We’re Running Out of Adults

“We are running out of adults.”

The words were first heard in the office of the Minister of Weather, but few people paid any attention to them.

The words spread through the government building, until they reached the desk of the Minister of Peace. The balding, stern looking elder man lifted an eyebrow and frowned.

“Running out of adults? That’s just ridiculous. Our birth rates haven’t gone down one bit. Why, we just finished the upgrade of our artificial wombs last month. The time required to develop a child from embryo status to an infant is now down to four and a half months instead of the old nine.” But he made a note about it.

The words, ignored and unheeded, continued on their way, eventually coming to the office of the Minster of Loyalty to the State. “Running out of adults? That can’t happen. There are more kids born more day to replace the people who die. Everybody knows that.” But he made a note about it.

After a while, the Minister of Mental Health heard of the words, and he scowled. “Now that’s a pointless rumor if I’ve ever heard one. It could be harmful to the mental stability of the populace, even. Spreading it should be banned.” And he made a note about it.

But the rumor’s way didn’t end there. Eventually the Minister of Internal Growth happened to see a note on the desk of the Minister of Loyalty to the State. “Running out of adults?” And he scratched his head. “That sounds like nonsense. But I better check on it anyway, just to be sure.”

So he went to his office and looked up the figures. “The birth rates seem to be high enough, and so would the life expectancy estimates. But I better check on it anyway, just to be sure.”

So he looked up the life expectancy projections. “These figures look accurate. But I better make sure anyway, just to be on the safe side.”

So he studied the formulas that the projections were based on. After a while he came to a realization. “These figures don’t include the number of people removed from life by the Ministries of Loyalty to the State, Mental Health, and Peace.” So he went to those ministers to ask if they’d know why this was the case.

“Those people don’t really die”, the Minister of Peace told him. “Rather, they give their lives to protect the state, and everybody knows that those who lose their lives in service of the state will get an eternal life. So that’s why they aren’t included in your projections.”

“Now, those people we remove from life never really existed in the first place”, the Minister of Loyalty to the State told him. “They were just fake personas created by the Enemy in order to infiltrate our society. So that’s why they aren’t included in your projections.”

“Those people you mention are insane”, the Minister of Mental Health told him. “And since it’s obvious that nobody can become insane in this welfare state, they must have been insane from birth. And since we don’t commit insane people into our society, they must have cheated the system somehow, and thus never really existed. So that’s why they aren’t included in your projections.”

So the Minister of Internal Growth went back to his office and updated the life expectancy formulas to include the percentage of people who lost their lives due to the Ministries of Loyalty to the State, Mental Health, and Peace.

“These updated figures show an 86% chance of a citizen being removed from life before his 20th birthday”, he concluded. So he ordered the construction of fifty million new womb tanks.

“This should increase the number of children born every year so that enough of them survive into adulthood,” he figured. “But that doesn’t change the fact that within eight years we’ll be out of adults to fill the spots of those who have died due to old age.”

So he studied the figures further, and got an idea.

“Soldiers can sometimes get promoted to higher ranks even if they weren’t really qualified because their officers have been killed and there is an urgent need of new officers. So why couldn’t children also be promoted to adult status in a similar fashion?”

So he studied he statistics once again, and found out that babies under one year old were the least likely to be found to be traitors or mentally deviant. So he took, for the sake of an experiment, ten million babies and had them promoted to adult status. Then he waited.

Five days passed. He studied the report. For some reason, one hundred percent of the babies who had been promoted to adult status and separated from their parents to live on their own had died. Apparently, they had some sort of difficulty with adapting to an adult life so fast. He wrote a memo about it to the Minister of Mental Health and decided to try with five-year olds instead.

Another five days passed, and he found out that five-year olds had fared somewhat better, but there was still a relatively high death rate among them. So he ordered them demoted back to their own age and decided to try with ten-year olds this time.

Yet another five days passed, and this time he found out that the ten-year olds had adapted to the life as an adult with a turnover rate that wasn’t too alarming. So he had the age where children were considered adult changed from eighteen to ten years, and considered the problem mostly solved.

