“The planet’s not in trouble,” a comedian said onstage. “It has survived countless threats, tragedies, and catastrophes. The planet will be just fine. Human beings, however, we’re screwed.”
We’re doomed, and we love it! If ratings, proceeds, and ratings mean anything, doom and gloom is big business.
We want it in the all-too-near future, “Ten years from now…” Ten years is one of our favorite time frames. Twenty years is too far away and five years is too close. We want urgency, we need now, but not too close. We remember when it’s too close. Anyone who knows anything about pricing knows that round numbers feel like too much. A grocery store chain knows that $10 feels like too much money but $9.99 feels just right. The chicken littles of our future might want to recalibrate accordingly and say, “Nine years and nine-nine days from now…”
Ten years also seems like enough time for human ingenuity to develop a solution. If we’re facing a true cataclysm that will end the human population, we have to think it would become the sole focus of more than a few of our brightest stars in science, engineering, and just about every other focus we have to attempt to counter the sure-to-come devastation of life on the planet?
How many times has human life faced extinction only to have some genius come along and devise an ingenious way of saving life? This time it’s different, of course. This time, no one can save us. We’re helpless. How exciting!
We’ve all been here before, in theoretical forecasts, but this is the future. We’re here to report that the ten years in the future that has been forecast for the last seventy years is now here. It is ten years in the future, and a moment, not the moment, but a moment we’ve feared for at least seventy years is here, and we don’t know what to do about it.
The reporters investigated and attempted to locate and expose a human culprit. They hopscotch between various narratives to find a bad guy before it’s too late. They join forces with the scientific community to narrow the focus of their study on human involvement. Regardless whether they’re wrong or right, they have the best intentions.
There are no high-profile news agents ten years in the future. They’ve been exposed in one way or another, and relatively few read, watch, or listen to them anymore. In their wake, citizen journalists rose up on the internet and developed reputations for telling the truth in the years preceding the looming tragedy. Some of the more prominent citizen journalists provided a contrarian belief that certain scientists developed by studying the looming tragedy through various angles that focus on the math and science of the universe. These contrarian scientists eventually proved incorrect, and those with no knowledge of science rained fire upon them.
“It’s you job to figure this out!” a reporter screamed at a contrarian scientist, as he walked to his car. This confrontation went viral and social media launched “It’s your job!” meme at scientists, and the citizen journalists who supported them.
The contrarian, non-human theories were rejected so often, and so publicly, that most become afraid to voice their concerns with their neighbors, lest they be called a denier. “There’s nothing we can do!” becomes the credo of the day. “The scientific consensus suggests there’s nothing we can do.”
Teams of scientists hear this, of course, and they’re scared, but some of them brave the cynical firestorm to push this theory that the new, unforeseen, looming, and disastrous event involves a detailed and complicated natural occurrence that has nothing to do human beings.
“It is,” they write, “an event that occurs throughout the universe on a relatively infrequent basis, and it is going to occur near Earth, unless we are able to do something about it.”
Numerous scientists attempt to disprove their theory, as is their role, and most of them suggest that their findings are inconclusive. Some of those scientists who unsuccessfully attempt to disprove the theory, decide to pursue the theory in purely hypothetical mathematical and scientific forms. “If true,” they write, “then we could use an end around to avert the looming disaster.” Other scientists join in and posit theories around this new end around theory.
“It’s time to say it, Science has failed us!” a major online news publication that no one reads anymore states in the title of an article they publish in a desperate attempt to remain popular. The article proves popular, of course, as a crude attempt to develop “if it bleeds, it leads” style click-bat articles that feed into the gloom and or doom themes. “As time continues to tick down,” the article states, “our most brilliant minds continue to fail to find a solution.”
Scientists develop other theories, and other scientists disprove them. The lack of understanding of science, leads to mayhem all over the world as citizens the world over begin to panic over the delays. In the midst of that panic, as time ticks precariously closer, a scientific hypothesis emerges.
High profile scientists immediately reject the hypothesis, with no evidence, and popular sentiment follows suit. Prominent leaders of the world join the popular sentiment. With the lack of any government endorsements, and more importantly government funding, these teams of scientists desperately seek private donors to help them pursue the hypothesis that no scientist has been able to concretely disprove. The theory does not please anyone and everyone is torn, until it works. The event from the far reaches of the universe is thwarted, and the little dots in the universe, we call human beings, avoid extinction. Most of us feel weirdly disappointed when we realize that we get to live at least a little bit longer.
