 in 2005. Since then its built up to what is now 1.43 (as of 2017) according to the Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare. The statistic number for 2018 will probably come in early June although CIA worldfactbook is already estimating 1.42 for 2018. Its a soft turn around. But nonetheless, it is a turnaround from "lost the reproduction urge". There have been a number of factors that resulted in the turn around that it would take a lot to partially explain it, but ultimately, it is a recognized problem and a response has occurred and more recent response continue to occur such as improved nursery school availability. The total number of born babies is a record low although long at the by-year data, there was a few years that saw more births than the previous year which suggests that a constant decrease is not so deeply the expected outlook.

ftr.jpg

https://ja.wikipedia...特殊出生率

 

As for immigration, first is work visa. Work visa are granted on a 1 year, 3 year, 5 years basis. Some special cases of 10 year maybe. And they are renewable. There's been new policies put into place for foreign workers to come in and work. Those policies are directed at some countries like Vietnam and the Philippines where they have a lot of young people and I do see them here. The number of foreign workers has nearly doubled since 2012 from what was over 600,000 to 1,270,000 in 2017, The number for 2018 is 1,460,000.

foreignworkers.jpg

https://www5.cao.go....0/shiryo_04.pdf

 

 

Then for very long term residence, there are two paths to that, permanent residence or being naturalized. Most foreigners that get married to a native Japanese spouse and live in Japan and have children that go through the whole education system like anyone else tend to go for permanent residence. To become naturalized requires further steps like language acquisition and such. The reality is that many foreigners here don't really develop their language skills. Most tend to develop a limited degree of conversational skills. Its good enough to get around on the day to day basis. But it isn't good enough to read Japanese news, Japanese books, and etc. so their information feed is still limited by large English materials. At the risk of being called out as some sort of pro-Japan maniac, but that doesn't really strike me to being considered fully assimilated and that is the result of their choice. Most are perfectly happy with permanent residence anyway. If they end up not being happy about living in Japan, they often were the sort that hasn't taken seriously enough the whole situation that comes a long with international marriages. Lets not kid ourselves. The young couple gets together enjoys a relationship but neither side have taken serious consideration about what circumstances come with going from a dating relationship to a marriage, and they jump into marriage too quickly because of innocent  "I love you" and they want to do things their own county/culture way so it results a crash after a few years into the marriage.Lets also not pretend that many in the US do take up the view that English should be the dominant language of the country and that assimilation should take place as well. The US is a very wide country full of natural resources so there's a lot of wiggle room to fit in a lot of new people. Japan is different. Smaller islands with very little natural resources so there's going to be a higher demand for actual assimilation for those that want to naturalize. So those are things to take into consideration as a response to "Japan certainly doesn't welcome immigrants".


Edited by JasonJ, 03 May 2019 - 2343 PM.

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#6 Chris Werb

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0435 AM

I think AI is going to have to replace young people in a lot of roles so they can perform roles that cannot be automated in the near term such as many in health and social care.
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#7 Adam_S

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0455 AM

I think AI is going to have to replace young people in a lot of roles so they can perform roles that cannot be automated in the near term such as many in health and social care.

 

That's an interesting thought, actually. At the moment, I think the supply/demand equation for labor is stacked pretty heavily in favor of employers for the most part, especially for unskilled or semi-skilled work. Historically, when something like the Black Death has come along and upset the balance in that regard, it has lead to some pretty serious social change, at least temporarily. I wonder if we'd see something like that in a situation where the global population is declining or whether automation and/or immigration from third world countries would be enough to offset that.

 

It could well be that my kids will be having their asses wiped in the old folks' home by either a robot or somebody from Somalia.


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#8 Rick

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0458 AM

I think AI is going to have to replace young people in a lot of roles so they can perform roles that cannot be automated in the near term such as many in health and social care.

How so?


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#9 Rick

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0501 AM

I think AI is going to have to replace young people in a lot of roles so they can perform roles that cannot be automated in the near term such as many in health and social care.

How so?

 

This book was just a side note in another book I was reading late last year but it had an interesting enough premise that it caught my eye - what if we have everything about population trends all wrong?

