A vision of a perilous future for us all, and recommendations to avoid it

Summary: Today we take a quick look at our terrifying future. Or at least the future painted in the news media to terrify us. It need not do so. We can gain perspective and confidence from our past, and take reasonable precautions for the future.

From David Icke's website
From David Icke’s website

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Contents

  1. We are the cause of New America
  2. Past perils that we have survived
  3. Future dangers we face
  4. About shockwaves
  5. For More Information
  6. A new national motto for a perilous 21st Century

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(1) We are the cause of New America

We are a nation of three hundred million, collectively the richest in the world. Largely well-educated, with an adaptive and entrepreneurial society residing in a land richly blessed with natural resources. Our history is that of a skeptical and unruly people, fiercely protective of their liberties. There should be no obstacles to our governing America in peace and prosperity.

Unfortunately something changed during the past generation or so, for mysterious and perhaps unknowable causes. We have become a weak and gullible people. People easily manipulated by propaganda, and easily led by our fears. We are a gift to our ruling elites, competent folk who see our weakness and exploit it. That’s the great circle of life.

We see our fears used by both Left and Right. The news media helps both sides, trumpeting the threats on the front pages (experts who downplay or even disprove threats live on the back pages). As time passes some of these threats evaporate; new ones emerge to replace them.

Only the fear remains constant.

(2) Past perils that we have survived

When looking at future perils, we can gain both perspective and confidence from those we have survived. Some were real dangers; many were myths designed to manipulate us, like these:

  1. The Bomber Gap
  2. The Missile Gap
  3. Satanic cults
  4. Saddam’s WMDs
  5. The Libyan hit teams roaming America (gated TIME article; open version)
  6. American children have grown old while keeping watch on our shores for arrival of Russia’s super carriers (although they appeared regularly at Congressional appropriation hearings)

These were child’s play compared to the threats of the 21st century. It’s odd that we did not learn skepticism from these, to investigate and analyze before giving in to fear.

(3) Future dangers we face

Here are a some of the terrors facing us (some of which have been falsely predicted in past decades — or centuries). Be seated while reading this.

Fear: Sinatra
“The Way You Wear Your Hat : Frank Sinatra and the Lost Art of Livin'” by Bill Zehme (1997)

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Iran will have the bomb in two years (as we have been told since 1984). But we will be too busy to worry about Iran when China becomes a superpower and challenges us for control of the world.

We might not care about Iran and China, being preoccupied by problems at home. Islamic terrorists will use ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) guns to make Sharia the law of the land. This will lead to civil war between them and the vast hordes of Roman Catholic Hispanic immigrants. They’ll be fighting amidst the wreckage after the government goes bankrupt and the dollar becomes wastepaper during the hyperinflationary Great Depression II.

Even our foes will be broke as the world’s resources are exhausted. Peak oil. Peak fresh water. Even peak phosphorous.

At least the collapse of the world economy and the following wars will diminish our ability to further wreck the biosphere. No more overpopulation. Of course we will still suffer the effects of past chemical pollution (perhaps subtle ones, like impotence from hormones in the water). Too bad about the inevitable extreme species extinction; we’ll miss the animals (unless we build a space ark, as in the film Silent Running).

While we suffer from these ills we will bake amidst the floods and storms during the droughts resulting from global warming. We can entertain ourselves counting the various natural disasters wrecking the world. A reversal of Earth’s magnetic field, mega-tsunamis (more common than you think), and massive volcanoes.

Providing variety, we can look forward to the sun hitting us with another solar storm like the Carrington Event of 1859. The National Academy’s warning is terrifying (you impatient folks can read the summary). It will knock out the world’s electronics! So we will not see the rock coming that will devastate a continent (“The odds that a potentially devastating space rock will hit Earth this century may be as high as one in 10“).

Now for the bad news: as a result of all these things we will be too weak to deal with the coming super-plagues.

Why we ineffectually fret and fume about these, the 1% quietly consolidate their control over America. So there’s no need to concern ourselves about these things, since — unless we change our game — they’ll be making the decisions about what to do.

(4) About shockwaves

“No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.”
— Edmund Burke, A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of Our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful (1757)

These are all shockwaves: low probability, high impact events (of course they’ve seldom sold as low probability by activists). We need to analyze each to learn the its impact AND probability. Otherwise these are just nightmares.

Many studies have shown the people have little grasp of shockwaves’ probabilities and risks. Today analysis of shockwaves is done almost exclusively by special interest groups (often academic or non-profits) who have vested interests in the relevant field.

The precautionary principle is the tool of choice for analysis of individual threats, such as climate change. But in fact we allocate resources to shockwave scenarios based on factors far less logical:

  1. the group’s access to elite opinion,
  2. the group’s ability to raise funds,
  3. their degree to which their shockwave resonates with the public.

