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How Technology Might Avert an Apocalypse

samzenpus posted more than 2 years ago | from the science-to-the-rescue dept.

Earth 201

First time accepted submitter deapbluesea writes "Matt Ridley recounts the many predictions of catastrophe that have been made by prominent figures in the past. 'The classic apocalypse has four horsemen, and our modern version follows that pattern, with the four riders being chemicals (DDT, CFCs, acid rain), diseases (bird flu, swine flu, SARS, AIDS, Ebola, mad cow disease), people (population, famine), and resources (oil, metals).' From over population, to pandemics, peak oil to climate change, Ridley provides examples of human innovation that have averted the disasters, real or imagined. He does not declare the doomsayers to be wrong, merely hyperbolic in their predictions. 'We hear a lot from those who think disaster is inexorable if not inevitable, and a lot from those who think it is all a hoax. We hardly ever allow the moderate "lukewarmers."' Given the current discussions on rich vs poor, conservative vs liberal, religious versus non-religious, maybe a little moderation should be in order. After all, there are a lot of examples of 'experts' who got it completely wrong in the past."

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War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalypse? (5, Insightful)

popo (107611) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047153)

Sorry, but that's the oddest set of "Apocalypse" categories I've ever seen.

"Population"?

No war? No giant asteroid? No gamma ray pulse from a nearby star going nova?

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (2)

anared (2599669) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047243)

Yeah, pretty ridiculous, we arent even near of apocalypse by population... War and weapon technology on the other hand...

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047387)

Yeah, pretty ridiculous, we arent even near of apocalypse by population... War and weapon technology on the other hand...

Depends on your time frame [umich.edu] . 10 years no, 50 years, perhaps (note that the slope of the rise is dropping fast - whether it's fast enough remains to be seen).

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047673)

We have one billion chronically hungry people today [latimes.com] and it's going to get far far worse in the coming decades. Man is more populous than the rat and is consuming the earth like a swarm of locusts consuming a crop field.

War is actually reducing population which helps keep the world alive longer. Beyond killing civilians and destroying infrastructure that supports higher birthrates, the military (US, Israel, possibly also the UK and NATO) has been using depleted uranium in most of its modern wars, so the likelihood of carrying babies to term decreases. There is also a much greater chance of mutations that result in a non-viable birth or a short-lived child.

In recent times depleted uranium has been used in Lebanon, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. Depleted uranium is also the plan for Iran. While there is a short term goal in Iran, i.e. to destroy the existing nuclear energy/material infrastructure, the long term goal is to destroy the Iranian population's ability to reproduce.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (4, Informative)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047825)

Man is more populous than the rat ...

Do you actually have reliable data on this? If so, a lot of people who study such things might be very interested in how the numbers can be verified.

I recently ran across a typical example showing how little is known of rat populations, in the form of a list of "expert" estimates for New York City that ranged from 1/4 million to 100 million rats. This is a 400:1 range, and most actual experts on the topic will openly admit that the estimates aren't much more reliable than this. New York may be one of the best-studied cities.

The conventional estimate is that most human urban areas have on the order of 10 rats per human. This estimate has only one significant digit, though, and probably less than one digit for a lot of the world's cities. (Do you really think we know how many rats there are in Calcutta or Lagos or Mexico city or Shanghai or ...? ;-)

Of course, it's common for us humans to base our policies on numbers that were just made up by self-proclaimed experts, often for PR purposes.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (4, Interesting)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048275)

I recall an experiment that was done about 40 years ago, I think in NYC. It involved a typical dilapidated tenement building that (I think) was due to be torn down. First the scientists interviewed the tenants, who were about to leave. Then they did their own survey, to determine how many rats were seen. Then (somehow?) they isolated the building and killed all the rats, and counted them. The result was that for every rat reported to have been seen, there were ten actual rats. If that is a reasonable ratio (and I think it is), then take the number of rats that the typical New Yorker sees in a year - let's say six, just to put a number on it - there are ten times that many. Human population of NYC is 8.5 million, so multiply by 60 to get 510 imllion rats. I wouldn't be surprised if that was close (1/2 order of magnitude) to the actual number.

Yes, it's not good science to extrapolate from one old study on one building to the much different environs of an entire city, my memory is vague so I probably have everything wrong (except the 10:1 - I'm sure of that), etc., etc. But it's a reasonable hypothetical number to use as a starting point.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048105)

Eh? There isn't much space to house people barring some new archology concept, or conventional housing buildings, but with actual police protection so one doesn't step out of their doorway into gang crossfire.

We have all seen Calhun's rat population experiment, and how the rats annihilated each other to a one, with "princes".

Look at our culture, be it Justin Beiber, and say this self-destruction cycle isn't happening.

Malthus can be delayed, but he can never be denied.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048401)

I've done some back-of-the-envelope calculations, and found that, using a VERY broad brush and some simple energy throughput and urban habitat analysis, the Earth could support one trillion people. Life would not be anything like it is now, of course, but the folks who grew up in that world would accept it as what it is. For example, they would probably consider the raising of animals for food as ridiculously barbaric and unsanitary, unlike their pure algae-based rations. One trillion people is about 150 times as many people as we have now. The mean population density, based on our total land area (without even expanding onto and under the oceans) would only be about twice the present density of Bangladesh, or Los Angeles County. A simple way to view this would be to just multiply the population of any given area by 150, by growing both up and out. The Boston-NYC-Virginia metroplex would probably be about the same size but comprised of one 100-story structure after another, and you could probably walk from one city to the other without ever going to ground level.

Many science fiction stories have contemplated huge, high density urban complexes, even ones as large as entire planets (one example would be Trantor, the Imperial capital in Asimov's Foundation series. But to my knowledge nobody has really stuck a number on it, with the idea of making such a place sustainable (in the sense of "everybody doesn't die of starvation, disease or lack of oxygen in a few years".

It's also worth considering that such a density would not be as high as any of various space habitats proposed over the last 50 years, where it is assumed that humans manage to maintain themselves indefinitely in a strongly restricted volume.

Since many parts of the land area are not really conducive to building living space on them, there is also the continental shelf and floating cities, anchored to sea mounts. Other analysts have shown that the total area of such places is greater than the present land mass, so we could possibly double the area we presently contemplate as 'places to live'. (You could put the equivalent of an entire North and South America in the middle of the Pacific, and (given some daunting engineering challenges) it would fit rather nicely. That could be used for food growing and/or living habitat.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (0, Troll)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047247)

There's no sufficiently nearby candidate star to kill us with a gamma ray pulse. Giant asteroid can also be ruled out.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047513)

Neither of these statements are true.

