22 votes

2020 Doomsday Clock Announcement (100 seconds to midnight)

24 comments

  1. [7]
    skybrian
    Link
    The Doomsday clock is a surprisingly effective PR gimmick used by a non-profit organization to get attention for the risk of nuclear war (originally) every so often. They've branched out to...

    The Doomsday clock is a surprisingly effective PR gimmick used by a non-profit organization to get attention for the risk of nuclear war (originally) every so often. They've branched out to talking about other existential risks as well. When they put out a press release it's interesting to see what what they have to say, but that doesn't mean that this "clock" is measuring anything, or even used as an indicator of rough probability. When the clock moves it means they have a press release. They ran out of minutes, so I guess now they switched to seconds?

    In this case, they are pointing to these developments in 2019:

    • Iran resuming efforts to build nuclear weapons
    • The demise of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty
    • Little progress towards an agreement with North Korea
    • Lack of progress on climate change. (This seems out of their usual area of expertise and a poor fit for their metaphor, but sure, why not.)

    They don't mention Trump but these might be seen as an implicit criticism?

    There are also some shout-outs for:

    • Fake news and information warfare
    • Genetic engineering
    • Artificial Intelligence
    • Hypersonic weapons
    • Space weapons development
    16 votes
    1. [6]
      0lpbm
      Link Parent
      I'm actually surprised that some commenters seem to take this article as an objective future prediction. :)

      I'm actually surprised that some commenters seem to take this article as an objective future prediction. :)

      4 votes
      1. [5]
        aphoenix
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        Which commenters seem to be taking this as an objective future prediction? Do you mean mine? It's the only one that seems like it could be the case. It's important to note that I don't think of...

        Which commenters seem to be taking this as an objective future prediction? Do you mean mine? It's the only one that seems like it could be the case.

        It's important to note that I don't think of this as an objective future prediction, but I've been "watching the clock" since about 1995. The pieces they put out are almost always a good read, and the people that work at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists are generally pretty smart, and I respect what they're saying. I don't think we're literally seconds from doomsday (otherwise the clock has been inaccurate for the entirety of it's 50+ year existence), but I think that we are not doing very well as a civilization at this particular point in time.

        I do think that it's possible that there will be a set of circumstances that will change the earth so much that this planet will no longer support humans. I'm hopeful that we'll have achieved the ability to leave, or that the looming crises can be averted, but I don't think that it's an overstatement to say that we're closer to finishing ourselves off than ever before.

        5 votes
        1. [4]
          0lpbm
          Link Parent
          For someone that is this well spoken you seem to have a problem with this metaphor. Or maybe I am, I don't know. But it doesn't count seconds, it counts the level of certainty regarding a doom's...

          For someone that is this well spoken you seem to have a problem with this metaphor. Or maybe I am, I don't know. But it doesn't count seconds, it counts the level of certainty regarding a doom's day scenario.

          Here's my interpretation of it (and apologies if this is feels patronizing):

          23:59H to midnight: an agrarian society of the middle ages: they have no capabilities in their immediate future to fuck everything up.

          12:00H to midnight: post electricity society: technology develops enough that they're heading in a annihilation direction, but still very remote.

          1H to midnight: atom bomb is tested, but fear of assured mutual destruction keeps everyone in check. No real intentions of using it from world leaders with the capabilities.

          1min to midnight: international tensions rise, and nations with nuclear capabilities are coming closer to using it.

          Midnight: official war has been declared, and it's only a matter of time until escalation brings the use of nuclear arsenal.

          2 votes
          1. [3]
            aphoenix
            Link Parent
            Before we continue, I want to clarify the intended tone: I am curious, and in no way aggravated. What thing did I say that indicates to you that I have a problem with this metaphor? I feel like I...

            Before we continue, I want to clarify the intended tone: I am curious, and in no way aggravated.

            What thing did I say that indicates to you that I have a problem with this metaphor? I feel like I explained that I've been following the writings of the Bulletin for 25 years; I think anyone who has read this article or any of the other ones would have a very clear understanding of the metaphor.

            3 votes
            1. [2]
              0lpbm
              Link Parent
              I based my reply mainly on this, which suggested to me that you looked at the doomsday clock as representing real seconds to doomsday. Also there's the vehemence of your arguments against the...