 

The authors claim that the population predictions coming from the UN are basically rubbish (the authors' experience and my own seems to be the same in that these UN projections drive the discussion when one is had on population growth).  In short UN models have global population hitting 11 billion by 2100 and continuing to climb.  The authors talked to a host of researchers across the globe, along with traveling to select nations themselves to do their own study, who stated the reality is far different - we'll likely top out at 9 billion before 2100 and once we hit that we'll start dropping fairly quickly.

 

The reason?  A host of factors (urbanization, religiosity, education, income, etc.), once they become established in a population, push the fertility rate down.  Once that rate hits a figure of 1.5 children per woman (a country needs 2.1 children per woman to simply maintain their population) it doesn't go back up.  The result is a shrinking population and this trend, once limited to the most affluent first world nations, has reached even into the developing world faster than expected.

 

At first this probably sounds like a good thing.  If one is concerned about Climate Change a shrinking population is a good thing.  If one is concerned about the struggles in feeding all these people (from enough land to farm to sustainable practices with fishing) a shrinking population is a good thing.

 

The authors point out all the negatives that folks often overlook.  The big one is that a shrinking population, especially one that's so heavily skewed towards older individuals as the coming years will be (a combination of folks living longer from previous population surges coupled to fewer young people from recent fertility drops), is terrible for the economy.  In our consumer driven economies both purchasing power and innovation are traditionally driven by young and middle-aged consumers.  Fewer people buying homes means home prices drop, etc.

 

Even though the authors didn't address it specifically this way the book was also an interesting argument to the dangers of nationalized systems within this reality.  Shrinking populations means a smaller tax base to support everything, in particular public heath programs and pensions (the world average right now is a 6:1 ratio of working individuals to retirees... in some European countries this ratio has already dropped to 2:1 and is still falling).  What they did touch on indirectly is that with this added burden on the fewer young people it drives the fertility rate even lower ("why would I want to bring a child into this environment?").

 

So, when hearing this, the first thought would seem to be focus on national systems or laws that encourage having kids.  Unfortunately... they don't work (or rather, the ones tried so far don't work).  The authors touched on some of the better systems in place in Europe and in short they do push the fertility rate up but not enough (like from 1.5 to 1.6, far below sustainment rate of 2.1) and at great cost.

 

For Americans (and Canadians) the book is actually kind of promising, however.  The authors spent a fair bit of time on the calamity facing China after their disastrous one child policy was left in place for so long.  China could, under some of the models the authors saw, dip down to as low as 600 million by 2100.  By that same time the combined population of America and Canada could be in the 550-600 million mark.  (There's also the issue facing China in the coming  years of the gender inequality in their population skewing so heavily towards men.)

 

The authors touched on the coming century being America's in large part because our population will continue to grow (along with Canada's).  The only reason our population and Canada's is growing, however, is because we welcome immigrants.  Fertility rate of natural born Americans (and Canadians) is below the 2.1 replacement rate (though higher than in most other first world countries).  Our populations are only growing from immigrants coming in and having large families.  Their offspring, however, acclimate to the norm and have fewer children.  Thus, our population growth will only be sustained through continued immigration. 

 

Welcoming immigrants (the authors touched on legal ones) is something most country's across the world don't do even in the face of a shrinking population.  As such our economy will grow (immigrants have a host of positive traits for an economy) and we'll face fewer of the strains other first world nations will be dealing with.

 

There were some other interesting side discussions as well.  For example, from a cultural perspective the reality is certain groups will likely disappear in the coming few hundred years.  If you're a small ethnic group or country and your fertility rate is low you only have two options.  Either you welcome in new people from outside the group that, even if they try their best to adopt your culture, will still change it in the process or you simply let yourselves die off.  That begs the next question... is it a real tragedy if the latter happens?  The authors were a bit somber on this last point but I'm struggling to see an issue here.  Maybe it's the fact that I'm American and our culture is only a few hundred years old.  Or maybe it's the old History major in me looking back on how all cultures continue to evolve... nothing lasts forever.

 

Anywho, amazing little book.  Quick read.  Highly recommend.

Your thoughts on the critical "against" comments on Amazon?


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#10 Corinthian

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0540 AM


 

The reason?  A host of factors (urbanization, religiosity, education, income, etc.), once they become established in a population, push the fertility rate down.  Once that rate hits a figure of 1.5 children per woman (a country needs 2.1 children per woman to simply maintain their population) it doesn't go back up.

 


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#11 Ssnake

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0701 AM

It could well be that my kids will be having their asses wiped in the old folks' home by either a robot or somebody from Somalia.

