We're All Going To Die!
If the experience of life has taught me anything, it has taught me that people like staying alive. Somewhere in the very essence of what it is to be alive is that special feeling that philosophers call “qualia of consciousness." Being alive feels like something. Here we are, inside our little meatboxes, looking out at all the other meatboxes and we know they’re feeling like they’re alive too. Most all of us like being alive. At the most primitive level, we hate that we won’t be alive at some point. The fear of not being alive anymore is huge. We don’t want to die.
But we’re all going to die!
I don’t just mean that, someday, eventually, we will all, individually, one-by-one, in our own time, die. Cue tiny voice in your head, saying, “Well the species will carry on.”
No it won’t.
We’re all gonna die! The animals? Yes. The plants? Yes? Those new tardigrades they discovered? Yes. The mushrooms? Yep. We’re all gonna die. Here’s what you need to know:
First off, we’re very lucky to even still be here. According to a group of Oxford geneticists, it was shown that in the early history of ancient man, we were down to merely 4,000 individuals. According to science writer Sam Kean in his book The Violinist’s Thumb our ancestors almost went completely extinct (possibly 40 humans) in 70,000 BC. when a volcano called Toba on the island of Sumatra blew up. It was 2,800 times stronger than Mt. Saint Helen’s in 1980 and nearly 1,000 times stronger than Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. It caused a layer of ash 6cm deep all over the globe and it likely blotted out the sun for six years. In 1816, Mount Tambora in Indonesia blew and caused “A Year Without a Summer” in the Northern Hemisphere because it shot 80 cubic kilometers of volcano vomit into the sky. That’s compared to Mont Toba’s 2,800 cubic kilometers in 70,000 BC.
So think of that. In very recent history, we almost ceased to exist as a species. If it were to happen again (I’m looking at you, Yellowstone Super Volcano), there would be nothing we could do about it. Like Clubber Lang in Rocky III, the earth has “got a lotta mo” for us.
But if that doesn’t do us in, there are a lot of other options for erasing us and everything our species every accomplished, figured out, learned, loved, hated, created, developed… whatever. Here we go:
CERN. Some people think CERN already had an accident and that’s why the Cubs won the 2016 World Series and Trump got elected president of the United States of America. In doing whatever the hell it was supposed to be doing, smashing subatomic particles together to see what happens, I guess, it caused our universe and neighboring parallel universe to bump into each other, causing events from the two universes to be intermingled and the Mandela Effect was born. Look it up. It’s fun, if you like going insane. The problem with saying CERN destroyed us is, well, we’re still here. Regardless of the universe we are currently experiencing, we are still experiencing something, which is what living things do. So… we’re not dead yet. But CERN could screw up worse. It could blow us up, or what could happen is that CERN or whatever comes next in that technology could cause a mini black hole. A small enough one will evaporate due to Hawking radiation but a big enough one just swallows us up into nothing. Or what if the reaction just scrambles the laws of physics and speilking (sp? OH NO! IT’S HAAPPENING!). How many times do we get lucky before some scientists make a tiny error that kills us all?
There are also rogue black holes. They exist and we wouldn’t be able to notice them until we were past the event horizon and onto that matterfall fun ride to spaghettification.
Have you heard of gamma ray bursts? Not the kind that make you the Incredible Hulk. An incredible burst of gamma radiation across the universe caused by a collision of two collapsed stars. It has 10 quadrillion times more energy than our sun. By the time we see it, because it’s a time of light energy, we will be in the process of quickly dying. Every last one of us. We’d never see it coming. It could happen right now. Or… NOW! Grrrrr… NOW!! Or in two weeks. Or after you're dead from head injuries from all your street brawling.
But I supposed some of you don’t feel science stuff like that. Here are some more threats to ruin your day. The sun, absolutely will destroy the Earth in five billion years when it dies and, selfishly, takes us with it. It will expand into a red dwarf and burn up everything, including your favorite ice cream shop. The one where they know what you like and they call you by name and sometimes they forget to charge you. That one. It’ll be all burned up. Thanks, Sun.
But we probably won’t make it that far anyway. Get this: Our success as a species could kill us. Harvard Biologist E.O. Wilson has shown that we make up 100 times the biomass of any large animal in Earth’s history. We weigh 750 billion pounds. So there. Now you know how much all of us weigh. There are currently seven billion of us, but we keep expanding. The UN website projects that we’ll hit 10 billion by 2044 and could hit 36 fothermucking billion by 2300. If that sounds crowded and you worry about how you’ll feel in a crowd like that after medical science allows you to live to the year 2300, don’t worry. You’ll be dead anyway.
According to David Quammen’s book, Spillover, we might not get that far because at population densities like that we are likely to see deadly viruses being easily transmitted at a speed we’ve never seen. Walking Dead time, people. Except, no sheriff can save us.
Quammen says the next big plague will be worse than the Black Death and Spanish Flu and nut allergies combined!
Asteroids! NASA’s Near Earth Object Program predicts that on April 23, 2029 and April 23, 2036 (exactly seven years apart—just enough time for the Rapture and the Tribulation to start and finish, if you like to think about that stuff), an asteroid called Apophis will come within 18,300 miles of Earth. Lucky… this time.
Of course, as anyone who’s ever spoken to or even seen another human in action can tell you, we’re most likely to all die from our own stupidity as a species. To elicit Halloween style fright, “It’s coming from inside the house!” We're the ones that will kill us! Obviously, wars, poisons, environmental issues. All we can do to escape our fate, if it is at all possible, is to work together as a species to delay or completely prevent these events from affecting us.
We got to the moon only 65 years after the invention of the airplane and the moon landing set in A Trip to the Moon (for those who believe it was staged). We’ve landed probes on Mars. We’ve shot stuff way out in space. Ultimately, we’ll have to speed through Michio Kaku’s 3 Civilization Types to solve all these problems. Type 1 is when a species masters a planet and the energy resources within. Type 2 is when a species masters the power of the solar system. Type 3 is when we master the power of the galaxy.
But we will have to figure out all of our species specific problems before we can even become a Type 1 civilization. And, in this time of year when all is focused on death and darkness, death and darkness is what I currently predict for life on Earth.
WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE! Happy Halloween!