Posts Tagged ‘asteroid’

Apocalypse in the Wings—Hint: It’s Not Zombies

January 23, 2017

The turns of history predict we’re approaching a Crisis in the next 5-15 years. There are many candidates proposed. If you were to watch popular television, it’s gluttonous zombies. If you’re PC, it’s global warming, repackaged as climate change. If you’re a historian, war and/or economic collapse rate high on your list. If your leanings are more to the celestial, it’s that pesky rogue asteroid or a well-aimed electromagnetic pulse (EMP) flaring from the sun. They’re all plausible speculations (well, maybe not the perambulating re-vivified carcasses), but let’s examine them in the light of reason.

War and economic collapse certainly occupy the 1 and 2 slots, in either order. The Middle East is a hotbed, we’re doing our best to fight, in as limited a fashion as possible, the neo-Nazi neo-Caliphate, and we’re printing money and borrowing cash as breathlessly as we can to keep up with our insatiable urge to create a more utopian society and bolster a standard of living we always seem to be just one or two paces behind (if only ancient Rome had had the Federal Reserve!).

If these weren’t enough, we’ve got the specter of global cooling to deal with (oops!; that was the 1970s). There is evidence that we’ve had progressive warming of the planet, AKA climate change. Some of my more expert acquaintances on the subject tell me that longer term evidence on past climate patterns does not jive with the short term temperature records used to define the trend. Other analyses suggest that many scientists who support the concept of global warming don’t necessarily feel the evidence supports the level of short-term risk trumpeted in the media. But the mainstream warns that such views are tantamount to denying the Holocaust. Accepting as fact that we’re into a long term warming trend, and the cause an increase in atmospheric CO2, the second proclaimed non-controversy is that mankind is the culprit. Assuming this too as fact, we must deal with (or ignore, which is safer in this political climate, pun intended) the issue that some experts have calculated that if we were to impose all the carbon restrictions the world has proposed in recent edicts, it would have a miniscule effect on the trend, but a major impact on the world economy. So, in my cataclysmic conjecture, that brings us back to economic collapse. No matter where the truth lies, we can all agree that reducing carbon emissions and levels of associated pollution isn’t a bad idea. The solutions, I believe, will come not from arbitrarily imposed carbon restrictions but from technology, which I expect to be the source of abundant, reduced-carbon and carbon-free energy much sooner than people think. Unfortunately, as I will point out, this technology boon or boom comes at the cost of one of our greatest threats. So, for your edification and convenience, I provide the true and incontrovertible risk assessment for the next Apocalypse (drum roll, please):

  • 1/2. War (including cyber warfare and man-made EMP attacks)
  • 1/2. Economic collapse.
  • 3. Artificial intelligence.
  • 4. EMP from the sun.
  • 5. Climate change (of the hot variety)
  • 6. Asteroid collision.
  • 7. The Walking Dead.

AI as number 3, you ask? Too much scifi in my entertainment diet, right? Scoff if you will. It’s true that science fiction has given about the same emphasis to numbers 3 and 7, trivializing  and desensitizing us to the former. That has been a tragic mistake. Because number 3 is very real, and coming at us like a freight train (or, more apropos, a hurtling asteroid).

I strongly recommend viewing Sam Harris’s brief but excellent TED talk on the subject here, then rejoin me at your leisure (if we’re all still here) for additional thoughts on the matter.