Math the end of the world: can scientific progress to lead to the destruction of humanity?

Perhaps you are seeing the sunset of humanity. Like in the movie “the Matrix”, when Morpheus told Neo about the real world and computer simulations — the same matrix in which the peak of development of our civilization. If you think that the end of the 90th years of the last century and a really good time. The Earth’s population in 1999 was 6 billion people, climate change was not so rapid, before the first iPhone had much 7 years, as Internet access could be obtained only with a modem. And then, according to the story, the scientific progress has destroyed humanity and the government seized cars. But what is happening to our civilization really is and can scientific progress be catastrophic?

Why our planet is in any case will disappear?

Today, scientists know that on 23 September 2090 year will be a total solar Eclipse. Such a conclusion can be drawn from the fact that the Moon, Sun and Earth are moving in stable, predictable orbits with very small perturbations, and the laws of gravity tested and known. For this reason, astrophysicists can predict the future of the Universe, as well as events that will occur over the next billion years. So we know that in the Universe nothing is forever.

In about five billion years the Sun will destroy our planet. When the life cycle of the stars comes to an end, the number of atoms of hydrogen and helium in its core will decrease. Because of this, the star will become brighter and brighter, destroying the next planet and Earth including. In the result, the Sun will become a red dwarf — a small and relatively cool star. It is logical to assume that people on Earth will be much sooner. At least this is the opinion of a considerable number of scientists, astronomer and chair of astronomy Department at Harvard University Abraham Loeb, in an article for the magazine Scientific American admitted that the imminent death of humanity is not in doubt, and therefore proposes to find ways of resettlement to other planets. And as far as possible from the Sun.

However, the Sun does not wait for his death. In space all the time something is happening: the universe is expanding at an increasing rate, and all the celestial bodies and galaxies are not static. According to the study, published in The Astrophysical Journal, the galaxy milky Way — very small by galactic standards — after four and a half billion years will collide with its closest neighbor the Andromeda galaxy. Together they will create a completely new, bigger galaxy. This means that the Solar system will not be over. So our galactic home will sooner or later disappear and be upset about it is pointless. But if the life cycle of the Sun and Earth is limited, how long can human civilization exist?

How long can our civilization exist?

In recent decades, many mathematicians have found a new source of concern about the long-term survival of mankind: the theory of probability. The so-called “doomsday argument” States that there is a 50% probability that the end of human civilization will come in 760 years. But why so many as possible of such calculation, when it comes to serious scientific research? The response includes an unlikely combination of English clergyman of the 18th century and the algorithm of the employees in Silicon valley.

As wrote in an article for The Wall Street Journal is an American writer, columnist, and skeptic William Poundstone, Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) was a little known preacher who was fond of mathematics. World science remember his name, thanks to Bayes ‘ theorem — a mathematical formula that shows how to use the new data to adjust the probabilities. For two whole centuries, his theorem has received little attention, until the invention of computers. Today it is no exaggeration to say that Bayes ‘ theorem is the basis of the digital economy. This is what enables applications, such as Google, Facebook and Instagram to use personal user data to predict what links they will go, what goods want to buy, and even who to vote for. Today the predictions using Bayes ‘ theorem is a probability, not a certainty, but they are worth billions to advertisers, as a whole accurate.

It is logical to assume that if using the Bayes theorem it is possible to predict the likely behavior of Internet users, it may well be used to predict the end of the world. That is what got the argument the day of judgment. In the article of 1993 published in the journal Nature, astrophysicist from Princeton University, Richard Gott, III, used mathematical calculations about the growth of the population and the result predicted that the end will probably come in a thousand years. The theory of the end of the world, Gott begins with the fact that we are compiling a list of all ever living on Earth and those who live today and will live in the future. All the people in the list should be sorted in order of birth. No one living today knows the duration of his life, so statistically there is a 50% probability that we will find ourselves in the first or second half of the list.

Despite the fact that at birth we have no numbers, demographers estimate the total number of people who ever lived on Earth since Homo Sapiens to our days, about 100 billion people. This means that your “serial number” of the order of birth, like any other human being, equal to around 100 billion. Because it’s equally likely that those of us who live today, are in the first or second half of all past and future human births, we can assume that will be in the second half of the list — this will mean that in the future will be born no more than 100 billion people. And again there is a 50% probability that it’s true. With the current global fertility rate (about 131 million people a year, according to 2019) there is a 50% probability that human civilization will not last more than 760 years.

Research Gott is still the cause of controversy, and dozens of influential scientists trying to disprove his findings. However, the most popular claim to work Gott is the lack of possibility of nuclear war and other disasters. The philosopher John Leslie of the University of Guelph in Canada have developed a mathematical model of the end of the world, which allows you to include estimates of the probability of any selected scenario of the Apocalypse. The use of more accurate variables led to an even more gloomy predictions than the study in 1993. However, there are more pessimistic forecasts.

So, in 1973, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of technology (MIT) developed a mathematical model called World3. She modeled the impact of many factors on life on Earth, such as population growth and industry, as well as food production. The obtained results do not go to any comparison with the research of Gott and Leslie — a computer model predicted the destruction of our civilization by 2040. And if this result seem absolutely incredible, one should not jump to conclusions.

