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June 20, 2022

Called “a searching, persuasive examination of the question ‘Will humanity survive until the death of the universe?’” by BookLife Reviews, Nguyen-Ba’s population treatise argues that humanity won’t live to see the sun burn out. We spoke with him about his book and what he hopes readers get out of it.

Can you tell us the story behind this book—why and how did you write it?

I first introduced the theory/hypothesis elaborated in The Demogra-Fate Hypothesis in an article in the October–November 2016 issue of Philosophy Now. The article grew out of an idea for a PhD dissertation that I decided to develop into a book. The pandemic accelerated things. Hanoi, Vietnam, where I live, was in full lockdown in the summer of 2021. Staying home for months gave me the tranquility I needed to finish this book, which otherwise would have taken years.

What distinguishes The Demogra-Fate Hypothesis from other works on population theory?

The pattern of human fertility is simple and factually undisputed: birth rates are the highest in sub-Saharan countries where survival is tough, while rich Scandinavian societies, having enjoyed 50 years of the best welfare regime, are always below the replacement threshold of 2.1 babies per mother. Much has been published about low fertility and our aging population. Most treatments consider this spreading phenomenon a problem to fix.

My demogra-fate theory begs to differ. It views global aging as a normal, natural, cycle-of-life event. Everything has a natural life cycle, from the universe to stars to individual organisms like you and me. Why, then, can’t the human species have a life cycle too—not to mention other intelligent species throughout the cosmos? Do all cosmic civilizations follow the same social laws, the way every star follows the same physical laws, whether nearby our solar system or 10 billion light-years away?

There are likely 200 billion galaxies in the observable universe, and each of those galaxies contains roughly 200 billion stars like the sun. If only one intelligent species exists presently in every 10 galaxies, there are still 20 billion such species in existence across the universe. Species like ours may be merely wildflowers in this great cosmic desert. Wildflowers have their life cycles, and so do we. Low fertility and an aging population may be the fate that nature intended for high-tech species like humanity. This terminal demographic atrophy will be all natural—as natural and banal as you and me growing old and dying.

Who is your ideal reader and why?

It would be great if intellectually curious high school students could understand my theory. I aimed to keep the book as short and concise as possible, to allow it to reach a variety of readers. I value my readers’ time. It’s actually quite easy to go with the flow and write a long-winded treatise for your own pleasure. It’s much more challenging to explain complex things in an accessible and succinct way.

What do you hope readers take away from The Demogra-Fate Hypothesis?

I hope my readers think about the fate of our species. The human species might follow a natural life cycle like everything else: our inexorably aging bodies, the sun, the universe. Death and extinction may be as natural for an entire intelligent species as they are for the individual members of it, like you and me.

What’s next for you?

Now that the book is out, I want to receive as much feedback as possible. I want to see critics poking holes in my demogra-fate theory, pointing out its weaknesses or inconsistencies. If my hypothesis can withstand the scrutiny of a wide, global readership, then perhaps no more is necessary. If not, then I may write another book to improve the theory. We’ll see. For now, I’d like to thank all those readers around the world who took the time to comment on my demogra-fate hypothesis.