If we start with 2 of us 50,000 years ago, and finish with 7 billion today, and ask: how many people have ever been born, then the answer is – about 107 billion.

What an interesting number !

As ever, thank you to More or Less for bringing it to my attention.

BBC News provides quite a bit of the material that was in the programme, and More or Less identified the Population Reference Bureau as the outfit who have done the thinking and the number-crunching on this question.

The enquiry is prompted by the thought – given that there are so many of us around today – that perhaps current population outnumbers all of us who have ever lived. Clearly the answer is no – today’s global population represents about 7% of the cumulative total.

The other way of looking at this is to say that each of us has 15 ghosts. This is an Arthur C. Clarke idea, who quotes 30 ghosts in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ – a figure that turns out to be correct when the year of writing – 1968 – is taken into account.


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