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It's the end of the world as we ... think it might happen
August 3, 2009 1:47 PM   Subscribe

Choose your own apocalypse! Futurists discuss: How is America going to end?
posted by desjardins (71 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
I don't know, but when it does, I bet it get posted to the front page at least 20 times.

Take that James Brown!
posted by chillmost at 1:51 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Is this how the world ends?
Is this how the world ends?
Is this how the world ends?
Not with a band but with a Flash application?
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


Bang, rather.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on August 3, 2009


A band, you say?
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2009


I think it'll end with a whimper.
posted by kldickson at 1:58 PM on August 3, 2009


I disagree, AZ. America will end with the most awesome band ever. They will be called Turbosexstorm and after they've rocked our faces off we will realize that our work here is done and call it quits.

Beware Turbosexstorm.
posted by Navelgazer at 1:59 PM on August 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Schwartz, the group's lead philosopher, argues that "scenario planning"—coming up with a broad array of yarns, "good and bad, expected and surprising"—brings rigor to the inevitably imprecise art of forecasting. "It is critical to push people's imagination out to the very edges of believability to see the full range of the possible," Schwartz and Randall explain in the book Blindside. The best way to reach the outer limits of the imagination, they believe, is to tell a good tale.

Does that sound like an awesome job or what?
posted by meowzilla at 2:02 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


With an a?
posted by yoink at 2:05 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a bloodthirsty misanthrope! This is better than Myers-Briggs!
posted by Burhanistan at 2:06 PM on August 3, 2009 [5 favorites]


I chose "Socialist Revolution" - I like a good laugh.
posted by Artw at 2:06 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm a Gaia-hating doomsayer!
posted by yhbc at 2:06 PM on August 3, 2009


Some say the world will end with a band
Some say it will be written in flash.
From what I've see at hand
I hold with those who favor band.
But if I had to twice crash
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction flash
Is also great
And would be a smash.
posted by found missing at 2:09 PM on August 3, 2009 [12 favorites]


I'm a humanitarian internationalist.
posted by kldickson at 2:16 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The play seems on for an infinite run
Don't mind a little thing like actors fighting.
The only problem is the sun.
We'll be okay if we have the lighting.
(Frost)
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 2:17 PM on August 3, 2009


You are a bloodthirsty misanthrope.

Yeah, tell me something I didn't know.
posted by backseatpilot at 2:18 PM on August 3, 2009


The world will end through popups, apparently.
posted by Muddler at 2:21 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


No catastrophic solar flare? I had my money on catastrophic solar flare.
posted by potch at 2:28 PM on August 3, 2009


Is this how the world ends?
Not with a bang but with a Flash application?


You may have been joking here, but the prophecies point to a larger truth hidden in your gag:

Fab Five Freddie told me everybody's high
DJ's spinnin' are savin' my mind
Flash is fast, Flash is cool
Francois sez fas, Flashe' no do


Clearly, the world will end to a soundtrack of Blondie's Rapture.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 2:30 PM on August 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've been thinking about this a lot, recently, mainly because of the scary ease with which some conservatives talk about an upheaval or revolution in this country. They say it would be done to return America to its original constitutional values, but it's not hard to see how it could lead to the end of the United States as we know it. How divided, nasty, and disingenuous can our political debate become before this becomes a serious possibility for a majority of people?

One odd aspect of considering these things is looking at how prior societies rose and fell, and how their internal political institutions held together and fell apart. For instance, the Roman Senate lasted over a thousand years. How long is our track, and where are we on it? Will we see a sixtieth president? A 200th Congress? A Fiftieth Amendment? What will fade first: the writing from the original Declaration of Independence, or the democratic government it birthed?
posted by Rhaomi at 2:41 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


How is America going to end?

The rotting corpses of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney will be dug up and reanimated with nanotechnology.

Like the horsemen of the Apocalypse, they will ride cloned cyberhorses down the remains of Main St., Anytown, US. Reagan will lead his cavalcade of death, waving his cowboy hat while giving wary, ragged passersby a smug, skeletal grin.

