Humanity’s existential threats (sans alarmism)

Many so-called “scientists” indulge in phony-science which is entirely geared to winning funding. Alarmism is often misused. Such “scientists” and insurance companies cannot be trusted with risk assessments. They have a vested interest in exaggerating the risk, either to get more funding or to increase the sale of highly profitable insurance products.

(Insurance companies are expert at assessing risk. However their business is built on perceived risk being higher than actual risk. Their profits provide the evidence for how well they have succeeded both in raising perceptions of risk and in accurately predicting actual risk. “Scientific” papers authored or sponsored by insurance companies and their reports must always be taken with a large bushel of salt. Their publications are all about building up risk perceptions. They are probably very good at assessing the real risk, but that material will never get published. The risk of alarmism is multiplied when scientists are sponsored by insurance companies).

Politicians like exaggerated risk assessments where the causes of the risk are outside their control. This provides a bottomless pit of “allowable taxes”, ostensibly to “fight” against causes which are not understood and outside their control, but  provide for increased budget revenues.

Scientists, politicians and insurance companies inevitably try to arouse emotions and “fear level” to their own purposes.

The actual existential risks for humanity are a long way below what the alarmists would have us believe and need to be considered unemotionally. Risk assessment is an exercise which primarily needs common sense and which must not get mired in  “political correctness”.

The most serious existential threats facing humanity in the next 1,000 years come from the almost inevitable eruption of a super-volcano (which is overdue) and the continuing decline in global fertility which could give serious depopulation by 2100.

(I am quite happy to offer odds of 10 million to one to anybody who wishes to place money on a large asteroid impacting earth – say – within the next 5 years. The risk that the punter and I will both survive such an event. such that I have to pay out, is as close to zero as you can get).


 

 

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4 Responses to “Humanity’s existential threats (sans alarmism)”

  1. mikelorrey Says:

    The only risks that are reasonably accurate in that chart are CME, biowar, megatsunami, and nuclear war (if you count Iran or North Korea lobbing a few weak fission bombs at people they don’t like and reaping the whirlwind as a result), and possibly virulent diseases. The biowar/disease risk is highly dependent upon technology, as CRISPR makes biowar more likely but also makes it much easier to create cures/countermeasures of bioweapons and drug-resistant diseases.

  2. ktwop Says:

    The absolute values of probability are not – I think – very significant. It is the relative values which reflect my perceptions. Probability would increase (but not linearly) if I took a longer period – say 10,000 years. But they do reflect the relative importance of the various threats in as rational a manner as I can “estimate” (More than a guesstimate but hardly a mathematical model of the future).
    I arbitrarily chose a 1000 years for the exercise
    100 years ago the perceived threat list would have looked very different.
    In 2100, half the list will be replaced by new perceptions.
    By 3100 …..?

  3. كافر BlueHornet كافر (@BlueHornet) Says:

    Aside from the issue of you having pulled the probabilities out a place with no sunshine, the terms themselves are undefined. For example “earthquake”. The planet has earthquakes every day of the year. Define your term. “Earthquake of ‘x magnitude'” is a thing that can be assessed. Another example, “catastrophic global warming”: how do you define it?

    But the probabilities that you have assigned are in themselves somewhat astonishing: Geomagnetic reversal at 90% within the next thousand years? Even though we can agree “this happens”, no one knows when, or exactly how, and how long it takes – or what happens in the meantime. And with such astonishingly low impact? Do you know what happens during a geomagnetic reversal event? Because I don’t; I doubt if many scientists who study that sort of thing closely have clear ideas and any kind of certainty of what that does vis-à-vis solar radiation, atmospheric events, climate, effects on migratory species, etc.

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