To Have or Not To Have Children?

Personally, I think children are wonderful: they can be funny, charming and smart. Under the right circumstances, having children can truly be a blessing – they’ll keep you company and care for you in your old age as well as continue your family lineage.

With that being said, because our world is changing so fast (and not always for the best), the ideal circumstances for raising a child (i.e., an expanding economy that benefits everyone in society) is deteriorating for many people. I shall be discussing some issues you should consider. But first a caveat, I’m writing for an audience which:

  1. is residing in a modern economy; and
  2. doesn’t have access to great wealth, family or otherwise.

In other words, I’m writing for an audience of prospective parents who live in modern economies and aren’t part of the top 10%.

So let’s examine some considerations you should think carefully about.

 

CHILDREN CAN BE EXPENSIVE

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Children can be expensive depending on where in the world you reside.

If you’re fortunate to live in a society which offers of free or heavily subsidized daycare and/or free university tuition (“free” meaning it’s paid for by the taxpayers), then the cost of raising children is reduced significantly.

On the other extreme, if you reside in a society where the costs of raising a child are  exorbitantly expensive and the cost of providing a university education is nothing short of scandalous  then having children shall ultimately become the province of the well-to-do given the increasing economic inequality that’s accelerating throughout the world.

In such a society, you see Darwinism in action: clever, rich people have more children and pass on their genes, money and social connections to their offspring. On the other extreme, not-so-clever poor people if they have children at all, pass on nothing and leave their offspring fending for themselves in an economy that’s become increasingly hostile to them.

If you happen to live in the former type of society, having children makes economic sense – the cost of raising and educating children is subsidized by the state (via its taxpayers) who then become adult taxpayers themselves and pay back into it what they got out of it when they were kids. Their contribution through their tax dollars benefit the next generation of children.

Now if you happen to live in the latter society where the wealthiest sliver of society find legal ways to avoid paying taxes, the resultant underfunding or non-existence of programs taken for granted in the former society may give a prospective parent of modest means second thoughts about having kids at all.

 

YOUR CHILDREN COULD BURDEN YOU

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First, let’s talk about the emotional burden parents may face due to unmet expectations and disappointment in their children.

I’ve never met a new parent who didn’t think that his or her child had the potential to be the next genius who was going to change the world. But as that child becomes older, it usually becomes evident that he or she isn’t as clever or as talented as the parents had initially hoped, even if said child grew up in a loving and supportive environment. In such cases, the parents are fortunate if the child is just average. In the worst case, the child actually turns out to be a huge disappointment. A prime example of the latter can be read about in this Toronto Life article.

Now, let’s talk about the adult children who “fail to launch“, still reside with their parents and continue to be economically dependent on them. This is a social phenomenon that became common place after the 2008 Financial Crisis and its attendant impact on young adults trying to launch a career in a struggling economy. The Financial Crisis is over 10 years behind us (as of this writing) but the “Failure to Launch” phenomenon still lingers. It will be challenging for you to save for a comfortable retirement if  your adult children continue to be a financial burden on you.

 

IMMORTALITY IS WITHIN REACH

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By most expert estimates, a cure for aging and breakthroughs to achieve outright immortality will be reached within 50 years if not sooner.

Now, consider that key reasons for having children in the first place is: (1) to achieve a certain type of “immortality” by passing your lineage to your children; and (2) to have someone care for you in your old age. If anti-aging technologies become accessible to everyone (including you, as costs eventually lower), it would nullify these reasons for having children in the first place. Moreover, imagine what would happen to our planet if everyone could live on indefinitely yet continued having children. Our global population would swell astronomically with potentially disastrous consequences on the environment and global food supply.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE 

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For the record, although I do believe in climate change, I think that human society as a whole will eventually adapt. But a lot of people will suffer. Consider the following:

Scientists at the non-profit organisation Climate Central estimate that 275 million people worldwide live in areas that will eventually be flooded at 3 degrees Celsius of global warming by the year 2100  due to the impending rise in sea levels from the melting of ice sheets on the north and south poles. Four out of five of these 275 million people will be living in Asian cities such as Osaka, Hong Kong and Shanghai. However, North American cities such as Miami will also be affected.

Climate change will transform more than 143 million people into “climate migrants” escaping crop failure, water scarcity, and sea-level rise, a new World Bank report concludes. Most of this population shift will take place in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Latin America—three “hot spots” that represent 55 percent of the developing world’s populations.

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) are exploring that connection between human health and a changing climate. Among their findings: In Pennsylvania, days with dangerously high surface ozone levels could increase by 100 percent in the coming decades, increasing the risk of asthma and other respiratory diseases in children. Wildfires in Washington could choke densely populated areas for days with thick, harmful smoke. Severe storms in Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Iowa, the Dakotas and adjoining states could deplete protective ozone in the stratosphere, exposing humans, livestock and crops to harmful ultraviolet radiation.

Consider the fact that today and tomorrow’s children may suffer the consequences of these trends on their quality of life and also face the near impossible task of reversing them, if indeed they can be reversed at all.

 

AUTOMATION

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I’m just going to quote from the following articles verbatim:

As much as one-third of the United States workforce could be out of a job by 2030 thanks to automation, according to new research from McKinsey. The consulting firm now estimates that between 400 million and 800 million individuals globally could be displaced by automation and need to find new work.

 

Based on a European application of Frey & Osborne (2013)’s data on the probability of job automation across occupations, the proportion of the EU work force predicted to be impacted significantly by advances in technology over the coming decades ranges from the mid-40% range (similar to the US) up to well over 60%.

 

Here are three white collar industries where AI technologies are already replacing human workers.

1. Fashion designers
On Indian e-commerce site Myntra, one of the best-selling shirts was actually designed by two computer algorithms working together to match up designs and the store’s inventory, according to the New York Times report. Other clothing companies now routinely use AI to decide which clothes to stock, and what to recommend to customers, the report noted.

2. Lawyers
New platforms like Beagle and jEugene offer legal contract review far faster than humans can, and at a fraction of the cost of typical lawyer fees, as noted by Inc. While legal pros say that we’re still decades away from a robot representing a client in court, one company is already working on one based on IBM Watson.

3. Doctors
Doctors have been using robotically-assisted surgical tools for more than 30 years, cutting down human errors and surgery times, Inc. noted. Now, several hospitals are using robots like the da Vinci Si to conduct operations. AI is also being used to diagnose patients with different diseases.

In light of the above, imagine a future where your children could very well end up being in a permanent state of unemployment. Consider the impact of long-term unemployment on a person’s mental health (particularly in the case of men and their sense of self-worth).

 

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

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This is a heavy subject. It would be great to hear from you about some of the views presented in this article in the comments section below. 🙂

 

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