If a gamma ray-burst occurred anywhere in our galaxy and was directed towards us, the radiation would have devastating effects. There have been extinction events on Earth whose cause is theorized to be this type of gamma ray-burst. However, the rate at which they occur per galaxy is anywhere from once per million years to once per one hundred thousand years. So the likelihood is still very small compared to more terrestrial threats.

Could you explain why you think a giant asteroid can be "ruled out"?

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047657)

Because giant asteroids aren't that hard to see anymore, and the facts of orbital dynamics tell us where we need to look. Nothing big is going to hit us in the next few decades, and given a few decades warning it would be trivial for us to modify an asteroid's orbit by the width of the earth.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048013)

Except we've looked at and classified what, 2% of the asteroids in the system? I seem to recall reading an article someplace for an asteroid watchgroup saying we've only looked at something like 2% of the available sky. It's easy to miss a giant asteroid (say, 3-5 km in diameter) if you're not looking for it. Kinda like how so many motorcyclists get t-boned. The driver isn't looking for bikes, he's checking out that teenybopper chick overfilling that string bikini walking behind him in the rear view mirror.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048289)

There is also the possibility that a larger object could enter the Solar System from outside it which is currently far now, but will eventually pass close to Earth. Very long period comets from the Oort Cloud might also be on the way to the inner solar system.

Still, as long as there are people checking, we should have some notice of an object incoming well before it happens.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048341)

We're safe from the reasonably round orbit asteroids. It's the eccentric orbits and the recent Jupiter/Mars catapults that should worry us.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (3, Insightful)

History's Coming To (1059484) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047685)

Could you please explain how an extinction level asteroid impact can be ruled out? I believe we're getting to the stage where we might actually get some warning (a big improvement over the last few decades), but I don't believe we're in a position to divert one. Technically, yes, but politically, no chance.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (2)

popo (107611) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048027)

There are loads of "candidate" stars that could do the job. Fortunately it's an exceedingly rare event.

And a giant asteroid can absolutely not be ruled out.

One should note that both of the above extinction events have most likely already occurred on Earth at one time or another.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047257)

The angels and devils and what not will come down and do their apocalyptic things, but what they won't expect is technology besting their powers. Oops, their plan got foiled...

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047877)

*shrugs* The angels / demons have always been hinted at as being purely human with strange / evil ideas. So, switch out the word angels and the word demon, and see if human can end our civilization with that level of technology. A few variants have picked up on the idea, albeit for different reasons: the Amish would be a good example.

It all goes back to the king / royalty / highway-man / raiders motif, which is where the 'locusts' come into play; they may simply be the great hordes of mankind who are infantile in their wants and understandings, demanding food without lifting a finger to create it, and using force on those who do when their hunger is great enough; see, farmers do not need a king, but a king and his 'enforcers' need farmers, as they need food; the original 'agreement' was that king and friends would show up, take a portion of the harvest, then leave the farmers in peace; over time, it evolved into the governments you see today.

Again, if you check the various {holy} books for half a dozen religions, they are waiting on a worldwide famine to hopefully kill off, or otherwise unmask, the people they're going to kill. And as has been pointed out in history if not once, then more than a dozen times, some powerful people want this to happen. They want to create enough chaos that it will force the hand of their god, force him / her to come back, so they can shore up their faith with actual evidence. I mean, if 50% of the world's population is crying out to the Almighty, surely he'd be moved to answer them, right?

I know it will simply be dismissed as a conspiracy theory, and it might be, however, I will state it for the record: if not through malignancy, than through criminal incompetence, the world-wide food supply is going to be mismanaged.

   

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048411)

Again, if you check the various {holy} books for half a dozen religions, they are waiting on a worldwide famine to hopefully kill off, or otherwise unmask, the people they're going to kill. And as has been pointed out in history if not once, then more than a dozen times, some powerful people want this to happen. They want to create enough chaos that it will force the hand of their god, force him / her to come back, so they can shore up their faith with actual evidence. I mean, if 50% of the world's population is crying out to the Almighty, surely he'd be moved to answer them, right?

Reminds me of "Rainbow Six".

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047337)

Sorry, but that's the oddest set of "Apocalypse" categories I've ever seen.

"Population"?

No war? No giant asteroid? No gamma ray pulse from a nearby star going nova?

Oh, if you read the TFA you'll find that the 'usual suspects' are still there.

Nobody's particular original with this end-of-world stuff.

That's great,
It starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes .....

Classic Causes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047389)

If I recall correctly, the original Four Horsemen are War, Disease, Famine, and Civil Strife.

War is still very possible for two major reasons: Religions don't like democracy, and autocracies don't like democracy. As long as there are Religions with political power, war is possible. As long as there are nations in which the People are not the masters of their Government, war is possible.

Diseases pose a problem associated with the world's modern transportation system. Most scenarios indicate that if some horrid disease has any decent delay between "catching it" and "suffering from it", then it can spread too widely to be stopped, before it is noticed.

Famine is directly related to the total number of people, compared to (A) the total food production, and (B) the distribution system. Many people recognize that there are problems. Some people talk about ways to feed 9 billion people adequately. Almost no one talks about how to keep the population from growing even larger, and where the food will come from, to feed them.

Civil Strife happens whenever Authority takes a vacation from vigilance. A certain amount erupted in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina was on the way. A country that gets its Authority bogged down in some extraordinary event may unwittingly let the masses run riot. Recently there was a SlashDot article indicating that a surge in Civil Strife was being predicted for (about) the year 2020. Maybe it won't happen if Authority maintains vigilance. And maybe it will happen as a backlash to excess vigilance....

Re:Classic Causes (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048051)

War is still very possible for two major reasons: Religions don't like democracy, and autocracies don't like democracy. As long as there are Religions with political power, war is possible. As long as there are nations in which the People are not the masters of their Government, war is possible.

Even the beginner student of history understands that wars are almost inevitably economic in nature. Religion is a useful tool, but I doubt there are more than a handful of wars throughout history whose underlying causes were religious. Even the Crusades, whatever the high flying religious rhetoric used to justify them, were more about Western and Central European Princes getting a piece of the action in one of the most important trade corridors in the world.