But the problem was not yet completely solved. He wasn’t still completely sure if there would be enough children born every year to survive into adulthood, so he decided to order the construction of five hundred million new womb tanks.

To his surprise, he found out that the resources that should have been in his disposal had been taken into use by the Minister of Peace. So he went to the Minister of Peace to ask what was going on.

“Oh, we thought that you never used them”, the Minister of Peace explained. “At least you haven’t seemed to need them in many years. So we figured that you wouldn’t mind even if we took them to our own use. No point in letting valuable manpower go to waste, you see.”

That was understandable and commendably efficient, the Minister of Internal Growth replied, but could he now get those resources allocated back to him, even if only for a short while?

“Oh, sorry. I’m afraid that’s not possible,” the Minister of Peace replied. “We have just recently won a decisive victory in the war against Oceania, and we need all the Floating Fortresses we can produce to take advantage of the edge we have now. Within a few months, we could actually win this war.”

That’s what you said six months ago, the Minister of Internal Growth thought, but didn’t say it aloud. After all, this was the Minister of Peace talking, and he was just a lowly Minister of Internal Growth. Surely the Minister of Peace knew better than him what was important or not.

So he went to the Minister of Resource Management and asked if there were any spare resources that could be allocated to him. The Minister of Resource Management listened to him as he explained his matter, but said that he regretted to inform him that this was not feasible at the moment, as all the spare resources were being dedicated to the war against Oceania in the hopes of maintaining the recently acquired edge and possibly even winning the war.

There are dozens of factories that aren’t in any use right now and that you could allocate to me, the Minister of Internal Growth thought, but didn’t say it aloud. After all, this was the Minister of Resource Management talking, and he was just a lowly Minister of Internal Growth. Surely the Minister of Resource Management knew better than him what was important or not.

So he went back to his office and studied the records in the hopes of finding an alternative solution. Then he stumbled upon something interesting. Apparently, before the invention of artificial wombs, people had reproduced using something called ‘intercourse’. Maybe they could take this concept into use again?

So he went to the Minister of Water Supply and asked if they could cease releasing the chemicals that suppressed the sex instinct into the water supply, even for a short while. The Minister of Water Supply responded that this was not possible.

“If we let the people have intercourse again, you see”, he explained, “then our women will become pregnant, which means that they can’t do any hard work for many months, considerably damaging our productivity.”

But this was the whole purpose of his request, the Minister of Internal Growth explained. The state needed more children than the womb tanks were able to produce.

And why was this, the Minister of Water Supply queried. And so the Minister of Internal Growth sat down and explained it all to the Minister of Water Supply.

After he had finished his explanation, the Minister of Water Supply commended him for noticing a potential problem like this, but surely he didn’t need to bother himself with it. After all, by the time the lack of adults would truly become an issue, he’d have been promoted to a more important post and somebody else would be the Minister of Internal Growth.

The Minister of Internal Growth, still a young and relatively new government member by state standards, was confused. Shouldn’t he take care of the problems that were within his sphere of responsibility?

Of course, the Minister of Water Supply replied, but in this case, letting people have intercourse again would be such a massive change that it would need the attention of more than ministry at one time, and right now all the available resources needed in the war against Oceania, after all they had just won a major victory and could possibly even end this war if they tried hard enough. The Minister of Internal Growth had just proven his worth, and the Minister of Water Supply would see to it that he’d be promoted for it.

When the Minister of Internal Growth was still hesitant, the Minister of Water Supply continued to explain to his younger colleague that he really shouldn’t bother himself with taking responsibility of problems that would only manifest themselves years after he’d have left the post. After all, the real purpose of the minor positions like the Minister of Internal Growth was to prove one’s worth by pointing out possible long-term problems and solving short-term ones and thus become a likely candidate for promotion, and not waste one’s valuable time with actually taking care of the long-term problems.

Even though the Minister of Internal Growth was hesitant for a while, he then nodded and accepted this, and after only a few months he was promoted to the position of the Minister of Internal Communications. He still occasionally thought about the running out of adult problem, but eventually forgot about it entirely.

After all, just because you’re responsible for something doesn’t mean that you should actually do anything about it.

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