I don’t worry much about dying. Dying is far more natural than living, or being born. Nearly all of the universe isn’t living; 99.99% with a bunch more 9s isn’t alive and certainly won’t be while you and I are around to worry about such things. I’ve written hundreds of blog posts on the various existential problems for humanity and what we should be doing about it. They are rather matter of fact in their style, and just list the probable outcomes of various behaviors we humans are participating in. See Probaway’s views of existential risks to humanity, for some links to more posts.
What the media presents as risks to your existence or the existence of humanity in general are not really threats at all. The Boston Marathon Bombing is a perfect example, where three people are killed and the media goes into a frenzy. That might seem a bit overblown, but our local people took that threat so seriously that all ammunition for guns is totally sold out, at least locally. If three ordinary people were killed in Boston in a car wreck that day what is the chance of it making our Oregon papers? That’s an easy answer, because even on the slowest news day it wouldn’t happen.
The media does perk up its sensors when SARS, H5N9 and AIDS, the nasty four letter words make a debut. These diseases could pose an existential threat to humanity. Not total annihilation, but even with good hospital treatment the mortality of H5N9 flu is 25% to 50%. Modern young adults, at least here in the developed world, haven’t grown up with “the diseases of childhood”. Communicable disease is so uncommon that many parents think they don’t apply to modern people, so they refuse to have their children vaccinated. Here is a long list of diseases you might get. Cheer up, you probably won’t get any of them. But, to be thorough here is a list of historic epidemics.
With seven billion people all living within twenty-four hours flying time of each other, a highly contagious disease, with just the right properties, so it could spread around the Earth without being detected, could run wild. It has happened before, even with a transportation system that took years to circumnavigate the globe. The Old World was ravaged by Plague starting in the 1340s and in a few decades wiping out half the people in some places. But, the real tragedy occurred right here in the Americas, with the arrival of Old World diseases in the 1520s. We usually hear about Cortez‘s conquest of Mexico being made possible by smallpox. That conquest was made possible because the local Indians were cooperating with Cortez to get rid of the Aztecs, as well as by disease. It was Cortez’s lieutenant Pizarro who went to South America with less than two hundred men and captured the Inca Empire. The Inca were astonished at how healthy the Europeans were, because they themselves had been hit with wave after wave of new deadly diseases, and each new disease was hitting already sick and weakened people.
Disease may soon be ravaging humanity. I don’t know! But, one thing is certain, humanity can not keep doubling its population much longer.