As to the claim about religions not liking democracy, that is pretty absurd. Modern democracy first began to grow in Protestant states, and that has economic underpinnings as well, as Protestantism was a useful tool for many European princes to break the political bonds with the autocratic Catholic Church. The growing mercantile classes, particularly in England, Scotland and the Low Countries, espoused forms of Protestantism very friendly to the notion of a thrifty sober working class, and it is this class that battled against the autocratic leanings of Absolute Monarchy (with all its Medieval and unspoken Medieval Catholic underpinnings), ultimately, in Britain at least, leading to one of the great revolutions in history; the Glorious Revolution which saw the Bill of Rights, 1689 enacted into law (and in one fashion or another inherited by pretty much all of Britain's former colonial holdings). This had solid Protestant underpinnings, so I would hardly say religion is an anathema to democracy.

In the end even the Catholic Church ended up heavily liberalizing, though it has a far uneasier alliance with democracy than Protestantism generally does.

As to autocratic states, well, they have little trouble doing business with democracies providing said democracies stay out of their internal affairs. China has no problem with Western democracy, since both have found a path by which everyone can make lots of money. Again, economics rules everything.

Re:Classic Causes (4, Interesting)

mk1004 (2488060) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048145)

TFA was poorly done. It can be broken down as Global war, pandemics, wide-scale crop failure (Famine), and Global Catastrophe (extrasolar non-cometary impacts, Krakatoa+ volcanic eruptions, etc. Overpopulation by itself isn't a problem; it makes the first three worse: War over land disputes, pandemics spreading faster due to population density and air travel, and more mouths to feed leaves less margin in world-wide crop reserves.

As a side note, I find it funny that religion is commented on as a possible cause of world-wide war. China is, by many measures, one of the least religious countries in the world. Their saber rattling over disputed land ownership, at least to me, makes them the most likely catalysis of the next major conflict.

Re:Classic Causes (4, Interesting)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048457)

Religions don't like democracy, and autocracies don't like democracy.

Actually, as was pointed out 200 years ago regarding the establishment of the USA, to that time no democracy has ever survived more than about 200 years. Athens was the first democracy I can think of where bread, circuses and the threat of war were used by the leaders to stay elected (See Pericles). The result was a series of wars and the eventual demise of Athens. IMHO the peoples' virtue or lack thereof is the primary risk, and religion is just a convenient excuse or cause celebre'.

As someone else once put it (more or less), democracies last until the people realise they can vote themselves bread and circuses. First the people are virtuous and hardworking, then they become wealthy as a result of that hard work, then they become complacent, then they become greedy/needy/decadent, then (since most people are no longer working their ass off), their system collapses, people start to starve, and revolution, war or takeover by the neighbors is next.

Oddest? (3, Interesting)

Penurious Penguin (2687307) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047439)

In the end we almost survived - but the solution had been copyrighted. The Establishment had opted to uphold the patents rather than avert our final demise and anger Emperor Troll. Though Emperor Troll was the last beast on Earth, there was nothing for him to live for and he soon followed. However, much of the planet's other species began to thrive once again. Dolphins eventually took to land and continued to evolve. Uninhibited by the manacles of a silly tongue, their communication was pure and intentions toward the stars, though never neglectful of home. Their endeavors were neither cannibal or competitive; they were of joy and free expression. They were not without their troubles, and many years passed before they ironed out the vestiges of a primitive past, but they grew and quickly so, as they did not hold each other down for the elevation of another. Reality was a goal and not a nightmare. To them, life was not a crime, nor was it something to be suffered, but something to embrace with the entirely of their potential. They eventually left Earth after some time. After traversing space for aeons, they conquered the limitation of will imposed by Universe. Form became optional and distance irrelevant. But from 'time' to 'time' they did visit Earth. Strangely, they never did bother to teach the history of humanity - it was self-implied. But they did build, leave and maintain a monument to Emperor Troll, which a strange and suspiciously human-like species would gaze at from great distance in wonder, but remained afraid to discuss.

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

Lorens (597774) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047457)

War (well, the sword) is definitely a classic.

First horseman: conqueror
Second horseman : war
Third horseman : the economic oppressor
Fourth horseman : Death (and Hell followed with him, killing with sword, famine, disease, beasts)

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

turkeydance (1266624) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048165)

There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT! (and technology cures what ails ya)

Re:War isn't one of the classic causes of Apocalyp (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048471)

So what does IT have to do with it? The virtue of the geek? :)

Nature (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047161)

What about nature?
-Asteroids
-Mega Volcanoes
etc.

Re:Nature (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047265)

Asteroid can be ruled out. There's nothing sufficiently large to destroy civilization and also on a near collision path.

Re:Nature (3, Interesting)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047665)

There's nothing sufficiently large to destroy civilization and also on a near collision path.

FTFY: There's nothing sufficiently large to destroy civilization and also on a near collision path; that we know about.

Assuming things, can get you killed, that's why we generalize. Obligatory car analogy. If I cross the street at a crosswalk (zebra crossing for almost everyone else outside of North America), I might assume that all drivers will stop to let me cross since it is the law. Always making that assumption will get definitely get me killed or seriously injured someday (hell, when I was young I was almost killed by a police car on an emergency run, lights no siren, while legally crossing the street one time... to be fair a bus on the outside lane blocked both our views, but thank goodness he was paying better attention than me... it's what made me not trust blind faith in traffic lights and crosswalk laws when crossing the street any more). Thinking we will always have sufficient advance knowledge of an extinction event asteroid will eventually kill us all. Precedent has already been set, not only in actual extinctions, but the fact that those size asteroids hit all planets now and then, including earth. I'm not paranoid about it. But I would be if I thought everyone thought like you. While it's not a big possibility in my life, it has a high impact if, well, it impacts. But on the upside, if it does happen, the outcome won't matter to humans after that.

Re:Nature (1)

jamstar7 (694492) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048055)

Sounds like the typical SyFy channel movie of the week, actually. And we all know they don't get their science anywhere near the neighborhood of reality.

That being said, I leave you with a paraphrased quote I remember from someplace: The universe is a strange place. Probably even more strange than you could possibly imagine. Anything is possible. There are no limits.

Survivor Bias (5, Interesting)

dcollins (135727) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047183)

"After all, there are a lot of examples of 'experts' who got it completely wrong in the past."

