Rise of cars and a black hole. 7 real doomsday scenarios
For millions of years, man has somehow come to terms with the fact of his mortality. But, you must admit, we are not at all ready to admit and, most importantly, understand that someday everything around us will end, that life itself will disappear. And although the idea of the Apocalypse has been occupied by theologians and philosophers since ancient times, we continue to think that this is all “make-believe”.
And what do scientists think? It turns out that they are already ready for very specific scenarios of the end of the world.
1. As in the "Terminator"
One "beautiful day" will come the so-called Singularity - when the combined power of all existing systems of Artificial Intelligence will begin to acquire and increase new capabilities at an unbelievable speed. By then, the machines will probably be in control of all vital systems, including food and water supplies, energy, sewers, and global finance. That is, if desired, cars will capture us without a fight.
Probability: unknown. Every year and a half, the power of computers doubles. And although skeptics say that even the smartest cars are so far “no smarter than cockroaches,” some scientists are waiting for their sharp progress in a few decades.
Bottom line: Mankind can start resistance (even a war between people and machines in the style of "Terminator" is possible). Moreover, computers are unlikely to destroy the planet itself, since they themselves exist on it.
2. A strike from space
The solar system is plowed by a variety of objects, from giant "cobblestones" to asteroids with a diameter of hundreds of kilometers. Periodically, they collide with our planet. 65 million years ago, one such object, possibly a comet, crashed into what is now known as the Mexican coast, and caused a global winter that killed dinosaurs. And in 1908, the Tunguska meteorite destroyed a huge area of the Siberian taiga.
Probability: neither now nor tomorrow, but sometime in the distant future this could happen again.
Bottom line: A blow so powerful that it destroys, at least partially, life on Earth, was not at least 3 billion years. But an object that once killed dinosaurs could have done away with human civilization at once. Perhaps people, too, will die out to the last.
3. Genetically created epidemic
Ebola has not (and will not) become a global epidemic because it is hard to transmit and kills its victims too quickly. However, if it had been artificially altered so that it was transmitted through the air or manifested itself more slowly in symptoms, allowing infected people to travel around the world, then it would kill millions of people.
Probability: it may turn out to be the most frightening threat in the near future, if suddenly the terrorists have the necessary knowledge and equipment.
Result: catastrophic. Even less exotic infectious diseases like bird flu can kill hundreds of millions of people.
4. Nuclear war
Despite the restrictive treaties, there are more than 15,000 nuclear warheads and bombs in the world - in theory, this is enough to kill every person on Earth, and more than once. Even a local nuclear war will cause massive destruction. For example, if India and Pakistan exchanged a hundred explosions equal to Hiroshima, then just dust raised into the air would cause a global temperature drop of 1.2 degrees Celsius.
Probability: high. Nine states possess nuclear weapons, several more seek to possess them, and these are countries that are far from democratic principles.
Bottom line: A nuclear war, say, between Russia and NATO, is unlikely to wipe out humanity from the face of the earth, but it will destroy billions of people and undermine the world economy for a century. As you already understood, a local atomic conflict will have devastating consequences far beyond its borders.
5. Accident at particle accelerator
Even before the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, the German scientist Otto Rössler stated that in theory, a collision of atoms in an accelerator could mistakenly create a black hole that would absorb the Earth. But this is absurd: the energy in collisions in the LHC is much less than in natural collisions under the influence of cosmic rays. Although it is possible that once a more powerful version of the LHC can create something that destroys the planet or even the universe.
Probability: in fact, very low.
Bottom line: perhaps destructive, but, again, very unlikely.
6. “God will press the switch button”
Many scientists have noticed that the fundamental physical forces and laws of nature seem to be specially tuned so that life can exist on the planet. Recently, Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom suggested that the Universe could be one of countless simulations in some computer alien to us.
Probability: If you make some assumptions, then the chance that our universe is created artificially grows to over 50%. And the fact that no sign of the existence of alien life has yet been found can serve as indirect evidence that our Universe is not what it seems.
Bottom line: catastrophic if “God” gets bored with playing in us. And most importantly, we can not do anything about it.
7. Climate disaster
Not the end of the world in the literal sense, but something very close to it. To cope with a sharp change, humanity will need all available resources. Moreover, the worst moment may come precisely when the human population reaches a new peak - 9 billion by the middle of the 21st century. Millions (mostly poor people) will lose their homes due to rising sea levels (up to a meter or more by 2100), and agriculture will be ruined.
Probability: today we almost certainly know that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will continue to grow seriously, and the climate will react accordingly: in the future it will be 3-4 degrees warmer on the planet than it is now.
Bottom line: in some regions it’s just disastrous, others will suffer less, for example, Northern Europe, where the warming will not be so sharp due to the influence of the Atlantic. The good news is that, unlike many other scenarios, we still have the power to prevent this.