Science does not experience a popular upgrade in the aftermath, since so much of it failed, so often, when people were really scared. The citizen journalists do not experience more popularity, as the historical record suggests they backed the wrong horse more often than not. One citizen journalist, in defense of his record, and the record, suggests that this is the nature of science. “Most of science is as wrong, flawed, and incompetent as the humans who develop it. Scientists develop theories and other scientists disprove them, until the various teams compile a deeper knowledge of the harmony of math and science in the universe.” He continues, “Scientists are flawed human beings who aren’t large enough to qualify as a speck in the universe. Our/their knowledge and understanding of how universe the works wouldn’t qualify as a speck either. The failure of these brilliant minds only reinforces how little we are, and we can know what we know and still be wrong an overwhelming number of times, until some congealed form of human ingenuity, based entirely on observations, wrong educated guesses, and the infighting we now all know about leads, inevitably and almost accidentally, trip on a truth.”
The politicians who said the end around theory would never work, because they wanted us to follow the theory that they supported, now attempt to embrace the end around theory as one they supported all along. The reporters and social media outlets who rejected and condemned anyone who believed in the theory move onto other, click-bait stories of the next looming disaster.
When Tuesday rolls around, everyone forgets how close we actually came to extinction on Monday, as few appreciate a tragedy that never happens. The various teams of scientists who developed, pursued, and helped execute the end around theory are vilified by the scientific community, the politicians eventually join in the condemnation for those who saved the world, and the media seeks numerous angles to further vilify them. A major, online publication produces a series of pictures depicting the team of scientists most responsible for saving the world in mug shots. “They saved the world,” the title of the feature article says. “Why it’s not okay to like them.”
Some of the scientists who braved the negative forces primed against them to save the world, quit their jobs, others finish out their career anonymously, because their names were never attached to the chains that led to the theories that saved the world, and one unfortunate scientist commits suicide. “Leave my family alone!” was the first sentence of his suicide note.
“He joined a team that wound end up saving the human race from annihilation,” the suicide victim’s friend said in the eulogy, “and they destroyed him for it.”
It is the future, it is the past, and it is the present.
Mutually Assured Destruction
“He was the worst human being on the planet,” we now hear. “What he did was indefensible!” The definition of defensible involves flowcharts. Who is the alleged perpetrator? “Who are his victims?” What was the nature of his crime? “Was he well-intentioned or just awful?” It’s impossible to know, and we might never know. We base our conjecture on what team we’re on.
If we’re on his team, we qualify with excuses. We have so many excuses. Why? We don’t really know what happened, so why do we care so much about the accused that we’re willing to put our reputation on the line to see our guy go free or be penalized as little as possible? “What if he’s guilty?” What if he’s innocent? “All right, but what if?” We have no serious, vested interest. We’re just watching it on TV.
They don’t believe him. We know they’re on a certain team. If they believe him. We know they’re on the other team. The bad team. We know they’re capable of anything. We don’t know the truth, but we know if they pound the table harder than the other guy, they can sway popular opinion.
“What is the truth?” No one would openly say that the truth doesn’t matter anymore, “but someone has to be right,” and someone has to be wrong. Do we crush the importance of truth under the weight of what’s right? “I don’t know and you don’t know,” but let’s not study that subtle distinction. “Right.” We know that they’re wrong, and no one will be able to convince us otherwise. Our guys aren’t capable of wrongdoing, because like us, they come from better stock. “They would never do that.” We like our side, because they make us feel like a major component.
When we debate the other team’s proponents, we fear they might know something they don’t. We know our stuff, but we don’t have that haymaker to silence all debate. Everyone is searching for the person, place or thing that provides the haymaker. Yet, we don’t even bring it up, thinking that they might know something we don’t, or they could be offended. Saying our guy could be innocent might offend their sensibilities, and our friends might not be our friends in the aftermath.
We can find the truth, as always, nestled somewhere in between. The lawyers in every industry define a truth. Not the truth. They manage information and disinformation so well that they push us further away from the truth through whatever means necessary. It’s called a quality defense, and we’re willing to pay buku bucks for it. Everyone is afraid of lawsuits, so we don’t question their version of the truth.
There are those who report a truth based on how they see it. Are they right? Who cares? We dismantle truth seekers based on past behavior to destroy them, so no one believes their version of truth. The truth seeker goes on defense, and our assumption of guilt and innocence depends on how much they defend themselves. The more they defend themselves, the guiltier they are. We think we’re onto something. As far as we know, they reported their side’s version of truth. Is their side’s version of the truth true? Who cares, destroy them before they destroy us in a pact of mutually assured destruction.
This might sound cynical, but how could anyone paying attention avoid some semblance of cynicism? Cynicism is the safe place for those seeking foolproof status. You can’t fool me, and neither can they, but while no one can call me a fool, I can’t say I know anything about the spaces in between.