Our discussion Thursday about whether there really is any “End of the World” event coming in 2013 got reader Bill inspired to send me an email – where he takes me to task for only putting 10% odds on a world-ender next year.
“Well, now you are up to 10% odds that the bad things are really going to happen. I have to chuckle Geo.
My analysis is that the 10% is not a measure of the probability, rather it is a measure of the current size of your DENIAL.
Clif is not the only one who has said IT is coming. Farsight.org guys saw it and they have impeccable technology now. And all sorts of other prophecies from the Hopi to Nostradamus to Cayce just to mention a few. And note I did not mention Revelation, until now.
I think you better be pumping up your rubber boat. Just might not be able to get to your aeroplane. Come to think of it, have you considered upgrading your Beech to a float plane ? Might be a good idea.”
Well, hold on there brother Bill. I don’t think so. The world is NOT going to end today…hopefully….so let’s sit back for a moment and look at some of the evidence on how well humans do at predicting the future while we have time.
To begin with, I’d direct your attention to a “Global Catastrophic Risks Survey” which was a technical report by the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University in 2008.
The survey questions – themselves – are revealing. They included:
Deaths caused by nanotech
Killed by runaway artificial intelligence
Total killed by all wars in the next 100-years
Total killed in nuclear wars
Number dead in largest nanotech accident
Number killed in largest pandemic disease outbreak
Total killed in nuclear terrorism
Overall risk of extinction, now to 2100
What’s revealing is that my own “pet” worry list is comprised of a whole list of catastrophe sources which weren’t even on this 2008 list:
Catastrophic failure of the Internet (which would ripple everywhere, but principally into communications and finance initially) due to (pick your flavor) a) terrorism, b) virus/worms, c) war, d) socioeconomic pressure, and e) political/uprising pressure.
The arrival of 99942 Apophis in 2036.
Various versions of catastrophic plate tectonic collisions gone badly, which in turn bring along the long linguistically-predicted global coastal event GCE.
And last, but our stock-in-trade around here, global economic collapse and descent into anarchy due to the failure of the global economic system.
Now, let’s talk for a moment about odds: There is (very nearly) a 100 percent chance that Ures truly will be dead in 35 years. Oh, I suppose space aliens could show up, decide an East Texas Reprobate would make a fine zoological specimen back on Gahzorptune 6, but I’ll leave that one at zero for the sake of discussion this morning.
But let’s now consider how to assess the combined odds of all of these items, point by point, for where I am and how I’m equipped. You can do this yourself, but your odds are likely to be different than mine.
1. Odds of being killed by nanotech in 2013? Nearly zero for us: We’re outside a major metro area in the woods and besides, I’ve read The Andromeda Strain and I’m not wandering into small towns and dealing with crying babies and such.
2. Killed by runaway artificial intelligence: Well, if you live in a setting which happens to have life support controlled by AI, your odds might be higher, but out here in the Outback, the “man-machine interface” with AI is virtually non-existent…and what little could be imagined can be dealt with by 40-rapid fire rounds by a 7.62 X39, I reckon. On the other hand, if you’re in a medical setting where AI “owns you” or you work in a bio lab and the containment system decides you’re using too much oxygen, then yes, you’re done. But out here, we place the odds near zero.
3. Odds of being killed in war: If we happened to live in a big city, near a drug border, in a third world crap hole, or in a famine-plagued area, sure, our odds would be higher than zero. But for war to make it to this part of the Outback, there’s going to be a year of urban fighting, and if it shows up after that, see the 7.62 reference under #2.
4. Odds of being killed in nuclear war? Again, near zero, even if there is a global thermonuclear exchange. First because Montalba, Texas is not a first strike target and secondly because we have a copy of Nuclear War Survival Skills: Updated and Expanded 1987 Edition on hand, plus the checklist of items and a calibrated meter. I will grant you that in the event of an actual war our odds of being dead in 2014 and beyond go up considerably, but for 2013? Near zero, once again.
5. Odds of death from pandemic disease? Well, once again, we don’t go near busy international airports a lot (OK, any then…) and we don’t go to bio-terror targets like sporting events and concerts. So with the possible bio-risk of eating in a small town greasy-spoon, again, odds are near zero.
6. Odds of death from nuclear terrorism as similarly near-zero. Being a recluse is calm and peaceful. In fact, I’ve been working on my blood pressure and after dinner last night, while watching TV I posted a 118 over 59 with a pulse of 56. So no, I don’t think terrorism is going to get me, either, nor should a heart attack if I keep up my focus on blood pressure reduction.