There is a better way to do this. Not only are there possible “shockwaves”, but the US and world have many mundane needs that deserve funding. Since resources are finite, we must access their relative importance — which few of these special interest groups around each shockwave bother to do. I discuss this in greater length in this post; here is my suggestion how to do so:

Commission a group to collect as many shockwave scenarios as possible, with a brief analysis of each. Fortunately there are thousands of interest groups willing to pitch in and help! Then apply a common analytical framework to rate them on both dimensions: probability and impact. The results would prove quite interesting, and allow more rational public policy discussion about which to act upon.

(5) For More Information

Posts about our fears:

(7) A new national motto for a dangerous 21st Century

Only a calm cold perspective will allow us to navigate among so many perils.

No Fear

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Some sound advice

Fear: Anderson

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15 thoughts on “A vision of a perilous future for us all, and recommendations to avoid it

  1. We might not care about Iran and China, being preoccupied by problems at home. Islamic terrorists will use ElectroMagnetic Pulse (EMP) guns to make Shari the law of the land……..

    Apparently the sages at Fabius Maximus are made from sterner stuff than I! I know Shari….and Shari is one mean bitch!

    1. My wife can tell if the post is too scary by looking at the graphics, so she doesn’t need to read the disturbing ones.

      My son has the second sight (precognitive powers), so he can tell when I am about to write a post too scary for him.

  2. In one of the Sid Mierers Civilization games you could use little floating nano robots to make a rival civilization unhappy. The little nano robots would project subliminal adverts of consumer items that don’t exist onto the eyeballs of the citizens. The citizens would then devote time and resources to fruitless searches for the fake products, becoming more and more irritated and upset as there desires went unmet.

  3. Extremely rare events can’t even be assigned a probability, since they happen too infrequently. Example: the eruption of the caldera in Yellowstone National Park which first occurred 2.1 million years ago:

    The first Yellowstone supervolcanic eruption 2.1 million years ago was at least 25,000 times larger than the Mount St. Helens eruption. Two other Yellowstone super eruptions 1.3 million and 640,000 years ago, though smaller than the first one, would still dwarf any normal volcanic eruption.

    Source: “How a supervolcano can threaten Earth,” CNN website, 30 August 2013.

    Rule of thumb:

    If an event is so rare you can’t assign a probability to it, it’s not worth worrying about. Also, events tend to follow a power law in which low-energy events are orders of magnitude more probable than high-energy events.

    It’s theoretically possible than a supernova might occur several light-years away from our sun and the resulting wave of gamma radiation would wipe out all life on earth. It’s also so unlikely that the probability can’t be meaningfully calculated, so once again not worth worrying about.

    1. More,

      In fact geologists have calculated the probability of supervolcanco eruptions. But your point is, in a broader sense, of course correct. At some point the odds become too low to concern ourselves with.

      For a good analysis of odds of civilization-shattering natural disasters I recommend reading “Unclear Winter”by Charles Sheffield, published in New Destinties, Summer 1988. He estimates the odds of a volcanic eruption of nuclear-war scale of energy released to be one per thousand years. The odds of a near-by supernova hitting Earth with equivalent energy is one per a few billion years.

  4. Actually those probability calculations depend heavily on assumptions on the underlying probability distribution. The tails of a Gaussian probability distribution are very differently shaped from the tails of a Poisson distribution or a Weibull distribution.

    These differences aren’t small. They can amount to changing the likelihood of some event 5 standard distributions away from the mean from 1 in a million to a 1 in a hundred, or 1 in one hundred million.

    The point is that when you have a grand total of three or four observed events in history, you can’t begin to form a reliable estimate of the underlying probability distribution. So the calculations are simply meaningless.

    1. “The point is that when you have a grand total of three or four observed events in history”

      I believe the point is that the scientists doing these calculations know what they’re doing. Also, your estimate of the number of supervolanic eruptions is misleading in two respects, depending on what you meant by “in history”.

      * Aprox 50 eruptions have been identified and dated that are 8 on the Volcanic Explosive Index, roughly every 10,000 years

      * Eruptions can be dated by geological methods, so we’re not limited to the historical record. We would know very little about Earth’s past if we were limited to written records (oral history is of little use).

      * The most recent supervolcano eruption was Lake Taupo, 26 thousand years ago. Not recorded in either oral or written history.

      * If you are referring to smaller eruptions, the number is far larger than 3 or 4.

  5. When it comes to mottos on fear I am partial to Frank Herbert’s “Fear is the mind killer.” Or just go with the whole thing:

    I must not fear.
    Fear is the mind-killer.
    Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.
    I will face my fear.
    I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
    And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
    Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
    Only I will remain.

    1. And of course if I had read your posts in chronological order I would have seen the Dune quote. New rule: read all unread posts and then write comments.

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