The Doomsday Clock will remain two minutes past midnight, the same time it was last year and the closest it has ever been to apocalypse time. The nuclear arms race, climate change and the unbridled and deliberate denial of the gravity of these circumstances continue to threaten our existence. But a panel of experts does not believe the threat has changed enough since last year to merit the change of the minute hand closer to humanity's destiny.
The clock is a gimmick, a token threat assessment conducted by a panel of experts in the nonprofit Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. According to them, the clock is designed to warn people "how close we are to destroying our world with dangerous technologies of our own creation", with midnight waiting for the point of no return. Last year, the advance of North Korea's nuclear arsenal, the erratic behavior of Donald Trump, and tensions with other nuclear powers pushed the minute hand forward by 30 seconds. It is the same time that the clock arrived in 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union had tested thermonuclear bombs, the most powerful weapons that humanity had created.
This year, the panel cited the start of a new nuclear arms race and failing to address the current threat of climate change when it chose to keep the minute hand steady, at two minutes past midnight. "The fact that the hands on the Doomsday Clock have not changed is bad news," said Robert Rosner, chairman of the Bulletin's Safety and Science Board and a professor at the University of Chicago, at the press conference. The existential threats of nuclear war and climate change are normalizing, he said, and widespread lies and propaganda are making it harder than ever to fight them.
Herb Lin, a senior fellow at the Stanford Center for International Security and Cooperation and a member of the Bulletin Board, said there had been lies and propaganda during the press conference. But Lin said the internet has allowed more misinformation to spread faster than ever in what he called cyberspace-enabled information warfare. "The truth of a claim is proven by an examination of reality, not by how many people believe in it," he said. "It is a terrible world in which rage and fantasy replace logic and truth."
Former California Governor Jerry Brown also spoke in the ad, comparing the world to the Titanic's passengers who were happily dining as the iceberg approached. "We are playing Russian roulette with humanity," Brown said.
Brown is less concerned about an all-out nuclear war than he could mistakenly launch nuclear missiles around the world. Certainly, there have been close moments in the past, when the combination of glitches with war games or technical problems almost led to a nuclear apocalypse during the Cold War. "The business of everyday politics blinds people to risks," he said.
That's what the doomsday clock is for. Sure, it's a trick. Sure, it oversimplifies a complex calculation about threats to humanity. No, it does not mean a significant deadline to address those threats. It's just a visual representation of what a group of experts thinks. And that's why the watch is useful, nuclear anthropologist Martin Pfeiffer told The Verge last year: It's a clear, visceral symbol that time is limited. "The Doomsday Clock may not be perfect, but it remains a compelling and poignant reminder that we are screwed if we don't act and now," he said today in a direct message on Twitter.
It's a sentiment that Jerry Brown echoed at today's press conference: “It's late. It is getting very late. And we have to wake up people. "
By Rachel Becker
Original article (in English)