This has been claimed before numerous times. Prior to the industrial revolution, the question of how we could support so many people was a not-so-trivial question. Of course, railroads, steam engines, and massive farms came to the rescue just in time, but will our luck hold out for 10 more centuries?
Okay, so this is low hanging fruit, but really…all it takes is one push of a button. Can humanity really have that much self control for so long?
Note: this will become progressively more complicated as more countries acquire nuclear warheads.
Although scientists in the US recently managed to develop some super antibiotics, we are quickly approaching a time when all of our current antibiotics will be useless against evolved microbes. This could potentially take us back to a time when paper cuts could kill you (depending on the success of those new antibiotics).
Gamma Ray Bursts
It’s unlikely, but possible that a high energy explosion in a distant galaxy (supernova) could have long lasting implications on our planet. Would it happen in the next thousand years? Probably not, but we want to be thorough with our analysis.
Magnetic Pole Reversal
Earth’s magnetic poles have shifted numerous times before in history, and some theorists have posited that this could affect our civilization. Depending on how you look at it, we would be due for a reversal some time in the near future (relatively speaking), but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Many other scientists have countered that geomagnetic reversals haven’t led to extinctions in the past, so how can we predict their effect in the future?
This links directly with terrorism and the multiplication of actors on the global stage. While rogue groups have historically had to rely on localized and easily contained guerrilla tactics, today they are able to cripple systems across the world with one push of a button. It may not destroy humanity, but it can certainly cause enough chaos for humanity to finish the job.
Although this may not directly lead to the end of humanity, it could very well lead to the end of civilization. And the end of civilization is a slippery slope to say the least.
While the Large Hadron Collider definitely helps us understand the world, there is a small chance that we could accidentally create a miniature black hole.
We’re surrounded by water, but most of it isn’t drinkable. And considering that our fresh water supplies are dwindling, this could be quite a mess soon.
The fact that nothing has killed off humans as of yet may lead humanity to view apocalyptic events as something unlikely to happen and subsequent failure to prepare adequately.
If you’re reading this, you probably take food for granted. But assuming things don’t change, mathematics says that soon our planet won’t be able to feed itself.
With genetic advances and “designer babies” already a reality, what is there to stop competing governments from “souping up” their citizens? And at what point would they cease to be human? It would be the extinction of humanity by artificially induced evolution.
This is the name scientists give to a hypothetical incident in which out-of-control self-replicating nanotechnology multiplies until it completely takes over the Earth.
With genetic engineering becoming more and more advanced, pretty soon it will be trivial to engineer some nasty stuff. It’s pretty much a similar fate as with antibiotic resistance, except it’s intentional.
So we’ve discussed overpopulation, but what about the opposite? There is evidence that as nations become more advanced, people prefer to have fewer kids, or to not have kids at all. And once people stop having kids?
Note: if you think this sounds ridiculous, you are obviously not Japanese. The government there has been banging its head against the wall trying to figure out how to get its young people to start dating. If they fail, Japan is headed for a demographic crisis (and Europe is nipping at its heels).
Okay, so you don’t wear a tin foil hat, but bear with us. Most scientists agree that the probability of extra terrestrial life is pretty high. Also, it’s most likely more advanced than us. It is for precisely this reason that people like Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk have advocated against sending messages into space via the SETI program (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). If they’re smart enough to understand our message, they’re either as smart as us…or a lot, lot smarter. The more probable scenario being the latter.
Although most solar storms are relatively harmless, they’ve already been known to fry transformers and negatively impact our power grid. How much damage would a major storm cause? We won’t know until it happens, but if it’s strong enough, it could easily send the world into chaos.
No, not the element…the planet. Scientists have noted that there is a 1% chance its orbit could be made unstable by Jupiter’s gravitational pull. Simulations lead to four possible outcomes: ejection from the Solar System, falling into the Sun, colliding with Venus, or colliding with Earth.
Note: the 1% chance refers to the lifetime of the Sun. So the possibility of this happening within 1,000 years is rather slim. But who knows?
AKA burning to death. This wouldn’t be a fun way to go, but unfortunately our climate shows no intention of getting any cooler in the next thousand years.
There are actually quite a few other rocks out there besides our Earth, and if you know anything about the dinosaurs…they can be deadly. Of course, humanity may be able to deflect potential threats (assuming we’re not too busy fighting each other).
With climate change comes instability. One of those instabilities is the possibility of mega-tsunamis. Although these would be unlikely to destroy all life, they may be strong enough to disrupt things and cause a downward spiral.
This is highly unlikely, and even if it did happen we’d probably be able to work our way around it, but pride comes before a fall…
This may sound like a silly sci-fi show right now, but if Siri ever became self aware…well, you’ve seen the movies.
The End of Pax Americana
During periods of empire, the world tends to be at peace because empires enforce global order. First, it was Pax Romana (Peace of the Roman Empire), then Pax Britannica (Peace of the British Empire), and now Pax Americana (Peace of the American Empire). Although Pax Americana has ushered in the most peaceful time in human history, Paxes don’t seem to last long. With resistance to America’s global influence both within and outside the country, it’s highly likely that the United States will eventually become more inward focused. What happens then? It’s anyone’s guess, but most experts agree that decline and disorder is the likely path.
Note: it may not seem like it based on news reports, but we do in fact live in the most peaceful era of history. This is the first time in history that you are statistically more likely to die of “old age” rather than violence, especially if you are male. As we said though, this is very unlikely to last, especially once Pax American ends. Entropy is real…
Although this is a direct effect of the marketplace of ideas (the liberalization of human thought) being crossed with easy access to information (the internet), the irony is that the same forces leading to post-modernism and relative truth have led to post-post-modernism and post-truth. Will humanity find its way out of this slippery slope, or will we just kill each other out of paranoia? Who knows? You can’t even confirm whether or not what we just wrote is true…