You should be noticing a trend here: When we start looking at the odds of dying in 2013 (discounting killer tax rates, or course) the odds are pretty good so far.
7. Moving onto my list, what are the odds of a major Internet failure of some kind in 2013 that disrupts communications and finance for a million people or more? Gosh, what do you think? Three percent sounds fine to me. But remember, these risks may be regional and as a result, planning multiple access points to the Internet may moderate risk. We pop up in diverse places due to having three different “on ramps” one of which is satellite-based. No, that doesn’t make us invincible (close, maybe) but it does mean that the odds of the ‘net being down long enough to kill us are near enough zero because we won’t starve to death, or anything like that, and we can all get off meds, which increases risk but is likely not fatal.
8. We can keep the risk of Apophis at zero for next year…
9. Catastrophic tectonic plate issues, or related pole shift, although a damn nuisance if they happen are still low prob. events. Since they haven’t been happening really frequently we might suppose that they are a certainty over a large enough time domain – a few million years and it could be 100 percent. But to nail is down to 2013?
Even given that remote viewing works (it seems to) there is still the time domain issue. It’s not precise. And yes, there may be some object in space, but I’ve been reading about the imminent arrival of Niburu for eight years now and despite all the hordes of amateur astronomers, no one can seem to give me inclination, declination and so on, so that I can make some measurements and figure out for myself just when to go on a bender.
To be sure, there were plenty of issues from the 2004 Banda Aceh quake, and others dead in places like Japan and New Zealand. But let’s think about this: The people who died had one thing in common: They were in or near buildings or structures that squished ‘em.
A few were in homes that fell down or were washed away in tsunamis.
But we really don’t worry about that too much. One reason? We live in a mobile home. Yeah, I know, tacky-tacky and why would George & Elaine have put time and money into highly customizing a trailer (as Northerners derogatorily call them)?
Well, for one, our “trailer” is build on four 6″ steel beams which are securely anchored. We could literally drop the house 6-feet and it wouldn’t break. They are designed to go down a road to get somewhere, after all. They bring their own foundation along with them. So no matter what happens, the odds of death due to structure failure are going to be low due to the steel beams, thanks.
Which leaves us with the tsunami problem. First, we are at 600- feet of elevation. So if there is a global coastal event, it’s going to have to be a hell of a lot deeper than even Banda Aceh was.
What’s more, we’re 181 miles from the coast and there are hills and Houston in the way. What’s more, if there were some calamity out in the Atlantic, we would still likely have time to get to the non-sea plane and be up at 6,000 feet long before anything larger than 180-miles by 600 feet gets here.
Still, this is the only area where I see risk and like I said under 10%. I’m hoping way way under but I hedge my bets because it gives me a hobby to go fly around in. But I’m sure as hell not losing sleep over it.
10. The one that does cause me concern is the chance of global economic meltdown. That’s really why we have a bit of stored food, our own energy (solar) some stored diesel and a genset, and all the rest: This – to my way of thinking – has the highest probability of really happening. Some of the things to expect:
Massive dollar depreciation. See the lead story this morning on Fed money printing. This will drive gold up, people bankrupt, and it will create a saleable story that the Second Depression is over. Of course, the reality will be the USA version of the German hyperinflation of 1922-23 in the Weimar Republic, but I’m sure the MSM will spin it up so that people will be thankful and believe it’s a good thing.
Your lifestyle will crater: Going places will go out of style (energy costs dough) and so more and more people will be shunted into virtual lives, which, in turn, increases the risk of Internet terrorism and will drive demands for licensing. Just watch.
I suppose that if you’re inclined to go hide under the bed, 2012 will be like Y2K – another much-hyped but relatively small impact event.
I was ready for that one, too, though: I was on my sailboat away from Seattle, my 40-foot sailboat loaded to the gunwales and ready to start society over. As it turned out, it was a big waste of time, but I slept well and lived cheap on the stored items for a year.
That’s really what I expect out of 2012 and 2013…hell…toss in 2014, too. There is always risk around. What defines us is how we assess, and then, how we respond to that assessment.
While the Hopi, Nostradamus, and all ‘them old prophets’ have a period here where things can be construed as lining up, I’m trying to take it with a grain of salt and planning for the best while hedging the worst.
Yet this morning, I still place the odds under 10%, but if we get an 8.0 earthquake before this time next week, then OK, my odds will go up to 15%…maybe even 20%.
But barring that, you’ll hopefully be suffering through my columns for many years to come. Starting Monday morning would be fine, better though tomorrow for Peoplenomics subscribers…
Write when you break even…/p>
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Remember the Part Where I Said….
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