Tyler Cowen considered the problem of what would happen if a freak solar event sterilized one half of the planet. It's a bit unclear exactly what is meant by "sterilized" here, but let's assume, as Tyler and most of his commenters did, that it just meant removed human's capability of reproduction. So what would one think would happen?
It seems that that depends greatly on one's prejudices. Cowen says:
I would predict the collapse of many fiat currencies and the immediate insolvency of most financial institutions. Who could meet all those margin calls? Unemployment would exceed 20 percent and martial law would be declared, food rationing and guys with rifles on street corners.
Say what? It might be just as well that he didn't bother to describe his logic in making those deductions.
NYT columnist David Brooks read the post, and his take is not too different:
Without posterity, there are no grand designs. There are no high ambitions. Politics becomes insignificant. Even words like justice lose meaning because everything gets reduced to the narrow qualities of the here and now.
If people knew that their nation, group and family were doomed to perish, they would build no lasting buildings. They would not strive to start new companies. They wouldn’t concern themselves with the preservation of the environment. They wouldn’t save or invest.
There would be a radical increase in individual autonomy. Not sacrificing for their own society’s children, people would themselves become children, basing their lives on pleasure and ease instead of meanings to be fulfilled...
Within weeks, in other words, everything would break down and society would be unrecognizable. The scenario is unrelievedly grim. An individual who does not have children still contributes fully to the future of society. But when a society doesn’t reproduce there is nothing left to contribute to.
I don't think so. An awful lot of people now have relatives on the other side of the world. People are not going to abandon all hope just because they are sterile.
Of course it depends on which half of the planet. If it was the half centered on the South Pacific, the victims might be confined to Australia, Oceania, and Baja California.
Imagine, though that Asia, the most populous continent, was the victim. There are millions of overseas Chinese, Indians, and Pakistanis. They would likely be given large inducements to come back, and be richly rewarded by governments, uncles and cousins for reproducing. Many would seek eagerly to adopt. Japanese humanoid robot children would be everywhere.
Minus the burdens of child care, the countries involved would experience the tremendous economic boom experienced by every country that has had its fertility rate plummet.
Brooks thinks that the religious would despair. I think that they might conclude that the long awaited end times were upon us.
Finally, it is not in human nature to give up hope. As long as life endures, there is the possibility (I would say certainty) that science could solve any infertility problem.