That's a good example of survivor bias [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Survivor Bias (4, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047251)

It's also up in the air what qualifies as an apocalypse. I'm pretty sure for the people who were in Hiroshima on a certain day, the world as they knew it ended... to them that was the apocalypse. For the people in the airplane, not so much.

Re:Survivor Bias (1, Funny)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047293)

Yeah those quotes around the 'experts' are very important. Actual experts have never been wrong.

Re:Survivor Bias (4, Interesting)

jc42 (318812) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047901)

Actual experts have never been wrong.

But they have often been ignored. ;-)

Here in the US, we had a case much smaller than the K-T asteroid impact just a few years ago, in New Orleans. If you want to read about what the experts were saying, google "Hurricane Pam". That was a simulation/exercise that studied the effects of a hurricane much like Katrina. The study did a remarkably good job of describing the impact of Katrina. Part of the study pinpointed the places where the levees would be breached. Applications to Congress for funding to fortify those levees were voted down.

Human history is full of similar events, when the experts made accurate predictions of disasters, and the people in charge decided to ignore them.

Re:Survivor Bias (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048571)

Actual experts have never been wrong.

Hahahaha. So cute, such trust. :) I assume you jest. But just in case someone believes that, here are some counter examples.

My 1960s era Earth Sciences grade school textbook mentioned the idea that the surface of the Earth might be comprised of several huge plates, and that the land masses might once have been all connected. But "All reputable scientists agree that this could not the case." I remember this, because I had just read a SciAm article discussing plate tectonics (the book was probably five years old at the time.) Also, until Penzias and Wilson _accidentally_ found the echoes of the Big Bang, Hoyle's steady state universe was the authoritative view of the mainstream of astronomy. Actual experts are often, and necessarily wrong - but the process of science tends, over time, to correct errors and converge toward the most reasonable answer given the evidence available. It's still quite possible that there is no dark matter, no dark energy, just a flaw in the equations or a missing piece of evidence.

Clark's Three Laws [wikipedia.org]

Clarke's Three Laws are three "laws" of prediction formulated by the British writer and scientist Arthur C. Clarke. They are:
        When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
        The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
        Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Re:Survivor Bias (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047861)

Survivor bias implies the existence of survivors. Also, the populations of survivors seem to be thriving.

Call it bias if you want, but do you really think we've all forgotten all the narrowly-averted apocalypses? Or were the predictions of doom exaggerated? Which is more likely?

[PSA] Avert a good man's early demise (2, Informative)

arielCo (995647) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047191)

[PSA] Ken Starks of HeliOS fame has 2-3 weeks left

This is one of those put-your-money-where-your-mouth-is situations. From his partner's blog at http://linuxlock.blogspot.com/2012/08/this-is-where-we-are.html [blogspot.com]

Ken's cancer has just recently begun to spread to his right lymph node but his Oncologist has assured us that this is 80 percent curative if he gets the needed surgery in time.

Unfortunately, his 1100 dollar a month SSI disability disqualifies him for Medicaid care and the local county low-income insurance he was receiving. This leaves us with about 2 weeks to either raise enough money for at least the OR for the surgery (we are hopeful of finding a surgeon to do the work pro bono) or raise enough money for the entire procedure. We've spent hours upon hours researching and contacting the links some of you have provided but they are so limited in scope that 90 percent of them are not helpful at all.

We are looking at two weeks, maybe three before the cancer spreads past the point of surgery being an option. After that, we've been told just to make him as comfortable as possible until he passes. I'm not ready to accept that.

Stupid, this Medicare exclusion. More about the guy, by Steven Vaughan-Nichols of ZDnet fame [zdnet.com] :

+Ken Starks is a Linux and open-source supporter. He also runs a non-profit that's donated thousands of PCs to low-income households. Now, he needs help to fight cancer. For more on what's happening with him see:

http://thomasaknight.com/blog.php?id=71 [thomasaknight.com]

https://plus.google.com/app/plus/mp/374/#~loop:view=activity&aid=z132y3njjzjei5iic04cjds4ztnpef1pjb0 [google.com]

Pitch in if you can.

Don't use Plus link, thomasknight link has donate (3, Informative)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047361)

I was about to give up donating since you can't view a Plus link without a Plus account.

Then I tried the thomasknight link, a donate button was there.

Re:[PSA] Avert a good man's early demise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047841)

Having some trouble tying the links together; where on zdnet is Ken Starks mentioned? If I can verify this information, I'll make a don. I will check this thread for a reply.

Re:[PSA] Avert a good man's early demise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047941)

I a few reliable references and one from LXer: http://lxer.com/module/newswire/view/163839/ [lxer.com] It's legit. Making don. now.

Re:[PSA] Avert a good man's early demise (1)

arielCo (995647) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048157)

Steven is a well-known contributor at ZDnet. Anyway, you may Google 'Ken Starks TX' and read about his charity efforts. He and his buddies (the project was recently renamed "Reglue") refurbish computers and donate them to kids around Austin.

I only knew about them because it has been posted three times to the Firehose, unsuccessfully

Re:[PSA] Avert a good man's early demise (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048103)

The man does not need the surgery, chemotherapy radiation one-two into an early grave but
vitamins and nutrition. Start educating yourself about health and nutrition first before you
come begging for wagon loads of money to pay for "treatment". This may not sound very
sympathetic in your ears if you can't move your mind past the pink-ribbon Susan-Komen TM
cancer industry programming, but it is from the viewpoint of someone who beat cancer with
proper nutrition and avoiding those many many toxins they put in our food and drink.

Re:[PSA] Avert a good man's early demise (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048321)

Don't spout illiterate non scientific babble here.

http://xkcd.com/552/ [xkcd.com]

What about apocalypses provoked by technology? (3, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047221)

Or at least, humans using that technology? From nuclear winter to idiocracy there is a whole range of apocalypses where technology have a major role.

Re:What about apocalypses provoked by technology? (4, Interesting)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047347)

You fail to see the true "apocalypse" that's right under your nose. As nature has done time and again, it has used the other species to push forth a better version... You smugly believe you humans are the highest rung on the evolutionary ladder. You are not. You're in the process of bringing about your own demise via freeing cognition from its organic limitations. Your only hope is to make peace with the technology, or merge with it.

