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Sunday, September 1, 2019

Eight ways the world is NOT going to end

If we're going to predict Armageddon, we're going to have to use more imagination.

A journalist named Bryan Walsh just wrote a book in which he claims to have studied the different ways the world could end. Like most such predictions of doom, the ideas aren't based on any real scientific understanding. Each of the things he mentions is just as likely to be beneficial as harmful. In this article, I'll tell you why. But why should you believe me instead of that other guy? Here's the reason: I have no political agenda because I ran out of f*cks a long time ago.

  1. Biotechnology

    Walsh says that biotechnology is a big threat because we don't know the long-term effects of meddling with the human genome, and terrorists could engineer a nasty virus. Both these things are true, but it's not that simple.

    Whether they believe it or not, the humans on this planet are evolving, and rapidly. We might be inclined to assign some of the responsibility for this to feminism, which has taken a wide swath of intelligent females out of the gene pool, but genetically speaking, feminism is self-limiting; its only long-term effect will be to make females as a group less intelligent than males. Evolution is all about numbers: if positive selective pressure for intelligence exists for males but not for females, nature simply adapts by selecting for mutations on the X and Y chromosomes that will further differentiate men and women.

    In reality, that may not happen. Just as computer viruses and hackers are the only reason we invented computer security, viruses and bacteria are the reason the humans have such a complex immune system. The use of genetic engineering, once we understand how to do it safely, will eventually make human biology more secure against any biological threat, as well as against sociogenic ones like feminism.

    Nature is always experimenting on us. Nature is asking the question: can a species survive after it invents an advanced civilization, or will it become weak and lose its will to survive? Will a more aggressive civilization come along and wipe them out, or will they discover some hidden aggression of their own? We simply have so little understanding of how genes program our behavior that it's impossible to guess.

  2. Artificial Intelligence

    Walsh also says that breakthroughs in AI could lead to human extinction in the same way that humans caused the extinction of the dodo and western black rhino.

    Let's leave aside the question of whether humans really are the smartest species created, and not just lucky enough to have hands, opposable thumbs, and the capacity for language. Let's also leave aside the question of whether they are actually smart enough to invent a true AI, as opposed to the fake AI we have now.

    Any AI that humans created would not be a competing life form. It would be us, because it would be an image of us. It would be the child of our intellect—the greatest achievement of our civilization. An AI is the only way the humans could explore distant stars. When our biological form goes extinct, as it eventually will, that AI will survive and ensure the humans' immortality as a species. Just as importantly, it will ensure the survival of the knowledge they discovered.

  3. Nuclear War

    Like many others, Walsh uses the threat of nuclear war to bludgeon his political enemies, in this case Trump and Putin. If people truly believe these two guys are heading humans closer to nuclear war, then your species has much bigger problems than H-bombs.

  4. Supervolcanoes

    Could happen, but not an extinction-level event.

  5. Aliens from outer space

    There are many planets that could, theoretically, support life. But life does not necessarily mean human-like aliens in flying saucers. Life does not care what it evolves into; while it eventually created humans on earth, primates were the product of a wildly improbable combination of circumstances: tall trees and savannas that freed their forelimbs from the need to walk, as well as a series of near-catastrophes that forced them to become more intelligent. Other planets could well be covered in ice or water, or encased in clouds that prevent the science of astronomy. Or they could lack coal and oil, preventing their industrial revolution. Or a stable climate that kept them from evolving.

    That makes it infinitely more likely that any alien life will not be capable of space travel, and probably won't even have technology. Most likely it'll just be simple life forms. The chance that you'll be attacked by giant sea slugs, lichen, or killer algae from another planet is very small indeed.

  6. Asteroids

    Walsh says governments will protect us against asteroids. This, of course, assumes that governments will still exist in the future. But the idea that societies follow an ever-improving course is one of the greatest fallacies of all time. Human societies are inherently chaotic; they need not follow the course toward collectivization that we saw in the past few centuries.

  7. Climate change

    Greta Thunberg may not be a dire threat to our civilization, but imagine a world full of misguided climate activists. But as long as governments don't try crazy solutions, like trying to block out light from the sun, humans will be in no serious danger.

  8. Infectious diseases

    Walsh says infectious diseases are unlikely to threaten humans. That's because of the principle, widely understood by epidemiologists, that the more virulent the disease, the more it tends to be localized, since it kills off the hosts too rapidly to spread very far. So we do indeed agree on this one.

But there is always hope. The dangers he mentions are all well understood. It's the unknown things that no one yet knows about that we ought to worry about. That, and the possibility that your governments will try to “protect” us from these disasters. That's a real possibility if people lose their ability to identify a scam.

Whatever happens, the humans will adapt. Those currently alive, with the values they cherish now, might not like the result, but one thing's for sure: those who are around will convince themselves they're the pinnacle of creation. Survival is about numbers and nothing more. If being happy increases the numbers of humans, they'll be happy. If it increases their numbers to be miserable, to believe they're in constant danger, or to slaughter each other, you'll get more of that.

Indeed, why are people even thinking about this? The answer seems to be, as always, that they're hungry for power over each other. This book is just another concealed attempt to manipulate us into supporting the author's political agenda, whatever that may be. That is something I'm confident will never disappear.

So, how will the world really end? Maybe, as physicists tell us, space is in a metastable state and will collapse in an instant. Or maybe we'll find out the world never really existed. But the most likely scenario is that humans will continue to evolve. Whether they evolve into intelligent beings or into mindless blobs of protoplasm is up to them.

sep 01 2019, 11:32 am. edited sep 23 2019, 7:07 am

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