In the early 1700s the physicist and religious oddball Sir Isaac Newton predicted that the world would end sometime between 2034 and 2060. His reasoning—in stark contrast with all his work in physics—came from his radical belief in Christianity and the occult. We’re not going to take Newton at his word, but there is something similar about the year 2040 that we will discuss presently.
In the meanwhile, our planet is continuing unabashed on its way to becoming a college dorm room after two years of constant partying—unliveable. (Consider that we’ve been partying for centuries at least.) Anyway, 1% of our earth is already an ‘unliveable hot zone’ today; by 2070 scientists estimate as much as a fifth of the earth could be unliveable. But really, that shouldn’t be a problem because there’s a chance our kind will be wiped out by around 2040 anyway.
The World One program
So what’s all the fuss about 2040? In 1973 a group of MIT researchers made a model of the Earth and let their simulation program, dubbed World One, predict how global sustainability would evolve with time. The simulation instead predicted that humankind would go extinct by 2040, with the first milestone—the first signs of global civilisational collapse—starting to show in the year 2020.
You may argue that the variables used back in 1973 are not perfectly representative of current times, which is true. But all it does, likely, is push the extinction year off by a few decades. Reliable? Interesting? Draw your own conclusions.
Blockchain v misinformation
The other big issue threatening to bring our society down is misinformation. Some people revel in it, some are disgusted by it, others gobble it up—intentionally or otherwise. While little can be done to combat it on social media where it is most trigger-happy, an NY Times-led a study suggests that roping in social media platforms and making them, along with existing publishing houses, mere players in a blockchain system could go a long way in making it hard to spread misinformation without getting caught.
Even if you don’t know what this whole ‘blockchain’ thing is, this article takes care of introducing the concept to you really well.
When an algorithm gets it wrong
Keeping in tune with our futuristic discussions, we turn to the MIT Technology Review which runs a podcast creatively titled In machines we trust, in an episode of which the consequences of algorithms messing up were discussed. How wrong can an algorithm go? It can get you falsely arrested.
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2040? the end of time,
I hope you enjoyed this issue. Share your thoughts by simply replying to this e-mail. Loyal readers have been doing so for years and we love the conversations that ensue. Also, don’t forget to forward this issue to your friends who might find it interesting. Spread the love.