              I don't think we're literally seconds from dooms day (otherwise the clock has been inaccurate for the entirety of it's 50+ year existence)

              I based my reply mainly on this, which suggested to me that you looked at the doomsday clock as representing real seconds to doomsday. Also there's the vehemence of your arguments against the doomsday clock idea in whole. I mean, yeah, a bunch of scientists that present an opinion piece that gets a lot of publicity. You find that unwarranted to such degree that determined you to write multiple paragraphs multiple posts. Why?

              1. aphoenix
                Link Parent
                Again my tone: confused, trying to figure out what I said to misrepresent what I meant to this degree. The thing you quoted is my explicit statement of my understanding that the doomsday clock is...

                Again my tone: confused, trying to figure out what I said to misrepresent what I meant to this degree.

                I don't think we're literally seconds from dooms day (otherwise the clock has been inaccurate for the entirety of it's 50+ year existence)

                I based my reply mainly on this, which suggested to me that you looked at the doomsday clock as representing real seconds to doomsday.

                The thing you quoted is my explicit statement of my understanding that the doomsday clock is a metaphor. "I don't think we're literally seconds from dooms day". I am not following how my explicitly spelling out that I understand that it is a metaphor convinced you that I did not think this was a metaphor.

                You find that unwarranted to such degree that determined you to write multiple paragraphs multiple posts. Why?

                I'm also not sure what arguments you think I am vehemently making against the Bulletin? To be clear: I am a donating member OF the Bulletin. I think the things they write need to be read by more people, especially the world leaders. What have I said that makes you think otherwise? What arguments have I made against them?

                3 votes
  2. aphoenix
    Link
    For reference, the history of the clock. We are now closer than ever to ending humanity. I mean, not us personally, but the people who actually do stuff. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping....

    For reference, the history of the clock.

    We are now closer than ever to ending humanity.

    I mean, not us personally, but the people who actually do stuff. Vladimir Putin, Donald Trump, Xi Jinping. These are not the only people, but the three who most obviously teeter us on the brink of destruction.

    I have no power to do anything about the state of the world beyond what I already do. I hope that we survive, somehow, because I love my kids and want them to have the same sort of life that I've lead - a life measured, at this point, in "minutes to midnight". How bleak is it that this is my goal for my children; to live at "minutes to midnight" instead of seconds?

    6 votes
  3. [2]
    SheepWolf
    Link
    Closest to midnight that the clock has ever been. I'm not really sure what tags to use. Nor was I sure whether this should go in ~news or ~enviro, so feel free to move it, if you think it would...

    Closest to midnight that the clock has ever been.

    The Doomsday Clock is a symbol that represents the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. Maintained since 1947 by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the Clock is a metaphor for threats to humanity from unchecked scientific and technical advances.

    I'm not really sure what tags to use. Nor was I sure whether this should go in ~news or ~enviro, so feel free to move it, if you think it would fit better elsewhere.

    4 votes
    1. muh_tilde
      Link Parent
      Welp, looks like Iron Maiden will need to update this song.

      Welp, looks like Iron Maiden will need to update this song.

      1 vote
  4. [13]
    JakeTheDog
    Link
    How is this not grand sensationalism? Or any different than the cliche of a "crazy" person with a sandwichboard painted with "the end is near"? What bothers me here is the dressing of subjective...

    How is this not grand sensationalism? Or any different than the cliche of a "crazy" person with a sandwichboard painted with "the end is near"? What bothers me here is the dressing of subjective opinions as some kind of objective, quantifiable fact. Nobody can predict the future, regardless of how obvious it may seem (for reference, see 2016 election predictions and also post-election fallout of how we're going back to the dark ages).

    8 votes
    1. [9]
      Diet_Coke
      Link Parent
      The main difference is that instead of being an indigent person with untreated mental illness, it's a group of Nobel laureates.

      The main difference is that instead of being an indigent person with untreated mental illness, it's a group of Nobel laureates.

      10 votes
      1. [8]
        JakeTheDog
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        So what? Nobel laureates can also be indigent people with untreated mental illnesses. Winning a Nobel prize means you contributed something significant in an intellectual niche. It does not...

        So what? Nobel laureates can also be indigent people with untreated mental illnesses. Winning a Nobel prize means you contributed something significant in an intellectual niche. It does not immediately qualify one as an infallible genius across other disciplines, let alone as an oracle.

