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Some things about the future can be known with a human degree of certainty, but others cannot be known even generally even with mathematically perfect knowledge of every fact. In the case of long term survivability of the human species, and of our planet our foresight is clouded. There are so many variables and therefore we should be cautious, and prepare for the probability of unusual events. Here is a list of thoughts which should be obvious:

Doomsday guiding principles.

The following list was influenced by the book: The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by N.N. Taleb. His book is based on experiences with the stock market and its relationship with unpredictable future events, but it serves well as a guide for this problem.

  1. We should avoid taking chances where we might get seriously hurt. – And its flip side:
  2. We should take chances where there is little risk of injury and there is a potential for scalable rewards (rewards increase faster than the risk or effort).
  3. We may mitigate the worst of catastrophes effects by thinking through to the after state beforehand, and making preparations now for that after state.
  4. We can make a list of events which will trigger a positive feedback loop of events which lead toward catastrophe, and watch carefully for those precursor events.
  5. We can prepare for the knowable consequences of an event rather than worry about the exact timing of an event with an unknowable probability.
  6. Often it’s not easy to know the right thing to do or not to do, but it is usually easy to identify what is a bad thing to do or not to do.
  7. People have difficulty imagining what they have no experience of — like the future — but, when it comes to really important things, like Doomsday, we must not be stupid.
  8. Just because we haven’t gotten whacked yet for being stupid about preparation for a Doomsday event doesn’t mean we should keep being stupid.
  9. We must be made aware that preparing for possible events stabilizes the present situation by giving purpose, and direction to our current behavior.
  10. History is dominated by unexpected events, and we have trouble admitting that obvious fact, and preparing for unusual events, but this event is now becoming critical and the time is ripe for Doomsday.

Those are some guiding principles which can be considered before Doomsday arrives. They are not predictors of Doomsday, but they are indicators of ways to think about it, and prepare for it. They are so simple a child can understand them. But it is for responsible adults to apply them.

Positive feedback stresses leading toward catastrophe.

Here is a list of things which might bring about a positive feedback in which case each passing cycle aggravates the situation, and brings us ever closer to Doomsday:

  1. Population increase is exponential unless there are limiting factors. In the case of humans — at present the top predator species — the limits on population are famine, infanticide, and homicide in its many varieties. There is one other, and that is universal fertility control, which is impossible in the present world.
  2. Resource consumption of limited materials. Our high tech society has many demands for common, and strange materials, some of which we may be or become dependent upon without even knowing it. For example the red in your monitor comes almost exclusively from a single rare earth element mine in south China. Who would know or care until it becomes unavailable, and it is too late to correct the dependency? There are probably many other things equally obscure, but absolutely necessary for continued high tech civilization.
  3. Farm land consumption, and its becoming insufficient to maintain the population, because it has been depleted through overused minerals, lack of fertilizer, water erosion, wind erosion, sea level flooding, over building with housing, and highways, and abandonment. All of the above are now in constant play, and with our huge population. Farm land is being consumed instead being cohabited with, and will soon be exploited beyond its carrying capacity, and collapse.
  4. Biological threats. We tend to worry most about diseases which attack humans because they are easy for the media to make visibly horrible, and they are a real threat. However, a biological attack on a major cereal crop would certainly bring modern society to great stress, and although it wouldn’t kill everyone directly many would die.
  5. Aggressive groups, and their leaders can always find reasons to come into conflict with others. This has happened thousands of times in written history, and there is little to limit to the aggressive impulses of people. But, when resources are in short supply successful agitation by this type of leader becomes easier.
  6. Appropriation of other people’s property and goods comes into play when there are not enough resources especially food resources to sustain everyone. People are hesitant to rob and kill other people so when this type of appropriation behavior is organized it is a strong indicator of bad times ahead.
  7. Warring states spending their time, energy, and resources means that they are not producing food, and other necessities; thus they precipitate even worse shortages, and this becomes a positive feedback in its most vicious form. Large scale famine is the result with great population reductions. The four horsemen of the Apocalypse — War, Famine, Pestilence and Death — in that order.
  8. Modern weapons brought into the feedback loop offers the potential to multiply the carnage a thousand times over, and as there are many states in possession of these weapons. The end result of a major war will be a total collapse of civilization in the affected zones. In a serious confrontation this means the entire Northern Hemisphere, and some of the Southern Hemisphere.

Combinations of overstressed factors aggravating each other.

The problems listed above are to some degree independent, but as stress accumulates, and each one becomes more powerful, they will tend to interact, and cascade toward a total war.

  1. If one central node fails others which are linked to it will probably weaken and together they will precipitate a progressive collapse.
  2. Population increase demands more food is needed and if supplied soon means more population demanding even more food until something happens to break the cycle.
  3. Resource consumption means there is less of the quality resources to exploit, and what remains is of a lower quality, and is more difficult and expensive to acquire.
  4. Conflict means rapid exploitation of all readily available materials by all contending parties, and this precipitates a long term loss of productivity, and the losses after the conflict must be made up from a depressed condition.
  5. If there is an atomic war the losses will be profound, and the recovery will be restarted from a very depressed condition.

What can be done now?

  1. Learn to enjoy living at a low energy consumption level.
  2. Limit explosive population growth!
  3. Shut down CO2 production!
  4. Move to a CO2 absorbing economy.
  5. Remove atomic weapons from the world!
  6. Realize that all of the above are politically impossible.
  7. Put Lifehavens in place to help regenerate a new world.

The time is ripe for Doomsday. So prepare.