How Many People Have Ever Lived and Died?

By on July 7, 2014 // Science // 1 Comment

Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech via CC By 2.0
Image: NASA/JPL-Caltech via CC By 2.0

How many humans have ever lived on Planet Earth?

There’s a common myth about this. It states that the people alive today outnumber those who have ever lived and died throughout human history.

This is staggeringly incorrect.

The number of people alive today is roughly 7.2 billion. According to a report by the United Nations, this number will increase to 9.6 billion by 2050. And yet, this is still a far cry compared to the total number of people who have ever lived and died.

That number is estimated to be around 108 billion.

How Do We Know This?

That estimation doesn’t come out of thin air, but it’s also not necessarily accurate. In fact, it really can’t be accurate. We don’t have time machines; we can’t travel to the past and take a census, and unfortunately accurate population records only became a thing in the last few centuries.

Undeterred by this reality, Carl Haub of the Population Reference Bureau took a “semi-scientific approach” to guesstimating our total historical population in 1995, and again in 2011.

It’s an interesting read. Haub’s estimation begins at 50,000 B.C. with two individuals and traces the possible population growth from that period (in births per 1,000 people) through to 2011.

It’s not perfect, not at all, but the final number Haub arrives at is somewhere around 107.6 billion (and he admits that, if anything, the real number is probably higher). This leaves the number of people alive today representing about 6.5% of that total.

That’s a good chunk, but nowhere near what that common myth would have you believe.

Anyway, why am I bringing this up? Because this estimated data is very important for a question I’ll be tackling in my next post: If they’re real, and if so many people have lived and died on this planet, then where are all the ghosts?

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About the Author

Rob Schwarz is a writer, blogger, and part-time peddler of mysterious tales. He manages Stranger Dimensions in between changing aquarium filters and reading bad novels about mermaids.
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  • Craig from Shellharbour

    Cool.