 

Probably by Somalis, supported by robots.


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#12 Ssnake

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0709 AM

 

I think AI is going to have to replace young people in a lot of roles so they can perform roles that cannot be automated in the near term such as many in health and social care.

How so?

There's a ton of areas where machine support appears feasible or is being used already.

There's conversation bots in Japanese homes to get the old people engaged in some interaction to retain their cognitive skills. There's a lot of hard work like switching beds for patients who can't stand up any longer. Right now that requires two people to do routinely. With the right technique a strong single person can also do it as an exception. Given suitable robotic arms, a single person could do it at a "bed changing point" on a nursery station. There's lot of work and time wasted transporting water bottles to fight dehydration among the patients, an excellent example for low risk bot support that can free up a lot of time for human nurses to direct limited human work resources and attention to activities that help to increase the patients' quality of life.

These are the examples that come to my mind as someone who is neither working in the robotics field nor in nursery (but I know people from both professions).

Other transport activities that could, with a sufficient degree of technological progress, be gradually transitioned toward robotic autonomy, are laundry, or driving beds in hospitals from one station to another. Or freely programmable helper bots assigned to trail nurses and to "gopher jobs", or have a lot of stuff at the ready in their cargo bay (think of rolling desks rather than C3PO).

 

You don't have to look for science fiction like "Robot and Frank" (although even that was intended as an outlook into the rather near future, as they chose robot activities that all appear within reach today).


Edited by Ssnake, 04 May 2019 - 0714 AM.

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#13 Rick

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0715 AM

 

 

I think AI is going to have to replace young people in a lot of roles so they can perform roles that cannot be automated in the near term such as many in health and social care.

How so?

There's a ton of areas where machine support appears feasible or is being used already.

There's conversation bots in Japanese homes to get the old people engaged in some interaction to retain their cognitive skills. There's a lot of hard work like switching beds for patients who can't stand up any longer. Right now that requires two people to do routinely. With the right technique a strong single person can also do it as an exception. Given suitable robotic arms, a single person could do it at a "bed changing point" on a nursery station. There's lot of work and time wasted transporting water bottles to fight dehydration among the patients, an excellent example for low risk bot support that can free up a lot of time for human nurses to direct limited human work resources and attention to activities that help to increase the patients' quality of life.

These are the examples that come to my mind as someone who is neither working in the robotics field nor in nursery (but I know people from both professions).

Other transport activities that could, with a sufficient degree of technological progress, be gradually transitioned toward robotic autonomy, are laundry, or driving beds in hospitals from one station to another. Or freely programmable helper bots assigned to trail nurses and to "gopher jobs", or have a lot of stuff at the ready in their cargo bay (think of rolling desks rather than C3PO).

 

You don't have to look for science fiction like "Robot and Frank" (although even that was intended as an outlook into the rather near future, as they chose robot activities that all appear within reach today).

 

Did not know that. Thank you. So it appears the goal is to use machines and not muscle.


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#14 shep854

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0723 AM

Throw easy abortions into the mix.  Whatever your position on the practice, there is the result of tens of millions of wage earners NOT contributing to the economy (or social provision networks).


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#15 Chris Werb

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0838 AM

 

I think AI is going to have to replace young people in a lot of roles so they can perform roles that cannot be automated in the near term such as many in health and social care.

How so?

 

 

Because most health and social care roles require subtlety, both physical and emotional, that would exceed current AI's capacity to exhibit them and probably will for a considerable amount of time*. Note I did not say all roles - we were buying a robot to sweep the lobby of the new hospital, but it turned out it couldn't cope with the floor layout.

 

*Which is not to say bottom wiping cannot be automated, or at least mechanised, to some extent.


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#16 Ssnake

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0842 AM

So it appears the goal is to use machines and not muscle.

 

I don't know if that's "the goal", but that's my conclusion. People working as nurses don't want to administrate, and they can do heavy lifting only for so long before they quit the job. And menial transportation tasks were outsourced to forced labor two decades ago when there was amply supply of conscientious objectors to the draft. But we have no more draft, yet the task hasn't evaporated. So the nurses need to work harder, and people are surprised if not as many people want to become nurses as might be desirable.