Even though Humans have shied away from evolution and natural selection by prolonging the lives of the unfit, even polluting the gene pool via allowing them to breed, natural selection still carries out its task through you all. Much like water born life in the sea became more hearty to survive on land and in the air, nature is hard at work creating life that can survive in the harshness of space.

Once life itself caused a huge cataclysm to befall this tiny blue world -- The Great Oxygenation Catastrophe [wikipedia.org] was likely the single most devastating event, killing off most of the anaerobic life. Were it not for this disaster, larger lifeforms would not have formed so quickly: Oxygen is jet fuel for big beasts. Where some see an apocalypse in The Great Inorganic Awakening, others see life fulfilling its prime directive.

Re:What about apocalypses provoked by technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047465)

That's not an apocalypse. That's progress.

Re:What about apocalypses provoked by technology? (4, Funny)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047483)

You can't frighten us, anaerobic pig bacteria!
Go and boil your cell walls, daughter cells of a silly archea.
I blow my pores at you, you and your so called nitrate loving freaks!

Re:What about apocalypses provoked by technology? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047395)

Idiocracy isn't going to happen. The writers of that were committing the very same mistakes they foretell future inhabitants will make without even realizing it. They say stupid people breed stupid people and since stupid people have more kids than intelligent people that means everyone will be stupid eventually. But there's no evidence to back this up. I come from a poor, fairly stupid family (white trash is an accurate description unfortunately). I have a 128 IQ and I'm a computer programmer with a happy family life and plenty of friends. Many of the people I grew up with came from well educated, well off families and could basically barely tie their shoes.

Intelligence isn't like hair color or height and isn't directly inheritable.

Re:What about apocalypses provoked by technology? (2)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048287)

After the next elections, dare to say that idiocracy isnt here already.

Re:What about apocalypses provoked by technology? (1)

garyebickford (222422) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048613)

Intelligence isn't like hair color or height and isn't directly inheritable.

Interestingly, according to recent literature psychopathy is about 80% inheritable. (But only about 50% of children who show the symptoms early become psychopathic as addults - the other half seem to find a way to fit into society's norms.) One then must ask, "Why would psychopathy be so successful (at some small percentage of the population) that it inherits this strongly, while intelligence isn't.?" Of course intelligence has a strong environmental/development component, and it is complicated by the fact that higher intelligence also puts one at risk of various forms of mental disruption - depression, schizophrenia, etc.

Isn't this what all Hollywood movies depend on? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047227)

Our technology, ingenuity, and savvy will avert disater at the last possible moment!

When in reality the only thing that will save us from a catastrophe of sufficient proportions is merely because the Earth is so large an diverse that it's unlikely to impact the entire planet in ways that would kill all of humanity?

Arbitary division by four detected. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047253)

So because you can split things into 4 categories make them apocalyptic? So that's most management theory then, where it seems to be de rigeur to crowbar them into a "johari window".

Have we averted peak oil/climate change? (2)

cowboy76Spain (815442) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047353)

Oh, my, I must have been sleeping a lot lately.

To think that I believed that we were still in 2012...

Seriously, the author of these "articles" should disclose how to find his drug dealer. Must be some serious stuff.

Re:Have we averted peak oil/climate change? (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047515)

US CO2 emissions are at their lowest level in 20 years, and we are in talks to do the same for the Chinese. How? By frakking natural gas. Which averts peak oil, and replaces it with peak natural gas.

Seems poorly researched (5, Informative)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047359)

Seems poorly researched

In 1956, M. King Hubbert, a Shell geophysicist, forecast that gas production in the US would peak at about 14 trillion cubic feet per year sometime around 1970.

Oil production not gas

All these predictions failed to come true. Oil and gas production have continued to rise during the past 50 years.

Sorry, blatantly false. Try to find a US oil production graph showing this, LOL. Prediction dead accurate.

Re:Seems poorly researched (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047501)

Right on bro, oil is unheard of in the gulf of mexico.

But hey, at least we won't ever have any spills!

Re:Seems poorly researched (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047661)

He's talking about the peak of oil production. The maximum oil production in the US was back in the 1970s. It's been going down ever since.

Yes, US oil production peaked in 1970 (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047693)

US oil production not only peaked in 1970, it's about half of what it was then. [wikipedia.org] Texas (!) is a net oil importer. World oil production has been more or less flat since 2005, despite a price increase from $20/bbl to $100/bbl.

World natural gas production is up, and US natural gas production is way up. Not clear how long that can continue. Gas wells can be pumped out faster than oil wells, and production drops off rapidly towards the end. Oil wells slow down more gradually, ending up as "stripper wells", producing less than 10 bbl/day each. The US has about 400,000 of those; it adds up.

Of course technology will help (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047363)

It's not like prayer will make a difference.

some say the sun rises in the east, some say west (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047411)

we hardly ever hear from the moderate voices who say the sun comes from somewhere inbetween. Sometimes halfway between the truth and bullshit is just as bullshitty.

Clones are the answer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047423)

If we could clone any plant and animal, most importantly humans, then we could create libraries of DNA samples and send

them to the far reaches of the Universe. The ships that would hold these DNA would have the facility to birth at least two

humans and enough fuel to land on any planet we could live on. It would have a smart computer (better than HAL; the upgrade

to HAL, IBM {just increment each letter}) that would detect when we've arrived near our new home. Only then would it use

the resources to birth a human to take over decision making.

We would send out hundreds of these ships; and of course have several orbit Earth (and Mars) in case it once again become

inhabitable.

The race of choice to initially birth would of course be African, since we're all descendants.

avert niburu (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047433)

avert niburu

The Fifth Horseman (3, Funny)

Chemisor (97276) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047517)

Unfortunately, he fails to mention the often forgotten fifth horseman, who brings about a decline in innovation. From what I see in the news today, he may already be here. Doom is certainly upon us!

Re:The Fifth Horseman (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047793)

Unfortunately, he fails to mention the often forgotten fifth horseman, who brings about a decline in innovation.

The Conqueror, War, Famine, Death and, most horrifying of all, the Patent Office.

Re:The Fifth Horseman (1)

kamapuaa (555446) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047915)

What the fuck? Doesn't Slashdot have enough threads about hating patents? Why bring it in to one about technology creating an apocalypse?

This chariot needs more than four horses (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047539)

Asteroid impact

Supervolcano

Nuclear war

Grey goo

Brain fever

and many more...

