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The 6 Ways the Human Race is Most Likely to be Wiped Out
The end of the world as we know it...
Have you ever heard of a black swan event? Nassim Nicholas Taleb popularized the term, and he defines it like so:
A black swan is a highly improbable event with three principal characteristics: It is unpredictable; it carries a massive impact; and, after the fact, we concoct an explanation that makes it appear less random, and more predictable than it was.
If the human race were wiped out, it would definitely be a black swan event. In other words, it might be on this list, and it might not, but in either case, it would be an unlikely, unexpected event. If it wasn’t, we’d be doing far more to prepare for it. Additionally, our species also might be wiped out by what the late, great Donald Rumsfeld would have called an “unknown unknown”:
“We also know there are known unknowns — that is to say, we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns, the ones we don't know we don't know.”
We are a vulnerable, fragile species living on one planet in a universe that we know very little about. So, it’s always possible some alien race or unknown type of particle wave that has been traveling across the universe for a billion years or some other unforeseen tragedy could wipe us from existence at any time.
That’s one of the reasons you should roll your eyes when you hear people claim Elon Musk is “wasting money” by trying to get us to Mars. Life on earth could be gone tomorrow and if life on earth doesn’t find a way to spread, our species could be gone with it.
Of course, that begs the question; How is it most likely to happen? Here are the best guesses.
Honorable Mentions: Aliens, accidentally creating a black hole on Earth, anti-matter accident, Idiocracy scenario, out-of-control nanotechnology, and supervolcano.
6) Asteroid Strike: You don’t think we could be wiped out by an asteroid strike? Well, tell it to the dinosaurs. Our best guess (obviously, no one can tell us this definitively) is they were wiped out 66 million years ago as a result of the 9-mile-wide Chicxulub meteor hitting the planet. We believe that after the asteroid hit the planet, it created the biggest tsunami in history. A mile-high wall of water wiped out a lot of life, but it wasn’t the primary killer. Massive amounts of dust, dirt, and rocks would have been blown into the Earth’s upper atmosphere. The rocks may have killed a lot of life on the way down, but more significantly, the dust would have likely darkened the planet for months leading to a cooling of the planet and the widespread death of plants. No plants? That would mean no food for a lot of herbivores. If they died out, then what would the carnivores have to eat? Could the same thing happen to us? Absolutely. In fact, a much bigger asteroid could be somewhere in the vast reaches of space, hurtling towards us and, despite what you may have seen in the movie Armageddon, we don’t have any practical way to stop it:
5) A Sperm Die-Off: Of course, humanity could end with a whimper, not a bang. What if we were simply unable to continue breeding because men across the planet became infertile?
Overall, the researchers determined that sperm counts fell by slightly more than 1% per year between 1973 and 2018. The study concluded that globally, the average sperm count had fallen 52% by 2018.
When the study researchers restricted their analysis to certain years, they found that the decline in sperm counts seemed to be accelerating, from an average of 1.16% per year after 1973 to 2.64% per year after 2020.
“It’s really remarkable that actually, the decline is increasing,” said study author Dr. Hagai Levine, an epidemiologist and public health researcher at the Braun School of Public Health and Community Medicine.
On a population level, the average sperm count dropped from 104 million to 49 million per milliliter from 1973 through 2019. Normal sperm counts are considered to be over 40 million per milliliter.
There are two things worth noting here. The first is that this drop in sperm counts has been going on for decades at this point and more alarmingly, we still don’t know what’s causing it. We can take some intelligent guesses about the now ever-present plastics and chemicals in EVERYTHING these days, but we don’t know for sure, nor do we know at what point, if any, it’s going to stop. Granted, there might be some stored sperm or pockets of isolated humans that aren’t impacted, but if most humans stop breeding, then the human race doesn’t have a future.
4) The Climate: If you think I am about to launch into a warning about global warming, you are incorrect. Although few people will admit it, our understanding of “climate science” today is about on par with the Greek understanding of medicine 2,000 years ago. Anyone who tries to tell you we have a good idea of what the climate is going to look like 50 or 100 years from now, is completely full of sh*t and trying to mislead you for clout, money, or ideological reasons. That being said, we humans are completely reliant on the atmosphere of the Earth for survival, and the fact we don’t understand it all that well is a little alarming. We’re essentially like fish living in a fish tank, with no understanding of how to keep the water pristine. In fact, there is an outside chance that our lack of understanding could kill us via massive geoengineering projects designed to fight global warming:
"Geoengineering is a blanket term for technologies that try to alter Earth’s physical qualities on the largest scale possible," Popular Mechanics reported. "One example is cloud seeding, where airplanes flush clouds with particulate matter in order to coalesce into rain."
