Why Is This Important?
Because the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
Long Story Short
The “Doomsday Clock,” a construct created by nuclear scientists in 1947, describes how close we are to an apocalypse using horological imagery. The scientists kept the clock at three minutes until “midnight,” the second-closest to doom we’ve ever been.
There’s no denying that if the world is destroyed, it will likely be at the hands of mankind. An asteroid could do it, sure, but it’s far more likely that we’ll blow ourselves to hell with nuclear weapons. That’s the thinking behind the “Doomsday Clock,” a construct created by nuclear scientists associated with the Manhattan Project in 1947. Now run by the Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists, the closer the “clock” gets to midnight, the closer we are to man-made annihilation. Set at three minutes to midnight last year, things have not improved: We remain just three minutes from midnight.
The clock takes into account several human technologies that can (and probably will) lead to our demise. Nuclear armaments have always been the largest factor, but lately other, newer technologies have played a prominent role. Climate change, for instance, is a major topic (and not unrelated to violence). Technologies that work to limit it would help move the clock backwards, while those that contribute to it move it forwards. Biotech and other emerging technologies (including the cloud and other cyber developments) all have the potential for both harm and good.
“Unchecked climate change, global nuclear weapons modernizations, and outsized nuclear weapons arsenals pose extraordinary and undeniable threats to the continued existence of humanity, and world leaders have failed to act with the speed or on the scale required to protect citizens from potential catastrophe. These failures of political leadership endanger every person on Earth,” the scientists wrote last year.
If climate change and the continued proliferation of massive nuclear weapons were part of why the clock advanced to 11:57, it’s hard to see how that’s changed since last year. Doubly so when you consider developments like Russia’s nuclear torpedos and North Korea’s (likely overstated) claims of nuclear capability.
The clock is just an abstract construct, so it’s not as though ticking down to midnight would result in an automatic and unavoidable apocalypse. But it’s a terse reminder that for all the good that happens in the world, there’s plenty of bad happening out there.