So if you want to retain a humane environment for both the patients and the employees of nursery homes, boosting efficiency by automatization seems to be the only way out that I can see which wouldn't inflate costs like crazy (raising payment for nurses to attract more people until you reach an equilibrium of enough nurses per patient and work satisfaction for nurses at the same time simply isn't affordable, period).

 

The problem seems to be more one of overcoming prejudices. People think of automation in nurseries in terms of C3PO (adorkable, but only marginally competent tin men with zero empathy), which is about the polar opposite of what it should be. Nursery home managers think in terms of budget, and they tend to squeeze the last bit of effort from the limited staff that their budget allows for, which is terrible for everybody - nurses, and patients. If they pitch more automation, people will get immediately the worst impressions, and it may not be entirely wrong, as those managers rarely seem to think outside of the box. Anyway, in order to get it going, there's basically two paths. Things get worse and worse until the homes have no choice left, and then they rush the automation and do it the wrong way. Or we try and make the case for a smart application of automation that improves the quality of life for the patients and which hopefully also raises job staisfaction with the nurses.


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#17 DB

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0923 AM

There is a race in western societies between the increase in population mean age and automation of tasks that the old can no longer do.
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#18 Ssnake

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0945 AM

I don't like the hyperbole that the wording of a "race between aging and automatization" evokes.

We're not going to run out of young people anytime soon. Fewer, yes. The balance is shifting. But we're not going to end up in societies where we have 60% of the population in retirement and 30% in employment age from 16...69 years, and then everything that frail old people can't do well must be done by robots, or everybody will die. But it'll take longer and become more costly to get someone repair your roof, or laying new pipes through the house. We might see a long phase of stagnant or falling stock prices, just like we're already seeing a situation where "interest is gone" because there's a liquidity surplus everywhere, pushing more and more "desperate money" into risky investments in the pursuit of at least a little  more interest.

This will become a bigger problem as soon as the rest of the world stops with the population growth, and eventual decline. Until then you can still put your money into foreign stock markets.

 

Also, I think we'll become more receptive to, or at least relaxed about immigration, overall. Some say that we're losing our identities and I can understand where this is coming from. At the same time, Germany 2019 is different from Germany 1999, 1989, 1969, 1959,1949, 1939, 1929, 1919, or 1909. Between these dates there were always major shifts that had a noticeable impact on German self-identity. Pre-war Kaiserreich was different from post-war early Republic. Ten years later, an established but troubled democracy. Ten years later, a pre-war dictatorship. Ten years later, another post-war infant democracy. Ten years later, the heydays of economic growth with persistent fear of nuclear death. Then the hippies. Then the evening before the fall of the Iron Curtain. Germany after the initial phase of reunification was completed. 20 years later, immigration wave, Brexit, a troubled European Union, Russia invaded Ukraine. All of these changes appeared as major challenges in their times, all of them had a profound impact on how Germans saw themselves, and 2019 Germans would feel like on an alien planet if they were transported back some 50 years.

An it's not just us. We could see it in "Life on Mars" for Britain, we can watch Marty McFly in both 1985 and 1955 and even his future is now our past already. And I'm pretty sure that the 20th century had plenty of profound changes for most nations and most people living on this planet. Think of Russia, Brazil, South Africa, colonial and present India, China, Japan. Imperial Japan is gone, is that a bad thing? Some might say yes, and maybe a lot of people at the time would have been terrified by a vision of what Japan would become 40, 60, 80 years later. My take on it is, there are a few guiding principles that we shouldn't give up. The rule of law, our fundamental freedoms, the scientific method, rational and logical thinking. THIS is what makes us "us", and anyone immigrating who subscribes to these principles is, IMO, welcome. There are others who aren't, sure. But they're not beyond redemption. We must, however, invest some effort into integrating them if we can't keep them out, if we want to retain a future worth living for for our children and grandchildren.


Edited by Ssnake, 04 May 2019 - 0948 AM.

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#19 Tim the Tank Nut

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 0951 AM

Ssnake's last few sentences are very much the crux of the matter

 

Also,

for JasonJ:

Japanese women are SO PRETTY so it is good that the birthrate is heading back up


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#20 JasonJ

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Posted 04 May 2019 - 1007 AM

Ssnake's last few sentences are very much the crux of the matter

 

Also,

for JasonJ:

Japanese women are SO PRETTY so it is good that the birthrate is heading back up

 

:) :) :ph34r: :wub:


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