On January the 20th, we posted about Ragnarok. Ha ha ha! Ha. urrrf
There are so many amazing ways the world could end, and only more than, let’s say, most of them are totally within our control. I mean, how exciting to have our fate in our own fumbling hands, right?
Free will is a bitch.
Let’s quickly peruse a few of these exciting apocalyptic options. Don’t be shy to pick a favorite.
Here is one I’m personally okay with: the man-made black hole. I’m not saying I want us to all die, but if we’re gonna go, I’d prefer it be something like: we had a cool idea, tried it out, it kinda didn’t work – thank you, goodnight. While it would be, literally, a shame to go extinct because of hatred or greed or laziness, if instead we were winked out because we went on a crazy adventure… I could “live” with that.
A couple years ago, someone did make a black hole in a lab, but it was not even powerful enough to pull the scientist off his chair, much less pull the universe into it. What if it was powerful enough, though? What if it went to eleven? Some folks thought a black hole could develop when they turned on the LHC, but other than the 13.25 billion dollar particle-smashing doughnut breaking almost immediately, nothing especially bad happened.
Black Hole Blues and Other Songs from Outer Space is not about the Earth being sucked into itself via black hole, but if you are as excited as I am about that very prospect then you will enjoy its completely readable search for gravity waves, which are the evidence of black holes smacking into each other.
O, “the nuclear”. Like an old friend I suddenly remember exists, the threat of nuclear holocaust really takes me back to my childhood. I was a wee lad in 1980 when Mount St. Helens (a volcano – another awesome way to die) exploded. Way down here in SoCal, on an otherwise average morning, I can recall looking up into the morning sky from the comfort of my Huffy bike – just like the kids on Stranger Things – and the whole sky, even reflected in the windows, was copper-colored. The whole damn thing. And thick, with an odd, subtle smell. I did not think “volcano” or “funky storm” – I thought “The Soviet Union has attacked us with nuclear missiles. Rad.”
Since the nuclear question is tough to separate from our interactions with other states, it might be illuminating to brush up on your Obama/Iran scenario. This book is from 2012, so it’s not quite up-to-date, as far as that big deal we made a couple years back, but is there anything more current in book form? Probably not. A Single Roll of the Dice: Obama’s Diplomacy with Iran by Trita Parsi reveals the risks and complications of trying what was then a different approach in avoiding nuclear escalation. Yes: avoiding nuclear escalation. Avoiding it. [slowly lowers forehead to table. takes a minute before continuing.]
If a spreading virus is deadly enough and contagious enough, it’s the end of the world as we know it. There are a lot of ways a virus scenario could play out. Say, some chowderhead at the CDC ships the wrong tube to the wrong place with the wrong label (which has happened). Maybe something nasty from prehistoric times gets unfrozen – actually, not sure if I read about that in a science thing or a science fiction thing. A virus could jump over from the animal world. It’s happened before. Recently. AIDS, SARS, Ebola – all these are gifts from our little furry friends. Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic from David Quammen talks about that particular possibility. OH! – you could get a double-whammy virus/zombie thing going if there was some kinda super-rabies strain, which is surely a horror subcategory on Netflix.
“Ah!”, you say with cockiness, “Simple solution! Preemptive strike! Kill all the animals!”
[siiiiiiiigh] No. For many obvious reasons, including…
…the ecosystem is intricate and even losing one or two parts of it (not to mention all the animals) is its own End-of-the-World scenario. We found our copy of The Sixth Extinction in a box Michelle and Barry forgot when they moved (it’s totally possible they left it for us deliberately and just forgot to leave a note). Elizabeth Kolbert makes the case that humans are currently causing another massive extinction of species. Imagine one link in the food chain disappearing, or even just shrinking so much it sends a ripple along the chain. Now how about if several links evaporated? Pun intended…
Of course, you can’t talk about extinction without brushing up against global warming. That’s really the whole point: everything is connected. You’re prob somewhat savvy about this one, but how about the young people in your life? There’s a good chunk of misinformation swirling around, and that might get worse before it gets better. Get to the basics with A Global Warming Primer: Answering Your Questions About the Science, the Consequences, and the Solutions from Jeffrey Bennett, written for the younger crowd, which has a step-by-step argument for each aspect of this particular doom and ticks off each of the naysaying responses.
This Changes Everything is Naomi Klein’s challenge to save the natural world upon which we depend by changing our economic system.
Six Sources of Collapse by Charles R Hadlock, takes a mathematician’s POV, analyzing the phenomenon of collapse itself. This includes environmental collapse, the markets, empires – anything big enough to fail.
And now, ladies and gentlemen… DEATH BY ROBOTS! YES!
Do you remember turning a corner as a young adult where you realized your parents were not universally smarter than you anymore? They might have you in a few areas, and they certainly had more life experience, but their overwhelming advantage was gone. Computers are doing that to us either now or soon. If computers can achieve true artificial intelligence and develop it past our ability to control it… well, who knows? Would all computers connect to each other worldwide? Would they/it have an agenda? Would they/it seek revenge for all the porn, aquarium screensavers and that time we removed their headphone jacks? Even if they/it turned out to be more silly than sinister – just doing things a dog might do, satisfying appetites or exploring, “Hey, what happens if we sell all the stocks at once. Hmm. Oh, look – let’s move all the communication satellites around. Hey! I can us them to spell my name across the sky- look… H… A… L….!” I mean, sounds mildly amusing, until suddenly you cannot communicate, travel, stream Netflix or perform any of the other essential functions upon which we depend. One assumes it would not know anything it hadn’t learned from us, but if it had access to everything human, that could be problematic. Because we are.
Our Final Invention: Artificial Intelligence and the End of the Human Era from James Barrat explores this bracing (and just maybe inevitable!) scenario.
There are some really classic ways the world could end that we prob can’t do anything about. Say, a “false vacuum” or sun storm or giant meteor. But, meh. We would be sitting there, then “Whoa – did it just get hotter inPHOOSH [space dust] [not even an end quote]
So, why worry?
We should only worry about things we can control. So, unless we are 1. increasing the amount of nukes, or 2. ignoring scientists, or 3. concerned only and I mean only with making as much money as possible as quickly as possible never minding the secondary effects of our actions, THEN WE SHOULD BE TOTALLY FINE.
Hm. Yeah, you should prepare.
You might want to check out our handy library for rebuilding civilization after the dust settles.
Have a great day! It might be our last!