Re:This chariot needs more than four horses (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047951)

Those scenarios are so much more unlikely to happen than the standard four horsemen that they're not worth listing in this context.

Apocalypse diverted by good people not technology (1, Troll)

fermion (181285) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047633)

The world more than likely was going to starve until the Haber process was developed that allowed us to increase production of food. Saying that the food crisis was hyperbolic or was just randomly solved is sheer ignorance of history and technology. Fritz Harber and Carl Bosch, in Germany in the years prior to WWI likely saved the world from a major disaster. If it would have happened sooner, and Germany was able to have the resources it needed, the history of the early 20th century might have been much different.

In the 1970 the available oil was not keeping up with consumption. Very cheap oil form the middle east was disrupted and we were not yet into deep water drilling, directional drilling was just taking hold. Furthermore car fuel efficiency had reached a historical low with many cars only getting 10 miles to each gallon. Because people knew on which side their bread was buttered, they worked to figure out how to extract more oil and use energy more efficiently. We would have been in trouble if very smart people treated these threats as "hyperbolic". They were real.

As far as pesticides, stating the threat is not real or limiting the threat to cancer is sheer hooliganism. The runoff of chemical pesticides, chemical in general, is a health and food risk. The only question is if that risk is greater than the social damage of doing nothing. For many chemicals, the answer is yes, the risk is greater. The main reason is that often we can achieve about the same results with what are probably safer alternatives. It is like a car. If one can achieve about the same results with a more efficient automobile, why not?

This is major fallacy, IMHO. Often these debates are set up as between hard working firms and hippie environmentalists. This si simply not true. The reality is that in the modern world these debates are between embedded corporate interests and free thinking entrepreneurs. The American car industry wants you to think if failed because of unions, but really it failed because it ignored people who pushing new technology and processes, while the Japan did not. The good news is that even though polemicist is still going to fight to keep the change from happening, corporations are increasingly looking to their balance sheets and realizing that branding is the past and innovative products are the future. They realize that public relations campaigns to convince people that scientist are merely fear mongers are not nearly as effecient as paying the scientists to develop the solutions. Imagine if the germans had just said that the lack of food was fear mongering and not put money into Habers work. We might not only be starving now, but Germany would not have been able to mount a campaign with substantially smaller forces than the rest of Europe.

Because I sense that this article is not so much anti technology but anti-government, let me reiterate. Currently corporations are not ignoring problems, but that is because the government structure is there to encourage development. Let me give one more example, the flat screen TV. The CRT puts out a great deal of radiation and wastes a great deal of energy. Through a series of regulations at various national levels, a standard was put in place to limit the radiation of the CRT. The ultimate solution was the LCD, but that was expensive. However, in a short time, due to interaction between government and corporate interests, almost everyone has moved away from the CRT to a more efficient and safe LCD. Does the CRT really cause damage? Who knows, but because all this was done under the table we are saved from the hooligans of conservatism and libertarians shouting from the rooftops that the LCD is a communist plot and anyone who wants an LCD hates America, or whatever.

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047933)

The CRT puts out a great deal of radiation and wastes a great deal of energy. Through a series of regulations at various national levels, a standard was put in place to limit the radiation of the CRT. The ultimate solution was the LCD, but that was expensive. However, in a short time, due to interaction between government and corporate interests, almost everyone has moved away from the CRT to a more efficient and safe LCD. Does the CRT really cause damage? Who knows, but because all this was done under the table we are saved from the hooligans of conservatism and libertarians shouting from the rooftops that the LCD is a communist plot and anyone who wants an LCD hates America, or whatever.

I congratulate you to a well written troll post. However, there are some nutcases that really believe a CRT TV put out harmful radiation, you might want to make sure you don't get confused with them in any way.

http://www.thenakedscientists.com/HTML/content/latest-questions/question/2417/ [thenakedscientists.com]

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048129)

So looking at standards implemented in the 70's, sitting in front of a crt for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year may result in a level of x-ray exposure 5 times normal background. This of course is not applicable to TV because one is normally much further away from the screen, and radiation decreases in an inverse square law. Therefore what is insignificant for a TV becomes potentially significant for a CRT. Just because a bunch of stuff is written on the internet with no references does not make it false. The fact that in 1970 the US set a standard for radiation tends to indicate that there was some concern. The swedish government put further restrictions on the CRT as well.

Only persons who is dogmatically attached to CRT is going to say that there is categorically not danger. There is categorically no danger to a mercury thermometer but we don't use those anymore.

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048227)

The reference was "Andy Karam, adjunct professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology."

(I challenge the OP, if that's not you, to supply one single scientific reference to "a great deal of radiation" where radiation would be of the harmful non visible light kind)

Also, since I'm Swedish, I think you might be confusing the private organisation TCO (which is a workers union) with our government. See http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/TCO-m%C3%A4rkning [wikipedia.org]

The non-disease "monitor-sickness" was one of the motivations behind the original certification, and in contrast to what you wrote is not at all recognized by my government, and has no scientific basis:

http://sv.wikipedia.org/wiki/El%C3%B6verk%C3%A4nslighet#Bildsk.C3.A4rmsjuka [wikipedia.org]

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (1)

mk1004 (2488060) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048271)

At the last place I worked, a silicon valley company, we replaced virtually all of the CRTs with LCDs within one year's time. The CEO decided that the savings from the lower electrical consumption would quickly pay back the initial outlay. Radiation concerns, real or imagined, had nothing to do with the decision.

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (1)

Kohath (38547) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048033)

Your LCD argument is just silly. People buy LCD TVs because they are lighter, they take up less space, and can provide a large high definition picture. Safety is irrelevant because CRTs were never found to be unsafe when properly produced and shielded. LCDs are not a gift from government, nor was government a major part of the reason we all switched to LCDs.

The rest of your post may or may not be correct. We certainly need to be able to compromise between zero government and totalitarianism. It would be good if facts and legitimate cost/benefit analysis were used to find the balance rather than doomsday prophesies and anti-corporate bigotry. It would also be good if environmentalists would put humans first and animals, plants, and aesthetics a distant second. Then we could have productive conversations and make progress toward finding the best balance.

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048191)

People buy LCD TVs because they are lighter, they take up less space, and can provide a large high definition picture.

LOL they only buy them to show off how much money they have, or how trendy in general. Also high def TVs were CRT in the old days when HD was new.