Solar geoengineering involves using technology to try to reflect solar radiation back into space before it can interact with greenhouse gases. The most commonly proposed method is to use aerosols — "the gaseous clouds formed by particles of many common materials" — because the physical structure of their particles blocks and scatters light, according to Popular Mechanics.
But solar geoengineering is controversial, even according to the Harvard researchers who proposed the experiment. For one thing, the methods could have unintended consequences on global weather patterns.
There have been times in Earth’s history when the planet was considerably hotter than today and when it has essentially iced over. Could that happen again without us doing anything to cause it? Yes – and would billions of humans continue to survive on Planet Antarctica? That seems highly unlikely.
3) Nuclear Weapons: All of us are aware of the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons. Nobody wants to end up on the business end of one of them. However, have you ever considered how many nuclear weapons there are and what could happen if they were ever launched on a widespread scale?
Let’s say the United States and Russia launched a few thousand nuclear missiles at each other. The population centers of both nations would be obliterated and the rest of us that lived would grow extra eyes and glow in the dark (Or gain superpowers! Think positive!), but what else could happen? Many people believe we could see an effect similar to an asteroid hitting the planet with massive waves of dust going into the upper atmosphere, which would lead to a “nuclear winter” that would kill off plant life and cause mass starvation. Luckily, the US and Russia get along very well, right? Oh, wait….
2) Artificial Intelligence/Death by Success: Understand what exactly is happening with artificial intelligence. We are trying to create an alien intelligence that is SMARTER THAN WE ARE, that will be used EVERYWHERE, in EVERYTHING, by EVERYONE across the world that we can control and use to serve us. Maybe it’ll work. Maybe it’ll be more like cows thinking they’ve been manipulating the farmer into feeding them. It’s not as if there aren’t countless movies warning of the possible consequences of going down this path.
How about War Games?
The scariest one though is The Matrix:
Imagine being dominated, controlled, and used by machines without even having the capacity to know it was happening.
But, as my friend Glenn Reynolds has noted, we should also be wary of what happens if AI does “work” and redesigns our world to make us happy. More particularly, what happens when we start combining things like AI, robots, and Elon Musk’s brain chip? Imagine a world where AI does our thinking, robots do our work and we have an endless stream of pleasures, designed by an intellect far superior to ours, pumped directly into our brains. A world where the robots are sexier than humans of the opposite sex and are designed to cater to us, where we have no need to do… well, anything, except enjoy ourselves. We’re not that close to it yet, but we have now moved far enough along the path that off in the distance, we can start to see the outlines of how that world could look. Out of all the ways the human race could end, that would be the most pleasant one, but it would still be the end of us.
1) Global Pandemic: There is still debate about whether COVID came from a lab in China or jumped to humans from animals, but what is not up for debate is that all across the planet, humans are playing God in a laboratory with deadly viruses. How do we make viruses more deadly? How do we make them spread easier? How do we increase the number of people each sick person infects? There are scientists in many nations trying to figure out questions like that as you read this.
Believe it or not, for all the havoc it caused, the fatality rate of COVID was quite low percentage-wise. Bird flu has a 70% fatality rate. Ebola? 90+%. Imagine a virus that kills like Ebola, but spreads like COVID getting loose in the wild. It’s worth noting that there are also experts who believe DNA-specific viruses will soon be used to target different strains of animals, different ethnic groups, and perhaps even specific people. Of course, that could lead to let’s say China or a Muslim terrorist group developing and releasing a virus designed to target Caucasians in the future, believing they’d be safe, only to have it mutate and wipe out much of humanity. We could even have a 12 Monkeys scenario where some environmentalists, misanthropes, or psychopaths deliberately release a virus designed to kill as many people as possible:
Being wiped out by tiny organisms we can’t even see with the human eye would be an ironic way for a species that believes it’s at the top of the food chain to go, but it’s certainly possible.