It actually seems pretty difficult to see how having children would, on average, be anywhere near as strong an option if your outcome measures are (1) number of children who would otherwise would not exist/reach adulthood and (2) number of children produced using your (presumably much better than donor-average) genetic material.

There are a lot of factors that influence the cost to raise a child (e.g. family income, number of children in a single household), but the USDA's figures suggest that even a relatively low-income family ($0-60k combined household earnings) will be spending ~$175k per child. It's no question that you could redirect that money toward organizations that would save the lives of many children for less.

Gamete donation looks pretty good, too. If you're donating eggs, you probably won't produce many children - IVF success rates are still fairly low, and most donors only produce 10-15 eggs per cycle (although they can donate several times). On the other hand, screening tends to be a lot less discerning for egg donors compared to sperm donors - physical/hereditary health seems to be the primary concern. So if you're exceptionally intelligent, altruistic, and/or happy, it might be much better for your eggs to be put to use than the typical donor's. You can also net $5-15k per cycle, which you could donate toward saving even more children.

If you're donating sperm, you can potentially produce many more children than you could reasonably support as a caregiver (Cryos, apparently the world's largest sperm bank, claims that the "average donor" can expect to father 25 children), but due to slightly more stringent screening, the difference between the quality of your sperm and the average donor's might be a bit less stark. That said, most banks seem to care about things like education and height, which aren't necessarily great proxies for the things most of us care about.

So, assuming you're accepted as a donor and you actually follow through on donating a substantial amount of money, you can with near certainty cause many more children to reach adulthood than you could possibly raise and likely cause a few (or more) children to be born with your genes. All with a substantially lower time investment than you'd expect to sacrifice for child-rearing.

We need new humans, please help

by Apprentice 1 min read9th Jan 201457 comments


This topic is in vogue, so here's my pitch.

My fellow humans, I have some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that you are likely to eventually enter an enfeebled state, during which you will not be able to independently provide for yourself. Even worse, you will at some point altogether cease to function and then you can no longer contribute to the things you care about. The good news is that both of those problems can be ameliorated by the same scheme – the creation of new humans. The new humans can provide us with the assistance we need as our own abilities diminish. And when we cease to function, the new humans can carry on with the projects we value.

Now, the thing is, creating fully functioning new humans is a huge project, consuming many man-years of work. A person engaged in preparing and outfitting a new human will need to sacrifice a lot of time that could otherwise be devoted to personal leisure and other projects. We currently have a volunteer system for replenishing the population and in many ways this works well. Not everyone is well-placed for creating humans while some people are in a good position to create many. But this system is not perfect and it can be exploited. There are some freeloaders who do not create humans even though they are in a suitable position to do so. Those same people almost always value receiving care in old age and value humanity having a future. But they are relying on the rest of us to provide enough new humans for this to happen while they can devote all their time to other projects and zero time to diapers with poop in them.

Sometimes the non-child-creators justify their decision by suggesting that the projects they are working on are especially socially valuable and thus they can spend time on them in preference to child-creation without violating their duty to society. While it is *possible* that this argument goes through in some cases, it seems suspiciously self-serving. What is especially worth taking into account is that if the humans in question really are so highly valuable, they would statistically have highly valuable offspring. Thus, it seems doubtful in the general case that high-value people refraining from procreating is a net gain for society.

[Poorly conceived section on my personal experiences removed.]