The date of the apocalypse has always been up for debate in mainstream media. But recently, with the collision of new climate change data and a Trump administration in denial, the talk of doomsday has reached an all-time high.
The latest take on the end of the world comes from none other than Stephen Hawking. In November 2016, the esteemed physicist put Earth's expiration date at 1,000 years. But in March of this year, he shaved 900 years off of his prediction to give our planet just 100 years to live!
Climate change is the main point of emphasis in most predictions, but Hawking acknowledges other factors including overpopulation, resistance to antibiotics, acidification of oceans and the risk of global virus pandemics.
However, the physicist also mentions accelerated automation, artificial intelligence and growing economic inequality caused by the very technologies meant to save us. In an interview with The Guardian, he said:
"We now have the technology to destroy the planet on which we live, but have not yet developed the ability to escape it."
The political climates in countries like the U.S. and U.K. do not help matters either. The Trump administration has solidified their position against climate change awareness, while in Hawking's home country, Brexit threatens the cooperation and advancement of crucial scientific research by isolating themselves from the rest of Europe.
Hawking is far from alone in his grim assessment of our planet's future. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock 30 seconds closer to midnight shortly after Trump's election. Midnight, in this context, will not be celebrated with a giant ball dropping in Times Square...
The council of scientists from all backgrounds set the clock based on the advanced state of environmental destruction and proliferation of nuclear weapons. Because Trump's administration promises both, in spades, the Bulletin made an executive decision to adjust the clock.
The 10,000 Year Clock
On the other hand, there are groups skewing a different future. The Long Now Foundation has commissioned their own clock that is meant to tick for 10,000 years. In a way, it suggests the complete opposite of the Doomsday Clock: a clock designed to continue ticking without any human interference.
The concept of the "Long Now," a term coined by board member Brian Eno, represents a thinking contrary to acceleration, proliferation and instant gratification. It posits how things might be different if we considered time on a much larger scale and the responsibilities of maintaining a planet well beyond the tenure of humans.
The clock is the symbol of this future-facing mindset. The monumental machine is being constructed deep inside a mountain in West Texas. This ensures that it can survive any potential catastrophes. The calculations are highly relative, but 20,000 years represents something like a day in the spectrum of the clock.
You might ask: what the hell is the point of a clock if no one is around to tell the time? The founders might argue that the point, like any human endeavor, is to make something that lasts for as long as possible, that can be enjoyed by future generations millennia from now.
"Ten thousand years is about the age of civilization, so a 10K-year Clock would measure out a future of civilization equal to its past. That assumes we are in the middle of whatever journey we are on – an implicit statement of optimism."
Whichever clock you subscribe to, it is hard to ignore the significance of brand new time-telling devices being devised to make sense of our current situation.
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