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          Diet_Coke
          Link Parent
          That's a weird flex from someone invoking 'standing on a street corner with a sandwich board' imagery but ok. Which one, precisely?

          That's a weird flex from someone invoking 'standing on a street corner with a sandwich board' imagery but ok.

          Nobel laureates can also be indigent people with untreated mental illnesses

          Which one, precisely?

          6 votes
          1. JakeTheDog
            Link Parent
            I meant the "crazy" to be in quotes precisely because I don't accept the term but it's a cultural archetype and easy to refer to. Who knows. I rather not intrude in peoples personal lives, let...

            I meant the "crazy" to be in quotes precisely because I don't accept the term but it's a cultural archetype and easy to refer to.

            Which one, precisely?

            Who knows. I rather not intrude in peoples personal lives, let alone medical records. Point being, that mental illness does not preclude success or ensure mental health down the line.

            Anyways, this is all a derailment of my point. Which is that this clock is at best only fun speculation.

        2. [5]
          The_Fad
          Link Parent
          You're treading dangerously close to "reject intellectualism, science is wrong" territory.

          You're treading dangerously close to "reject intellectualism, science is wrong" territory.

          2 votes
          1. [4]
            JakeTheDog
            Link Parent
            What? Where exactly is the science here? Predicting the future (i.e. "midnight") is not exactly a science... Unless astrology is your standard of science...

            What? Where exactly is the science here? Predicting the future (i.e. "midnight") is not exactly a science... Unless astrology is your standard of science...

            5 votes
            1. [2]
              Qis
              Link Parent
              Nah yeah you're right, it's broadly unscientific and doesn't really measure anything. It's just that to whatever extent there can be thought to be an authority on these matters we would hope that...

              Nah yeah you're right, it's broadly unscientific and doesn't really measure anything. It's just that to whatever extent there can be thought to be an authority on these matters we would hope that that group of people would take seriously the task of reissuing their official warnings. It's just social.

              2 votes
              1. JakeTheDog
                Link Parent
                Yea, I totally agree that this sort of activism, if you can call it that, is an overall good. As it can put pressure on people to act. My only issue is that its authority is so misrepresented that...

                Yea, I totally agree that this sort of activism, if you can call it that, is an overall good. As it can put pressure on people to act. My only issue is that its authority is so misrepresented that it becomes a joke, and leaders that should be pressured by things like this just dismiss it outright. Not unlike how Greta Thurnberg is both raising awareness but is also making an easy target for the dismissal of climate change.

                I suppose oversimplification and overconfidence are what rub me the wrong way.

                1 vote
            2. [2]
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              Link Parent
              1. [2]
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                1. [2]
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                    1. Deimos
                      Link Parent
                      Well, this got unnecessarily hostile very quickly. I'm going to remove the last few comments that started escalating. Don't continue this bickering, or I'll wipe the whole chain.

                      Well, this got unnecessarily hostile very quickly. I'm going to remove the last few comments that started escalating. Don't continue this bickering, or I'll wipe the whole chain.

                      7 votes
    2. skybrian
      Link Parent
      You're of course right that the doomsday clock is not real. Also, based on their track record it doesn't seem like the distance from midnight is useful even as a rough measure of estimated...

      You're of course right that the doomsday clock is not real. Also, based on their track record it doesn't seem like the distance from midnight is useful even as a rough measure of estimated probability; it seems fairly meaningless other than as a way to build dramatic tension, like the ticking time bomb in a movie.

      I think you might be getting a bit over-dramatic about it yourself, though? As I've posted separately, it's a PR gimmick; they call it a "metaphor".

      5 votes
    3. suspended
      Link Parent
      I agree that the Doomsday Clock is over sensationalized.

      I agree that the Doomsday Clock is over sensationalized.

      2 votes
    4. 0lpbm
      Link Parent
      I'm not sure what makes you say that "subjective opinions are being dressed as being objective". Except a couple of remarks regarding climate change which is presented as certain, everything else...

      I'm not sure what makes you say that "subjective opinions are being dressed as being objective".

      Except a couple of remarks regarding climate change which is presented as certain, everything else seems to be spoken about pretty much in the realm of possibility with various degrees.

      Are you sure that you're not blowing this "sensationalism" thing out of proportion?

      2 votes
  5. bleem
    Link
    lets hope dr manhattan sacrifices himself

    lets hope dr manhattan sacrifices himself

    1 vote