I picture our civilization as a bus going through the night. We are proud of the machine we have built and enjoy riding it – it is more convenient than walking. Everyone, perhaps except for a few primitive tribes deep…
As we are nearing the peak of our civilization, the likelihood of decline keeps increasing every day. The likelihood multiplied by severity of an abrupt end to the civilization as we know it deserves much more attention than it currently gets. The many overblown end-of-the-world Hollywood movies with bloodthirsty zombies make make us classify a massive disaster as science fiction, not a possible reality. We can forget the zombies and superheroes, but as mankind, we should seriously investigate the possibilities and eventual countermeasures for preserving our kind.
Required attention = Threat of disaster = Probability of disaster x Consequences of disaster
World war 3 (probability high stable, consequences high and growing)
There had been major wars very often in the history and current world with religious extremists and depleting resources is not any more stable. We saw many recent instances of masses being manipulated into war by a charismatic leader. There will surely be Hitlers in the future. A quarter of world population living in China can be manipulated using state-controlled media. There is a very real chance that we, our children or grandchildren will experience World War 3.
The consequences of World War are scary. About 60 million people died in World War II using relatively primitive weapons. With the advanced nuclear, chemical, biological weapons and sophisticated war machines, we have for the first time in the history of mankind the power to completely destroy our civilization. With technical advances, the consequences of a world war are becoming more severe every day, so the threat is huge and growing.
Deadly pandemic (probability medium declining slowly, consequences high growing)
New viruses have been and will be emerging due to mutation all the time. Advances of medicine decrease the probability that we won’t find the cure, but this is more than offset by the potential consequences. In today’s interconnected world, a highly contagious disease (like flu) that has long incubation period so it can’t be easily detected (like HIV) can spread around the whole world in just a couple of days due to our interconnectedness1. From the point of view of the whole nature, we act like a disease destroying the planet. It would be a very elegant solution to use our weapons of globalization against us to efficiently get rid of us by one small virus. Only a few completely isolated tribes deep in the jungle would survive and start over.
Asteroid impact (high probability of low consequences, low probability of high consequences)
Earth gets constantly bombarded by object of various sizes. The smaller the more frequent. The larger, the less frequent. Earth receives on average 1-2 meteoroids smaller than 1 meter every day, but those usually completely burn in the atmosphere. Larger asteroids keep coming approximately as follows: 10 meters every 10 years, 100 meters every 5,200 years and 1000 meteres every 440,000 years2. Impact of a meteor was likely the reason dinosaurs went extinct some 65 million years ago so we should not underestimate the threat it poses to us.
For a more comprehensive list of risks to civilization, humans, and planet Earth, see Wikipedia.
It is not a question if, but when some global disaster will strike. There is no real reason for a deadline when this will happen as some doomsayers predict3, we just know the moment is coming and the likelihood increasing. It is like expecting a lion attack. You don’t know the exact minute it plans to jump at your neck, all you know the lion is getting more hungry. If you are sane, you will get ready (prepare a weapon, build a shelter, build fire) before you see the lion jumping at you. We should do the same and prepare for the disasters to come now in times of relative prosperity.
- people traveling by planes spread it to all countries and people traveling locally spread it further within a country ↩
- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impact_event ↩
- There were many false prediction of the end of the world, the latest major one in 2012. None was explained by science, facts and logic and apparently they all were false. ↩