ICYMI: Yesterday, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists moved the Doomsday Clock ahead by thirty seconds, and now it’s two minutes to midnight. Granted, it was 2.5 minutes to midnight before they moved the clock, so while it wasn’t a huge jump forward, it also indicates that globally, there are all sorts of situations that continue to deteriorate. (The decision to move the clock to 2.5 minutes to midnight, which happened in 2017, was in itself an unprecedented move since the clock typically only moves in full minute increments. Basically, things…aren’t great, and they keep getting worse.) (This is not the kind of time traveling I wanted to do.)
This is only the second time that the clock has gotten this close to midnight — the first time was in 1953, after the U.S. and the (then) U.S.S.R both conducted nuclear bomb testing. Comforting, right?
This time, the possibility of nuclear war is again a huge factor in the clock’s jump forward. While there hasn’t been bomb testing lately — at least, not of the kind that are dropped from planes, there has been missile testing. And missiles are basically just self-flying bombs, so there’s that. And aside from the actual weapons themselves, there’s also the fact that “hyperbolic rhetoric and provocative actions…have increased the possibility of nuclear war by accident or miscalculation.”
People have not been playing well in the sandbox lately. Unfortunately, a lot of those people have nuclear weapons. So…yeah.
But the nuclear threat isn’t the only reason the clock is moving forward. The Bulletin also includes the long-term effects of climate change — while increasing temperatures and the accompanying wacky weather and weather-related disasters don’t seem to affect us now, they will in the future. (Though there have been more disasters lately.)
Rapid technological change and emerging technologies is another concern. No, the Bulletin isn’t threatened by technology itself, but in how that technology is used. (So, you know, trying to influence election outcomes and that sort of thing is super not cool.)
And then, of course, there’s the “breakdown in the international order” — there’s concern about the US stepping back from its role as a global leader…and there’s concern about all the finger-pointing and name-calling that’s been going on lately. (See: people in the sandbox.)
The TL;DR version of this is: the Doomsday Clock has jumped forward to 11:58 pm, the closest it’s been to midnight since 1953. We’re inching closer to the apocalypse, and contributing factors are: the global nuclear threat; the continued effects of climate change; technology and the not-cool-use of said technology; and the current WTF nature of international diplomacy.
“2018 Doomsday Clock Statement.” The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. January 25, 2018. Accessed January 26, 2018. https://thebulletin.org/2018-doomsday-clock-statement.
Doomsday Clock Statement Press Release: https://thebulletin.org/press-release/it-now-2-minutes-midnight11464
Behind the Design of the Doomsday Clock (The Atlantic): https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/11/doomsday-clock-michael-bierut-design/412936/
What is the Doomsday Clock and why does it matter? (Wired UK): http://www.wired.co.uk/article/what-is-the-doomsday-clock