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News It’s Always the End of the World as We Know It

  1. Jan 2, 2010 #1
    Dennis Dutton looks back on Y2K one decade ago.

    Evaluating that Y2K was supposed to be another apocalypse that was called off, he generalizes:

    Is his assessment of Y2K accurate and does he have a point or is comparison with other scenarios a stretch?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 2, 2010 #2

    Ivan Seeking

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    Hmmm, yet another non-scientist - a philosopher no less! - who presumes to be qualified to comment on the specifics of science.


    I wasn't aware that philosophy majors studied climate science. Has he published lately?
  4. Jan 2, 2010 #3


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    People just love to be scared. I wonder if it's a psychological need in humans to have a boogie-man always lurking around. Y2K was just one of a long list...commies, hippies, "the government" (whatever that means)...it's always something.

    Now the right loves to use "socialism" as a code-word for Obama. Sigh.
  5. Jan 2, 2010 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    Am I the only one who sees the incredible irony of a philosopher who teaches the difference between science and pseudoscience, taking a scientific position on anything?

    The only answers he is qualified to give are "I don't know", or, "according to the experts".
  6. Jan 2, 2010 #5


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    That is the claim of Michael crichton's novel "State Of Fear."
  7. Jan 2, 2010 #6
    Yes. People like horror movies and people like stories about the world ending.

    Might this benefit the powers that be (TPTB)? Yes it may distract some people some of the time for the real issues.

    Might this benefit the individual person thinking about an apocalypse? Yes it my allow them a few moments of peace of mind not having to worry about the real issues because they will all go away on xyz day. Kind of a negative version of thinking gee I may win the lottery and then all my problems will go away.

    Are apocalyptic story the major way of keeping people from thinking about the major issues? I do not think so. I think keeping people focused on none money issues like abortion and gay marriage is a major way of keeping people from thinking about money issues. Apocalypses are fun for a scare now and then but they do not fill people with violent emotion on a day in and day out basis not like issues of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, religion, etc....
  8. Jan 2, 2010 #7
    Let's consider the last three billion years of evolution. There is always someone or something out there that wants to eat you! I would imagine that experience would leave an imprint on the genome and the way of thinking of the descendants of the survivors.
  9. Jan 2, 2010 #8
    When looking for the truth everybody is a valid participant. Everybody has some knowledge and everybody has some distortions, false knowledge, biases, etc.

    For example we could say Micheal Crichton is a writer and so has no expertise in logical thinking, or science, or climate modeling. On the other hand we could say Micheal Crichton has an M.D. degree from Harvard and in all those organic chem classes and physics pre-reqs he probably picked up some knowledge of science and the scientific method. If only experts can talk about a subject then the role of politician is in trouble they should not be allowed to talk about anything except fund raising at which they are experts.

    The reality is we all talk about everything. Like it or not. We hear you saying you do not want to hear from people that have not had the specific life path that you consider valid. But various other people do not share your feelings. Life is messy.
  10. Jan 2, 2010 #9
    Well I am scared of "the government" in the sense that people with a certain moral philosophy are willing to use violence against me (this is probably more of a daily issue for me then most of you). That is a rational fear. I don't think it's going to be "the end of the world," but there are legitimate dangers in our everydays lives that we deal with.

    I do think the philosopher might have a point, in a perverse way, fantastic scenarios can be comforting and easier in some ways to think about then the more realistic and intractable problems. Perhaps there is some part of people's mind that, in worrying about an apocalyptic scenario, realizes it's unlikely. Contrast this with the illusion of control we have everytime we get behind the wheel of a car. Almost no one worries about getting into a car accident, although most people will be in at least one accident in their lifetimes.
  11. Jan 2, 2010 #10
    Interesting points. I agree, and it's an interesting connection you draw between the psychology of "wedge" issues, and that of doom-mongerers.
  12. Jan 2, 2010 #11
    To return to the OP, I'd be interested to know from the most experienced information technology experts if the assessment of Dutton is true.

    Is it true that the leading experts generally tended to preach Y2K cataclysms for some reason? or was this a positive feedback loop of scaremongering and fear wish between public and spokesmen/media? Can we see paralells and common factors with other projected world endings? But most of all, what can we learn from that? And are we learning from that?
  13. Jan 2, 2010 #12
    If you are selling computer programming services to companies that can not deal with a four digit value for year would you market it as pay me outrageously high fees to fix this issue which is no big deal or world you market it as oh my god the world or at least your company will come to an end if you do not address this issue NOW!!!! and do not ask why my rate is so high this is CRITICAL!!! I would say there was a fair amount of self interested involved in hyping this.
  14. Jan 2, 2010 #13
    And then there is the self interest of selling newspapers. A headline that says "world may end" sells more papers than a headline that says "Several programmer will be getting a lot of overtime pay this year".
  15. Jan 3, 2010 #14
    When you are trying to enact what is ultimately a government takeover of control of 1/6 of the economy (healthcare) and allow the EPA to regulate carbon emissions, thus bypassing the legislative branch and in effect allowing them to regulate the entire economy (because everything is tied into carbon emissions somewhere along the line), the word fits. I know the EPA say they wouldn't do that, but well forgive me if I don't trust a government agency whose job it is to regulate as much as they can!

