Since I seem to be so good at predicting the future (in case you’re keeping score at home, me: 4/8, coins, on average: 4, picking the team with more points: 4, picking the team whose home city has a longer name: 7*, Justin Bourne: 5), I thought it was unfair to limit the world to knowing only about my NHL playoff picks, and have decided to weigh in on matters of even greater importance. Namely, how is civilization going to end?
(1) Total nuclear annihilation / (8) Death cult mass suicide A pertinent fact about Nuclear War: this**. But although nuclear annihilation of some kind is very probable, how likely is it that it gets done to pristine and total perfection? I love “There Will Come Soft Rains”, but this is a totally beatable 1 seed. And yet I don’t see death cult mass suicide as a plausible alternative. TNA in 6
(2) Deadly, disgusting virus / (7) The simulation runs out of funding What if our universe is just a simulation run in some more advanced universe, and they decide to stop running the simulation? Or maybe our whole world is just the dream of some brain in a jar named Steve and he wakes up and/or dies. This and other “cute” ideas are about to be swept by decidedly uncute cough, fever, bleeding sores, etc. Deadly and disgusting in 4
(3) “Sidereal weapons” / (6) Things gradually get marginally worse until they really suck Sidereal weapons isn’t even a thing that exists, and it somehow made it into the playoffs ahead of such contenders as the Sun exploding or zombies (who, granted, don’t exist either). What it is is a term stolen from Stanislaw Lem’s “Fiasco” and it’s a term for weapons technology that is far advanced in killing power even beyond nuclear. Let’s face it, destroying civilization with nuclear bombs still takes great coordination and firepower beyond the reach of most. If it is easier, it becomes more probable. On the other hand, things getting worse and worse until they’re absolutely terrible also sounds pretty likely. This is a tough one. My pick comes down to the fact that we only know for sure (from experience) that it’s possible about one of the two options. Things sucking more and more in 6
(4) Armageddon / (5) Conventional war caused by general resource scarcity “It looked like rock, but it was not rock; … it was God, and the end of the world” reads one of my favourite openings of a short story ever. And that’s how I imagine Armageddon. Compared to that, conventional war just seems so … blasé. This series hinges on the existence of God, obviously. And though I’m an atheist, I’m not atheist enough to deny Armageddon will get past the first round. Armageddon in 5
(1) Natural catastrophes / (8) Suddenly, everyone is sterile Global warming is pretty much gonna ensure a nice run of frightening natural catastrophes. Everyone suddenly becoming sterile sounds like something that would only happen if the entire world put a contract to Monsanto to manufacture human eggs. And even then we could just buy more eggs from Monsanto. This is a cakewalk. Catastrophes in 4
(2) Nuclear winter / (7) Insane totalitarian regime I know, I know, we already had nuclear war in the Western conference. The thing is, nuclear war just seems so likely to win, I felt it was reasonable to split it into two teams: total annihilation, and just kind of “On the Road” or “Canticle for Leibowitz” style situation where not everyone dies, but basically life becomes not worth living. If there’s anything I got out of reading those two books back-to-back it’s that the aftermath of nuclear war is a real drag. But is it actually worse than North Korea? Imagine if the whole world was somehow run like that. That would destroy civilization pretty quickly, too. I don’t even know which is worse (and that’s pretty scary), but I definitely know which is more likely. Winter in 6
(3) Robots take over the world / (6) Really awesome drugs Robots take over the world is a perennial favourite, sort of like the Red Wings, but just like the Red Wings, its reign of success might be coming to an end as people come to realise robotics will be more likely to be integrated into, rather than set in opposition to biological humans. Incidentally, I actually have money riding on robots not taking over the world. Unfortunately I forget when the sunset clause on that bet is, so I will never win that money. Drugs on the other hand seem a real dark horse. Would you rather have civilization, or just sit in your bathtub high out of your mind? That’s not a tough question for most people. But maybe that’s because the high just isn’t good enough? What if it’s not some junkie’s rush, but everything you’ve always wanted, beautiful, addictive, inspiring, and nearly eternal. Suddenly upkeeping civilization doesn’t seem so important. It’s a tough choice but I have to go with Drugs in 7
(4) Giant asteroid / (5) Alien attack Two contenders many are excited about but I just don’t believe in at all. Since they can’t both lose and I just don’t care, I guess I’ll root for the upset and pick Aliens in 7
*I thought this was perfect until I found out the Panthers actuall play in Sunrise, Florida, rather than Miami, and the Devils in Newark rather than East Rutherford. I’m never doing due diligence for a post again. Nevertheless, it’s a good enough track record that you should feel somewhat confident predicting the Flyers for the cup.
**(“It’s a motherfucker, don’t you know”)