Rise of cars and a black hole. 7 real doomsday scenarios
For millions of years, people somehow resigned themselves to the fact of their mortality. But, you see, we are not at all ready to admit and, most importantly, understand that everything around us will someday end, that life itself will disappear. And although the idea of the Apocalypse from antiquity has been occupied by theologians and philosophers, we continue to think that this is all "make-believe".
What do scientists think? It turns out that they have already prepared quite specific doomsday scenarios.
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 begins with unimaginable speed to acquire and increase new opportunities. By then, the machines will probably control all vital systems, including the supply of food and water, energy, sewage and world finances. That is, if desired, the machines will capture us without a fight.
Probability: unknown. Every one and a half years the power of computers doubles. And while skeptics say that even the smartest machines are still “not smarter than cockroaches,” some scientists have been waiting for their dramatic progress in a few decades.
Bottom line: Humanity can start resistance (even a war between people and machines in the style of "Terminator" is possible). In this case, computers are unlikely to destroy the planet itself, since they themselves exist on it.
2. Blow from space
The solar system is plowed by a variety of objects, from giant “cobblestones” to asteroids hundreds of kilometers in diameter. Periodically, they encounter 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 Tungussky meteorite destroyed a huge area of the Siberian taiga.
Likelihood: neither now nor tomorrow, but someday in the distant future this may happen again.
Bottom line: The impact, so powerful that it would destroy, at least partially, life on Earth, was not at least 3 billion years old. But the object that once killed the dinosaurs could have done away with human civilization at once. Perhaps people too will die out every single one.
3. Genetically created epidemic
Ebola has not (and will not) become a global epidemic, because it is difficult to transmit and kill its victims too quickly. However, if it were artificially modified so that it was transmitted through the air or more slowly manifested in the symptoms, allowing the infected to travel the world, it would have killed millions of people.
Probability: it may be the most frightening threat in the near future, if suddenly the terrorists will have the necessary knowledge and equipment.
Outcome: catastrophic. Even less exotic infectious diseases, such as 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 not just once. Even a local nuclear war will cause widespread destruction. For example, if India and Pakistan exchanged hundreds of explosions equal to Hiroshima, then dust alone 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 erase humanity from the face of the earth, but it will destroy billions of people and undermine the world economy by a whole century. As you already understood, a local atomic conflict will have disastrous consequences far beyond its borders.
5. Accident on 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, by mistake, create a black hole that would engulf 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 will destroy 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 the laws of nature seem to be specially tuned so that life can exist on the planet. Recently, a philosopher from Oxford Nick Bostrom suggested that the Universe could be one of countless simulations in some kind of alien computer.
Probability: If you make some assumptions, then the chance that our universe is created artificially grows to over 50%. And the fact that no signs of the existence of alien life have been found so far can serve as indirect evidence that our Universe is not what it seems.
The result: catastrophic, if the "God" bored us to play. And most importantly, we can not do anything about it.
7. Climate disaster
Not the end of the world, literally, but something very close to it. To cope with the dramatic change, humanity will need all the available resources. And 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 the year 2100), and agriculture will be ruined.
Probability: for 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 the planet will be 3-4 degrees warmer than now.
Bottom line: in some regions, just catastrophic, others will suffer less, for example, Northern Europe, where warming will not be so dramatic due to the influence of the Atlantic. The good news is that unlike many other scenarios, we still have the power to prevent it.