As the sun sets over Main Street and ApocoReagan rides out into that glorious blood orange ball with his brothers-in-arms, the camera will pan over to what's left of the buildings that line the street, which, instead of being signs of what's left of the country's meager economy, we learn are really propped-up, moldy cardboard cutouts dug up from old Western movie sets.

After the horsemen disappear and dusk arrives, the bedraggled Americans strike the sets, huddling for warmth around campfires built from the country's last bit of particleboard.

FADE TO BLACK.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:42 PM on August 3, 2009 [6 favorites]


Pity the icons are so small; I don't think they'll be accurately able to render my face, stonily staring down upon the bizarre equation which enables a chain fusion reaction of iron which I'll be shortly uploading.
posted by adipocere at 2:49 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, are we talking about America or the world? They tell me there's a difference.

I'm hoping the world will end by a meteor strike that will be tracked from deep space so we'll all have time to freak out and I can run around blowing smoke in the faces of all those people who quit to prolong their lives.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 2:49 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


America will give way into the next thing that resides there, the way the Roman Empire did.

Canada, perhaps? That would be okay.
posted by kldickson at 2:52 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


What do you mean how, or if? They elected a fake cowboy.
posted by loquacious at 2:54 PM on August 3, 2009


They say it would be done to return America to its original constitutional values, but it's not hard to see how it could lead to the end of the United States as we know it. Those two are essentially the same thing. In America 1.0, slavery was legal and women were not allowed to vote. There were no "civil rights", only "states' rights". Senators were chosen by state legislatures, not direct vote, and the minimum voting age was 21. There was no income tax, but there was a poll tax. How anyone without a severe learning disabilty could believe this is a step toward greater liberty is beyond me, but there are a lot of them.
posted by wendell at 2:55 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Actually loquacious, the fake cowboy lost the popular vote and was installed by the Supreme Court. But that makes the argument that America ENDED then even more valid.
posted by wendell at 2:57 PM on August 3, 2009


One odd aspect of considering these things is looking at how prior societies rose and fell, and how their internal political institutions held together and fell apart. For instance, the Roman Senate lasted over a thousand years. How long is our track, and where are we on it? Will we see a sixtieth president? A 200th Congress? A Fiftieth Amendment? What will fade first: the writing from the original Declaration of Independence, or the democratic government it birthed?

I think we will see the end of America long before we see the end of the United States, and that's an important distinction. The political constitution of that country is relatively uninteresting in comparison to its social and cultural constitution. You can compare the other side of a collapsed superpower by looking at the United Kingdom. Its empire lasted for several decades after its decline, and the country still exists today, but the unique 'British' society faded a whole lifetime or two ago. The motors which drive a society onto greatness fail long before the society starts to degrade, and the futurology of societies is possible by identifying those failures and playing out the consequences - as the example of a 'race war' in the article. Any futurologist who thinks an invasion or hostile action by an enemy is the most likely source of collapse is probably wrong - as is anybody who believes technology will develop faster than out ability to integrate it into society.
posted by Sova at 3:01 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


This bummed me out. I thought it was going to be about the Futurists, not Futurologists. Big difference.
posted by cnjnctvsynth at 3:02 PM on August 3, 2009


If Canada fails apparently America wins.
posted by acro at 3:11 PM on August 3, 2009


China is accumulating all the world's precious and strategic metals. Have you noticed they're not buying up all the bacon? As long as Americans have bacon they're all like, "No problem, Dude." Then BAM!
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 3:11 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


However it ends, I'm betting the Goldman Sachs wankers get some pretty massive bonuses out of it.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 3:11 PM on August 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


Going to? More like is.
posted by scrump at 3:13 PM on August 3, 2009


Why does everybody always sound so disappointed when the earth doesn't go out with a bang?
posted by jabberjaw at 3:25 PM on August 3, 2009


Oh good. No mention of supervolcanoes.
posted by moonshine at 3:27 PM on August 3, 2009


If Canada fails apparently America wins.

Dude --

Multiculturalism

In a 2004 speech, former Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm declared that America is doomed because it has gone from a melting pot to a "bilingual-bicultural country." Diversity "stresses differences rather than commonalities," he said. "Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other—that is, when they are not killing each other."


