There are few more humbling facts than the knowledge of your ‘now’ number. That is, of the world’s entire population of some 7.4 billion people, more or less, which one are you? To determine the answer requires several pieces of information including the present global population, knowledge of the birthdate of the oldest person in the world as of this moment and the global population at the time of their birth. Taking the difference, then comparing that to the population at the time of your own birth should provide a rough estimate of your ‘now’ number.
If that sounds a little complicated, thankfully the BBC have also pondered this question. Using statistics provided by the United Nations, they have built a simple calculator based on birth date to approximate the global population on the day of your birth. The number is quite large, 10 digits in fact, but it is just a number nonetheless. All of ones hopes and dreams, trials and tribulations, can be condensed into a 10 digit figure. Reminiscent of Carl Sagan’s epiphanerial ‘starstuff’ – life seems to feel much less significant when considered in terms of the whole, be it the whole of the population or indeed, the whole of the universe.
The BBC goes one step further, providing ones’ number in the total population to have ever lived. This figure adds just one digit, but that one digit represents over 70 billion people. Approximately 94% of all the people who have ever lived are now dead. Being in the top 6% therefore makes for an important distinction, being alive!
This number business elicits a sober reality; while my ‘total’ number will never change, my ‘now’ number is constantly shuffling left, toward 1 and the chances are high that it will never reach it. But, what I know without doubt, is that my ‘now’ number will never, ever get larger. Probabilistically, the nearer the number is to 1 the less time remains before moving from the very much alive count of the living population, to the sombre annals of the ‘total population who have ever lived’, and the ignominious death counter.
The world population clock provides a mesmerising visual representation of the ever changing human population of the Earth and, if you want your mind blown just a little more, be sure to check out everyone on one page. How long before each stick figure is represented by a profile picture, bringing each anonymous avatar to life?
So, what is my ‘now’ number you ask? Reading like a bar code, which may not be far from the truth, here are my 10 digits:
In a world of binary, at least my ‘now’ number includes more than just a collection of ones and zero’s.