90 seconds to midnight

It’s Doomsday Clock day!


I wrote about it 5(!) years ago and said:

If we calculate our prior based on the last 73 years of not initiating an apocalypse, the odds of one occurring next year is about 4%. That works out to a median time to doomsday of 16 ½ years. Converting that to time on the clock and I estimate we’re at 2 minutes to midnight, which is what the official clock now reads. And the only variable I looked at was how many years it’s been since the Trinity test.

My one input change is another 5 years of not having Doomsday. It still works out to about a 4% chance of Doomsday in 2023, which isn’t great. I did forget to add a 1 in my calculation back then, so it should have been median of 17 ½ more years. The extra time raises my current estimate to a touch over 18 ½ years. So my clock would be at 146 seconds (or 2.4 minutes).

Again, my estimate is simple and unsophisticated. The official clock now accounts for 4 risks:

  • Nuclear Risk
  • Climate Change
  • Biological Threats
  • Disruptive Technologies

COVID certainly opened my eyes about the threat of pandemic. But also, you know, made me a little less worried about it. We kinda got through it and we now have some experience with a global pandemic. I don’t want another one, but technological progress in the last 100 years has come with some benefits to balance the risks.

Still, I think the Russian struggles in the Ukraine put a thumb on the Nuclear Risk scales. It’s ever so more likely that someone will detonate a nuclear warhead in the region with unknown consequences. We need trustworthy and rational people making decisions. Let’s just say I don’t have a lot of confidence in our leaders right now. Unlike other risks, there’s not a lot of time for technological innovation to respond before a lot of people die.

I redid the calculations and I thought I better write down what I did so that I can recalculate later. I’m using Numi which is the best calculator I’ve ever used.

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