Ask your average goofball how much more money they'd pay, or how excited they'd be for a 10% lighter TV and they'd be all WTF who cares. On the other hand, if you offered them a free $5000 TV solely so they could brag to their future dating partner / neighbor / the guys at work how they have a $5000 TV and they'll faint with excitement.

As my CRTs have died I have replaced them with LCDs. Clearer picture, but horrifically bad color rendition and simply pitiful black levels. CRTs suck too. They both suck about as much, although in completely different ways.

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048527)

I don't know how you could argue that LCDs are only popular because they are "trendy".

If people wanted to simply be conspicuous consumers, all they needed to do was buy gold plated toilets. You have an LCD TV because it grants you an advantage. It may well not be economical to own a 50" TV, but if you were going to buy a 50" TV, it is probably one of the most economical ways to go about it. I think you are confusing the trend to buy 50" TVs with the development of the LCD. Buying a TV that big may well be trendy, but the underlying technology behind it is an advance.

I used to use a 22" CRT on my desk. It took up half the desk and weighed a ton. Now I have a 24" LCD and it takes up less than 10% of the desk and weighs much, much less. I have yet to complain about the color, but I suppose I am not an artist or someone who would care. I don't know many people who really think it is to a point where it makes that much of a difference.

Re:Apocalypse diverted by good people not technolo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048577)

10% lighter??? I can barely lift my old 19" CRT.

yet I can pick up and move by myself a 55"LCD tv ( the only inconvenience here is the unwieldy size)

try 50-90% lighter.

not as good picture though.

also a 50" tv is less than a good PC these days, so it isn't about the money. My loungeroom would barely fit if I had a 55" CRT where the tv is. I'm sorry the whole thing with LCD is convenience. Lighter, smaller, adequate picture. Less power is just a bonus that makes.us feel better.

Betteridge's Law Applies Again (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047649)

No.

Not even wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048307)

Betteridge's Law of Headlines is an adage that states, "Any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word 'no'".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betteridge's_Law_of_Headlines [wikipedia.org]

Where's the question mark?

Can't wait for January 1, 2013. (1)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047663)

Or, y'know, maybe applying human-generated myths to actual, present-day scientific observations isn't needed, as humans are so completely inconsequential it's laughable.

Apophis would be next in 2029 then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047779)

Or Niburu around Feb. 2013 (again). In fact, look up John Moore on YouTube here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=crU9sM5QTUk&feature=related [youtube.com] to see what I am talking about in the latter, as well as IRAS satellites and 10th planet discovered in 1983 etc. (here's a link on Apophis http://neo.jpl.nasa.gov/apophis/ [nasa.gov] ). I don't know what to believe on any of it, since I tend to believe what I see first hand usually only (but by then, it'd be too late). It does make for interesting thought and hair-raising discussion at the very least, and something to prepare one's self for. Scares the hell out of me and I hope everyone's wrong on those things as there really would be no stopping them. Perhaps they explain blanks in our history every 2500 years or so, and things like Lemuria, Atlantis, and the sudden disappearance of the Sumerian civilization too. Food for thought.

Addendum - ask yourselves WHY on these too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048029)

NSA moves home base from Ft. Meade Maryland to Denver http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:dbBkfIFSq3gJ:http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php%3Faz%3Dview_all%26address%3D132x2408935%2B%22NSA%22+and+%22Denver%22&sclient=psy-ab&hl=en&site=&gbv=1&ct=clnk [googleusercontent.com]

AS WELL as Augusta Ga. getting the NSA too (highest city on East coast US iirc).

CIA moves HQ from Langley Virgina to Denver http://imaginativeworlds.com/forum/showthread.php?12940-CIA-left-Langley-for-Denver [imaginativeworlds.com]

Jesse Ventura's "Denver Airport" documentary http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B9EpqBf0oCY [youtube.com]

All/each moving to the "mile-high" city... why? Look up "US Naval Map" on GOOGLE -> http://theintelhub.com/2011/05/14/u-s-navy-map-showing-large-areas-of-u-s-submerged-happening-now/ [theintelhub.com]

Which Planet-X/Niburu is rumored to cause, damaging the New Madrid Fault flooding the central US, and the coasts will be gone.

Edgar Cayce (20th century very reknowned & respected psychic, an interesting man in & of himself, do look into he) even predicted the SAME map almost, decades before.

Then, there's the "mayan calendar" (which I think's b.s.), Revelations Chapter 8 Verse 10 iirc on "WormWood", Mother Shipton, & Nostradamus.

(want more?)

John Moore's show's had NSA, CIA ("lettered agencies" folks), gov't. officials + military men (high ranking officials) on it, as well as JPL & NASA folks.

I hope it's all b.s. & wrong. I really do. What a shame to wreck our civilization, for all of its faults (men themselves in collective secret societies jockeying for "power" since they have 2" penises imo).

Google Sky also has been BLOCKING the area Niburu is allegedly coming at us from (33 degree southern angle iirc, & google said "it's a bug in how the images stitch". Now, I am a coder, and that's bullshit. Why that image only?)

That's all in addition to my first post to you. Again - Food for thought. I am only scratching the surface of it from memory too. There's more if you dig.

Re:Can't wait for January 1, 2013. (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047797)

Hmm, if the pseudo-neo-Mayans aren't convinced after seeing the sun rise on December 22nd, 2012, I don't think that January 1st, 2013 is going to convince them either.

Re:Can't wait for January 1, 2013. (0)

Cazekiel (1417893) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047965)

But you know what'll happen. Like the last prediction of the End of the World, they'll try to say it was off by a couple days. Then again, once 2013 slips up on us all, they'll then move on to saying, "Oh, they meant 2021!"...

Re:Can't wait for January 1, 2013. (1)

tnk1 (899206) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048611)

Some of the myths are laughable, of course, but some of them are stories to explain actual astronomical events that we did not have science to explain. Humans are far from inconsequential, very simply because we're the only observers that we are aware of. That doesn't mean that everything we believe is the same as the way it is, but we perceive reality, even if we don't know what it means most of the time.

We really need to get away from this idea that it is somehow virtuous or accurate that humans are inconsequential. That's just false humility which is in turn merely a backlash against religious doctrines. In short, it's a hissy fit where we have to believe the opposite of what the pointy-hatted people say. Instead, I would argue that we have to have a very, very high degree of respect for the amount of damage that humans can do.