In may 2019, the scientists of the analytical center Breakthrough: National Centre for Climate Restoration he presented a large report, which analyzed worst-case scenarios for our civilization. This is the most terrifying scientific report to date, since according to the results, humanity will become in 30 years. The researchers argue that the predictions of climatologists are too limited, but climate change is broader and more complex process than all the threats faced by members of our species. Read more about this grim work can be read in our special article.

But despite the rather gloomy predictions, it is necessary to remember that probability is a constantly changing river that you cannot step twice. Every link on the Internet updates the view advertisers about who you are. The same applies to the end of the world. So, Dr. Gott suggests that the establishment of outposts on Mars might be a good idea, a kind of insurance against future disaster, which struck our planet. But what are the threats today can cause our extinction?

The main threats facing humanity

The future is unknown, but the scientific method allows us to predict the course of certain events. And considering the theory of probability, the awareness of danger can help us to take the necessary measures to prevent disasters. Experts from the world health organization in a report for 2019 allocate at least 10 factors that threaten the health of the population. Many of them coincide with a report on global threats to humanity Global challenges report 2019. Meanwhile, alive — a metaphorical clocks that exist on the pages of the magazine Bulletin of the atomic scientists, this year already stands at around 23:58. Midnight on the Clock Kippur means the beginning of a nuclear war. 23 January 2020, scientists need to announce to the world the change of position of clock hands. It should be noted that since 2007, the watch displays not only the threat of nuclear conflict and climate change. According to the authors of the “Bulletin”, humanity is slowly but surely moving to a catastrophic change.

Nuclear war

2020 started with the escalation of the conflict in the middle East. Experts estimate that in 2017 there were at least 40 armed conflicts and wars. Insecurity, as well as the growth and development of new nuclear weapons every year more and more threatens life on Earth. In 2019, scientists from Princeton University published a video that draws a terrible picture of the consequences of large-scale nuclear war. In the official addresspublished on the website of the journal Science & Global Security, said that the risk of nuclear war has increased over the past few years, as the United States and Russia abandoned the old treaties on nuclear arms control. By calculations of experts, in the result of military action only during the first 45 minutes will destroy more than 3.4 million people. Needless to say about the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear conflict, which is an incredible speed capable of destroying our civilization.

Air pollution and climate change

Nine out of ten people in the world breathe polluted air. Microscopic contaminants in the air penetrate the respiratory tract and the cardiovascular system by damaging the lungs, heart and brain. Polluted air annually takes the lives of 7 million people. About 90% of deaths occur in countries with low and middle income and high volumes of emissions in atmosphere of harmful substances. This makes air pollution one of the main causes of climate change. According to who, it is expected that between 2030 and 2050, climate change will cause 250 thousand additional deaths per year from malnutrition, infectious diseases and extreme heat.

Let me remind you that climate change is making our planet hotter with each passing day. According to the latest report of the International panel on climate change (MGIC) under the auspices of the UN, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extinction of wildlife and the growth temperature can lead to catastrophic consequences in the near future. It is important to understand that we are not talking about the end of the world as such, but the number of premature deaths from a variety of causes will increase significantly. In a sense, most of the challenges that face humanity today are a direct result of climate change.

Pandemic and resistance of bacteria to antibiotics

Viruses constantly evolyutsioniruet. For this reason, the threat of an influenza pandemic or other deadly infectious diseases remains permanent. In one way or another part of the world from time to time outbreaks of a variety of diseases, from Ebola to middle East respiratory syndrome. However, no matter how deadly, was not a particular virus, it hardly will leave at least some survivors, as able to reproduce only in the host organism. In the end, mankind has not once led the fight against a variety of viruses and bacteria, and the victory remained with us.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, however, of great concern to scientists. These bacteria can infect humans and animals and caused their infection harder to treat than infections from bacteria that do not have such stability. In practice, this can mean an extreme increase in deaths from previously treatable diseases. Underestimate the threat, as resistance of bacteria to various antibiotics has increased to dangerously high levels around the world.

It should be noted that the most dangerous scenario is the combination of all the above factors. Climate change may cause millions of climate refugees and increased temperatures, which in turn, will lead to epidemics of various diseases. Antibiotic resistance, famine, conflict over resources and seek asylum may be a good reason to the outbreak of international conflicts and wars. And where there’s war, someone sooner or later will threaten to use nuclear weapons.

Can scientific progress to destroy humanity?

Thanks to the scientific-technical revolution throughout the world has increased the average life expectancy, defeated many fatal diseases, people came out into the open space, created a powerful computers, the Internet, and now stands on the verge of creating artificial intelligence. But this is only one side of the coin. On the other hand are less nice things, and you know what. Today we do have cause for concern. However, it must be distinguished from panic and so we should not believe all sorts of statements that through N-Noe number of years all people on the planet die together.

The reverse side of scientific and technological progress, paradoxically, may be our downfall. Prediction of upcoming danger requires an active response. Today we not only passively explore the natural world, but also actively intervene in it. According to the article, for The Conversations the researcher of Oxford University Thomas Moynihan, our expectations regarding the hazards of nature compel us to interfere with it more and more, pursuing their own interests. Accordingly, we are increasingly immersed in a world of our own creation, in which the gap between “natural” and “artificial” is reduced. This is the basis of the idea of “anthropocene”, according to which the whole system of the Earth is influenced — for better or worse — of human activities.