    President Obama isn't a socialist per se, but he outlined the most socially-democratic agenda for this nation ever seen in decades. I'd say he is a European-style social democrat, and European social democracies usually have socialism applied to certain aspects of the economy that one doesn't find here (or nearly to the same degree) in the United States (nationalized industries, state-run companies, etc...).

    Another socialist concept is his desire to "spread the wealth" to use his own phrase, basically to take from those that have and give to those that do not have. Like it or not, that's a socialist concept. It goes against the idea of individual drive and effort.
    Last edited: Jan 3, 2010
  16. Jan 3, 2010 #15


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    Can't speak is a "most experienced information technology expert," but I would hearken back to my earlier reference to the Crichton novel, and edpell's response to that post…

    It would be very difficult for the human species to "unlearn" this behavior. I would not call it impossible, but only because I am extremely resistant to that term. I would call it unreasonable, or unrealistic, to expect such a deeply rooted behavior to change anytime within the next several generations.
  17. Jan 3, 2010 #16


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    Yippie! I learned a new word: eschatology; The branch of theology that is concerned with the end of the world or of humankind.

    I was working on installing a section of my solar water heating system this summer when my personal JW's showed up and handed me a brochure: "The end of the world. Are you ready? We cordially invite you to our next......."

    All I could think was, "You're cordially inviting me to the end of the world?"

    What a load of crap. Instead of waiting around looking for something else that portends the end of the world, why don't they do something about it?

    I stopped answering the door on Saturdays.......

    And I've been chatting with these people (and the Mormon boys) for the last 20 years.

    But this is just the latest of a long string of doomsayer prophesies that I've witnessed. And not all were bible thumpers.

    Back in '79, while in the navy, a lot of my fellow squids said that if Reagan won the election, they'd go AWOL and move to Canada. Reagan was crazy and was going to plunge us into WWIII.

    Didn't happen.

    My brother, about two years ago, tried to get me to research survivalist websites because things were going to get really, really bad. No food, no water, gangs of gun toting hoodlums everywhere.

    Didn't happen.

    When the end finally does come for me, I'll be ready. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhQx7K2XZWc".
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  18. Jan 3, 2010 #17
    I feel fine.

    I can't believe nobody posted that yet.
  19. Jan 3, 2010 #18


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    I think part of the problem is, that there are (I believe) genuine threats to the continued existance of mankind. Global thermonuclear war really could erase us, and so could a really good-sized impactor, or sudden and chataclismic vulcanic activity, or plague. So it is not reasonable to dismiss all doomsday scenarios out-of-hand. The question then becomes; how do we discern the legitimate threats from the bogus?
  20. Jan 3, 2010 #19
    The real threats I think are the ones nobody ever pays attention to (although I do think global terrorism is a legit threat these days). During the 1990s all we heard of was Y2K. The idea that terrorists might hijack airliners and fly them into key buildings around the nation sounded like a bad plot for a cheap action movie.
  21. Jan 3, 2010 #20


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    That made me think of a line in thehttp://www.planetgary.com/sunscreen.htm" [Broken]:

    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  22. Jan 3, 2010 #21
    The odds are good--over time. 97% percent of species are extinct. Do you think humanity is special?
  23. Jan 3, 2010 #22
    This brings up the question: why are humans so seemingly bad at assesing threats?

    The only thing I can think of it that it might have something to do with the relative newness f the threat. For example, if a group of mammals entered into a new habitat, and there was a new threat in that habitat, it might make sense to perceive this as more alarming then a threat from an old habitat, because the group (or individual, whatever) was able to survive in the old habitat even with the threat, and there is n guarantee of that in the new habitat. Of course, that is just pure speculation.
  24. Jan 4, 2010 #23
    This is certainly worth a quote too:
    It occurs to me that the Y2K bug differs slightly from other world endings because the problem was rather accurately confined. It was all human work with known mechanisms and it could be tested. This contrary to most natural ends of the world, like meteorites or something that it's better not to mention, which are based on assumptions and speculations about chances to fill in the blanks. Yet in this contained, clearly defined, controllable format, 2YK was still capable of scaring most of the civilisation to a maximum extend.

    That scare genome may have prompted cave men to be cautious not to be eaten but could it bounce today? How would mankind fare if it was able to have rationality prevail for solving daily issues like energy surety. For instance, is the nuclear scare (Tchernobyl, profileration) preventing potential rational solutions?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  25. Jan 4, 2010 #24
    You know what's really scary?

    2007 was the Chinese year of the cow: Mad cow disease.
    2008 was the Chinese year of the bird: Avian flu.
    2009 was the Chinese year of the pig: Swine flu.

    2010 is the year of the cock. That can't be good. :eek:
  26. Jan 4, 2010 #25
    Nice try.

    2007 was the year of the pig.
    2008 was the year of the rat.
    2009 was the year of the ox.
    2010 is the year of the Tiger and begins February 14, 2010.

    I still got a nice chuckle though.
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