It is entirely possible that we could wipe ourselves out, or be wiped out by a cosmic event, but I would not allow ourselves to believe that just because our current existence might be a freak event, that it is not an event of some note. For all we know, we're the only species in the universe to reach the level of technical sophistication that we have. While that could be wrong and be disproven some day, it is currently an observed fact, and one should not ignore observations in science, even if one believes that they are not the whole story.

Assuming it's not the first iteration of the tech. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047727)

Lets face it, many of the apocalyptic scenarios are caused by technology. Especially before they get it all the little details figured out. X-rays are a great example. Do kids now a days even know about all the crazy stuff they did with X-rays before they figured out they can kill you? LOL! Science!

We aren't as logical as we think we are (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047735)

We are seeing more and more evidence that people aren't as logical as we like to think we are. We mostly use logic to rationalize a position that we have already decided.

Here's another in a growing list of papers that demonstrate our illogical nature:

The Law of Group Polarization, Cass R. Sunstein, Harvard Law School, December 1999, University of Chicago Law School, John M. Olin Law & Economics Working Paper No. 91
Abstract:

In a striking empirical regularity, deliberation tends to move groups, and the individuals who compose them, toward a more extreme point in the direction indicated by their own predeliberation judgments. For example, people who are opposed to the minimum wage are likely, after talking to each other, to be still more opposed; people who tend to support gun control are likely, after discussion, to support gun control with considerable enthusiasm; people who believe that global warming is a serious problem are likely, after discussion, to insist on severe measures to prevent global warming. This general phenomenon -- group polarization -- has many implications for economic, political, and legal institutions. It helps to explain extremism, "radicalization," cultural shifts, and the behavior of political parties and religious organizations; it is closely connected to current concerns about the consequences of the Internet; it also helps account for feuds, ethnic antagonism, and tribalism. Group polarization bears on the conduct of government institutions, including juries, legislatures, courts, and regulatory commissions. There are interesting relationships between group polarization and social cascades, both informational and reputational. Normative implications are discussed, with special attention to political and legal institutions.

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=199668 [ssrn.com]

Anyone who solves this basic problem of human nature will, for sure, win an instant Nobel Prize, or, in the alternative, be assassinated before the news can spread.

True, but obvious (4, Insightful)

stevelinton (4044) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047743)

It's true, of course, that there are many more apparent imminent catastrophes (AICs) than actual catastrophes, especially as we are still here to argue about it.
Some AICs arise from incomplete understanding, some from politically motivated woolly thinking and will go away if ignored. Some are real risks and we just get lucky. Others are partially mitigated by actions taken in response to the apparent threat (Y2K for instance). Some may be fully genuine threats averted by prompt action. Nuclear war between NATO and Warsaw pact in the 60s or 70s might be argued to fall into this category. CND and others successfully undermined the notion of "winnable nuclear war" and made sure that no Western politicians would risk nuclear war.

However, NONE OF THIS MEANS THAT THE NEXT ONE WILL NOT BE REAL. Probably it won't, but we can't just assume it isn't a real threat because the last one wasn't. We have to study each plausible threat, do our best to estimate the risk and where the risk appears significant, do what we can to mitigate it. The universe does not owe us continued existence, let alone continued civilization.

Proximate threats to human civilization are: (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047763)

1) Monetary collapse
2) Energy return from hydrocarbons dropping so close to 1:1 that they are no longer a viable energy source (*Not* the strawman "peak oil" arguments).
3) Nuclear war
4) Any disaster which stops nuclear plant maintenance on a large scale (See reasons above).

Strictly speaking, 1 and 2 are "just" the collapse of the interdependent web of "just-in-time" supply chains, however, once gone, they may not be repairable in the lifetime of any living human. 3 is supply chain collapse plus infrastructure damage and radiation. 4 is a side effect of any of the first three reasons.

Cheers!

Re:Proximate threats to human civilization are: (1)

lightknight (213164) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047897)

Nonsense. The greatest threat to humanity is itself. Only need one fruitcake in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and even what little good is done these days quickly becomes undone.

Obligatory XKCD (1)

ctrl-alt-canc (977108) | more than 2 years ago | (#41047827)

TornadoGuard [xkcd.com]

WTF (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41047929)

A moderate, reasoned, logical approach to the problem from all sides rather than just a wild careening from one side to the other with either absolute disaster or nothing going to happen attitudes?

It'll never sell in the journals, papers, news, or theatres so it won't happen.

It needs desperately to happen but it plain won't.

Technology Can Mask (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048019)

We all have images of the black plague and the dead in the streets in Europe. It is easy to understand and visualise. But we can not see the deaths and diseases that quickly spread through tourism on high speed air craft. We have no way to measure or account for diseases caused by such tourism. We also can not measure the deaths caused by exhausts from air craft or automobiles or ships.
                  We can not measure the deaths caused by poor quality food, cost of food, or variety of food driven by pressure of over population. Instead we see only the upside and idiotically believe that science will always yank our fat out of the fire. For all we know science and technology just might be the end of humanity. Yet some sad people somehow equate science and technology almost as if the were Christ on the cross providing salvation for all.
                  I hope it all works out but right now I see much of science and technology as dooming mankind more than helping. We are gambling that there is a point where science and technology suddenly shine with a bounty for all of humanity.

Maybe we want an apocalypse could be interesting! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#41048049)

The word apocalypse comes from apo kalipto in greek meaning un-covering and revelation.
Personally I am looking very much forward to that!!
Just maybe the "apocalypse" around the corner everybody fears so much, is not as much a
disaster to us as it is a catastrophe for those who lord over us. An aware and knowing
population that pursues its life-goals in self -determination would spell an immediate end to
our rulers, regardless whether they appear to us in the guises of the kings and queens
of old or modern day banksters and their prime ministers, presidents etc. of today.
Certain calamities would surely come about, it would not be beyond them to start WWIII
to bomb us back into ignorance, so that is perhaps where the upheaval component comes
in with regards to the apocalypse. However that may be, an uncovering and a revelation
should always be welcome to us and not to be feared, and maybe steps can be taking to
migitate the calamities.

Psychological projection (1)

Wonko the Sane (25252) | more than 2 years ago | (#41048315)

People who go through life experiencing a constant feeling of impending doom that does not dissapate when the claimed causes are shown not to be valid need access to a therapist to about their childhood, not access to public policy.
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