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The End is Near – Or, Maybe Not

A team at Oxford University’s Future of Humanity Institute and the Global Challenges foundation has identified the greatest risks to civilization. The twelve risks they identified are obviously of the apocalyptic variety and they even go so far as to assign scientific probability to each. Interestingly, of the greatest risks to civilization, none have anything to do with the Keystone pipeline, Adam Sandler movies, or Hostess Twinkies.

Who even knew there was such a thing as a Future of Humanity Institute? Admittedly, I know very little about it, but I suspect it consists of a couple of Brits sitting in leather chairs with a bottle of scotch, a few saltine crackers and some Cheez Whiz. I’ll bet they are great fun at parties.

Nonetheless, here is the list they came up with. Some of the risks identified no doubt required a second bottle of scotch.

Bad Global Governance

If this is all it takes to bring about the end of the world it surely would have happened already. I mean, c’mon! Between the Obama administration, the technocrats of the European Union, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong Un, the crew over in China, the collective mess that is the Middle East, whatever it is they do in Africa, and the laughingstock of all laughingstocks, the United Nations, nobody can look at the world and say, “Yep, it’s in good hands.”

Corruption, incompetence and megalomania are not traits in world leaders that make it easy for the rest of the world to sleep, but it isn’t necessarily end of the world type stuff. (Note: Most of these world leaders seem to have no trouble sleeping themselves.)

Probability: n/a

Asteroid Impact

After 60 years of sci fi movies, if we haven’t figured out how to handle a wayward asteroid hurling itself towards earth, we probably never will. Fortunately, we now may have enough technology and know-how to steer an incoming asteroid elsewhere – like to one of Michael Moore’s houses.

Probability: 0.00013% (This would have been lower, but Michael Moore is a big target.)

Artificial Intelligence

I think the good folks at Oxford’s Future of Humanities Institute overstate this problem. My argument for reaching that conclusion can be summed up in two words: Joe Biden.

Probability: 0-10% (The folks at FHI clearly have a much higher opinion of Biden than I do.)

Super Volcano

Now we’re getting somewhere! But it would have to be a super-duper volcano, not the pedestrian Mount St. Helens variety, which was so 20th Century. We expect much greater things here in the 21st Century. This could lead to a “volcanic winter,” where the ash from the volcano would absorb the sun’s rays. I think this would probably be a bad thing for the planet, not to mention the Winter Olympics. How would we know when they should be held? And the Coppertone people would be totally out of business. But if civilization is ending, I guess sunburn is not a primary concern.

Probability: 0.00003%

Ecological Collapse

This sounds pretty bad too – a total collapse of the earth’s ecosystem. In this scenario, the planet could no longer produce enough food to sustain the world’s population. On a positive note, given how little food is actually included in it, this would have no effect on Michelle Obama’s school lunch program.

Probability: n/a

Global System Collapse

This involves an economic and societal collapse. Think of it as sort of a Lehman Brothers meets Ferguson, Missouri, but on a lot bigger scale. In other words, the entire world becomes Venezuela. I think most of civilization could handle a volcanic winter better than no toilet paper.

Probability: n/a

Extreme Climate Change

Al Gore got quite excited over this one. He’ll probably want to make another lousy movie. Fortunately, climate models have proved to be as accurate as Ford’s test marketing for the Edsel in the 1950s. People will love it, Ford executives thought. People didn’t.

The likelihood of man-caused climate change (climate disruption, or whatever it will be called the day after tomorrow) leading to the end of civilization is as likely as Gore reducing his carbon footprint. Carbon offsets, my a**.

Probability: 0.01% (It would be 0.0001% if Gore would just fly commercial.)

Nuclear War

Um, check back after Obama is done negotiating with Iran. This could jump to the top of the list.

Probability: 0.005% (For now…)

Global Pandemic

Ebola, rabies, the inability to laugh at oneself – any of these could be fatal if they spread uncontrollably. That last one is especially dangerous. It already affects almost anyone of the progressive persuasion and is practically a prerequisite for becoming a bureaucrat. (See: Lois Lerner)

It’s a good thing birds have a good sense of humor, so there’s little chance of that spreading to dangerous levels.

Probability: 0.0001%

Synthetic Biology

This one falls under the Too Smart for Our Own Good Department. It is, you know, genetic engineering. We’ve already made it through Chastity Bono becoming Chaz and Bradley Manning turning into whatever it is he’s turning into, not to mention several letters of the alphabet being co-opted by various and sundry other “genders.” How much worse can it get, right?

Probability: 0.01%


Apparently, this has something to do with self-replicating nano machines taking over the planet. Even under this scenario there are some places that nano machines would avoid. Detroit and, once again, Venezuela come to mind. Steven Spielberg will direct.

Probability: 0.01%

Unknown consequences

Anything that doesn’t fit into any of the other categories listed above falls into this category. Here are a couple of other catastrophes to consider:

Reality Television continues unabated.

The National League adopts the designated hitter.

Probability: 0.01% (Unless, of course, there is a reality TV show starring Mario Lopez. Then it increases to 98.9%)

Curtice Mang is the author of the two books, including the new book, The Smell of Politics: The Good, The Bad, and the Odorous. He  is also co-host of the radio program Graceland with Jennifer Meadows.  He can be contacted at, where one can also purchase his books; or contact Curtice at mangwrites at


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