It’s 2017 and we’re still viewing the world as we know it like it’s going to be around in 70 years. We need a plan here, people.
Before we dive into the details, let me just air a grievance here. The problem with Survivalism is that you can’t really talk about Survivalism. It’s not a rule like in Fight Club, it’s just social stigma. Try and engage in a serious conversation about doomsday prepping, and at best you’ll get a half smile and some awkward nodding. Ask someone to describe a “doomsday prepper” and they’ll likely paint a picture of a slightly unhinged, Carbine-toting individual in paramilitary gear with mild-to-paranoid delusions about war, abductions, nuclear fallout, aliens, and other society-ending tropes.
Mass media has also played its part in reinforcing this stereotype with (usually) sensational emphasis on the reclusive, firearm-toting, self-defense aspects of Survivalism.
Yet, for all the crazy characters and silly stereotypes, the idea of preparing for survival is a fundamental, evolutionary need — something that, perhaps in our coddled First World society, we’ve come to take for granted.
There is a growing number of people worldwide that not only believe that cataclysmic events are looming, but that mass extinction is imminent in the near future — there are Facebook groups dedicated to Near-Term Extinction and there was even an “extinction candidate” running for Senate in California.
Whether we’re already doomed or merely f*cked (humanity is resilient and resourceful, after all), research does indicate that major paradigm-shifting events are converging around certain key dates in the near future.
Major Paradigm Shifts Ahead
Two issues are set to dramatically affect humanity within the next 70 years: severe climate change, and the potential arrival of artificial (general and super) intelligence.
What sets severe climate change and AGI/ASI apart from other catastrophic events of the past and those afflicting us today (such as terrorism, poverty, famine, and nuclear warfare) is that with the former we are already locked into rigid trajectories with forecastable paradigm-shifting outcomes. The general consensus among scientists is that it’s not a matter of if, but when. It turns out even the when is not really all that far from today either.
For the sake of brevity, I’ll be focusing on climate change as a paradigm-shifting catalyst below. However, that is not to say that AGI/ASI will be any less dramatic in upending society as we know it. For an exhilarating and hugely disturbing overview of the progress and eventuality of artificial intelligence, I strongly urge you to read: The AI Revolution: The Road to Superintelligence.
The following is what we should expect to happen by year 2100, possibly earlier:
- The average sea level will increase. And I’m not talking about occasional flooding in low-lying areas: projections range from major social disruption to disaster-movie-scale flooding.
- National Geographic reported that: “A recent study says we can expect the oceans to rise between 2.5 and 6.5 feet (0.8 and 2 meters) by 2100, enough to swamp many of the cities along the U.S. East Coast. More dire estimates, including a complete meltdown of the Greenland ice sheet, push sea level rise to 23 feet (7 meters), enough to submerge London.”
- The Miami New Times reported Dutch sea level expert Henk Ovink saying: “If we look around the world and take into account sea level rise and the increase of water related disasters, among the places in the world that have the most assets and investments at risk, Miami is leading that list,” and “Miami will no longer be a land city, but a city in the sea.”
- Maldives, population 330,000, is projected to be completely submerged by as early as 2085. That’s an entire country, pretty much completely gone.
- The average temperature is projected to increase by 2 degrees worldwide — this translates to average daily maximum temperatures of more than 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) across Africa, South America, and India. Even cities in the Northern Hemisphere like New York and Los Angeles will see summer temperatures reaching these levels too. (You can fry an egg at 55 degrees Celsius, by the way.)
- The mighty glaciers in the Everest region of the Himalayas are projected to be completely eradicated by 2100.
This is just a sampling of projections from various sources. Granted, projections for 2100 vary depending on the CO2 emission scenario (or more recently, Representative Concentration Pathways) factored in — ranging from possibly manageable (if you’re optimistic) to outright doomsday-level — but changes are nonetheless on the way: it is now a matter of predicting exactly how much time we have before the worst-case scenario happens, and how we should be preparing.
An Economy Built on Extinction Mitigation
If we view drastic climate change as not a mere possibility but a concrete eventuality, we have a rare opportunity to prepare. In fact, we have an obligation to prepare. And I don’t mean as doomsday preppers retreating into our secluded bunkers — I’m talking about widespread institutionalized preparation via the only means that we as humans have been able to make huge strides throughout history: market-driven progress.
Yes — existing measures to curb emissions need to be kept up (and ramped up), but because scientists are now projecting irreversible changes even if we cut all emissions today — this is not enough.
It is imperative that we start thinking about how we might reroute the economy towards extinction mitigation as a global industry — education, innovation, preparation, construction, re-construction, mass migration — and what that kind of world might look like. I mean, there’s bound to be a healthy demand for survival, right?
If the U.S. East Coast is even partially swamped by 2100 (as per the Nat Geo report) — how long would it take to rebuild new settlements to house the displaced? Where would we find the land? Does it have to be on land? Do national boundaries matter at that point? According to a report on The Guardian, it could take as little as one year to develop suitable housing for one million residences — it’s already happening in Egypt’s new capital city.
Based on this rate of construction — indulge me for a second here — if we take the entire population of the (soon-to-be-possibly-submerged) U.S. East Coast (that’s 112 million as at 2010), it would take around 112 years to develop new settlements. If we started right now we would only just make it in the nick of time.
This is obviously an over-simplification, but it does serve to illustrate the scale of preparations and the massive shift in our collective mentality and resources needed. Now what about London, Shanghai, San Francisco, the Maldives? What about places that become too hot to support human life?
Look at this as an unprecedented opportunity for all of mankind to unite behind a common cause as an imminent force of change looms on the horizon—any timeframe beyond a couple human lifespans and society generally puts it off for the next generations to figure out— but now that we’re at most two generations away: It’s really now or never.
Thanks for reading my post! If you found this interesting, please share it so that other would-be doomsday preppers can find it. If you have any ideas about what an extinction mitigation economy might look like, or reading / viewing materials to suggest — leave a response below. I’d love to hear from you.