Cause lord knows, the wish for safety and shelter, family and friends, affection, liberty, and a sense of purpose isn't commonality enough. Look how those people dress, and what they eat!!!
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 3:29 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Those two are essentially the same thing. In America 1.0, slavery was legal and women were not allowed to vote. There were no "civil rights", only "states' rights". Senators were chosen by state legislatures, not direct vote, and the minimum voting age was 21.

Also of this time was half a rich continent laying relatively free for the taking. It's easier being a small-government libertarian when the government is handing out titles to up to 640 acres for a nominal fee.
posted by @troy at 3:29 PM on August 3, 2009


Seems like a clever way for Slate to gather user demographics and email addresses. Count me in.
posted by dizzymisslizy at 3:37 PM on August 3, 2009


Speaking of The Future, Leonard Cohen will be performing a benefit concert for Palestinian and Israeli peace groups in Israel in September, three days before his 75th birthday.
posted by acro at 3:41 PM on August 3, 2009


How anyone without a severe learning disabilty could believe this is a step toward greater liberty is beyond me

Look, the liberty to gather acorns, plant squash/corn/beans, chase and kill wildlife and wear the occational feather in your hair had to go for the guns, germs, steel and property ownership.
posted by rough ashlar at 3:45 PM on August 3, 2009


I choose Loose Nukes, though not Al-Qaeda. Well into the 22nd century...
posted by mrgrimm at 3:57 PM on August 3, 2009


These guys here, GBN . . . they're a group company of this firm discussed here. Neat huh? And yeah, Schwartz does have a pretty awesome job . . . and associated life.
posted by lazywhinerkid at 4:03 PM on August 3, 2009


Cloning? Cloning what?

How is this apocalypse-waiting-to-happen scary?

So 1997.
posted by inoculatedcities at 4:17 PM on August 3, 2009


"Colorado Gov. Richard Lamm" Jesus what an idiot...no, wait, I mean, Christ, what an asshole.

Guy doesn't eat panipuri or iguana cemitas or kimchi probably gets his burritos from Taco Bell if he's not too freaked out to get away from his wonderbread (unless he hunts and/or eats Rocky Mountain oysters).
Damn, without diversity life isn't worth living (as Durn Bronzefist illustrated).

Ah, the U.S. has ended several times and America is constantly evolving. Only thing that makes the country worthwhile is the fact that 'American society' changes over time. It wasn't so long ago that the Irish weren't considered 'white.' And in the near future whatever the hell 'white' is supposed to be will be discarded into irrelevance as other ethnic groups grow and change.
As long as that tolerance for change remains the defining characteristic of American culture, we'll survive. Which is why I oppose the whole English as an official language thing. It's a very adaptive language as well. So what's 'English' 300 years from now?

The U.S. though, we've dropped that a number of times. The Civil War as the biggest example and the Supreme Courts sort of footnote to the Lincoln administration ('Yeah, uh, he probably shouldn't have done that...*cough*...so anyway...) and we typically come to our senses. Maybe some blood is spilled.
Still, some of those choices, it's not like any government wouldn't strip away civil liberties and such during, say, a pandemic and rising sea levels and drought, famine, etc.
But if anything - the more the disasters are natural, the more, I suspect, we would embrace a more global perspective. The more they are man-made, the more balkanized the world would become. Could be a combo of the two, with everyone taking advantage to beggar their neighbors.
Doesn't mean the U.S. would break up though. There was a long social conflict in Sri Lanka (with the Tamils) but most such will to separations are based on longer standing ethnic and religious divisions. Usually caused by the fall of empires (in the case of, well, the balkins), independence or some such.
I can't think of anyone more 'American' (except for native Americans) than American blacks.
We'd probably have a revolution before we broke apart. And hell, we pretty much have had - and have continued to have one. Not just on an ethnic basis with the civil rights, but on gender and such. All in low gear of course. But that is really the nice thing about the U.S. system - it might be slow to change, but it WILL change. Or at least, it will change with effort. The promise is there.
The stuff with the Tamils and the Sinhalese, the tigers are down, but that's never going to go away. Not as long as there are Tamils and no autonomy. Same deal in Chechnya. Counterterrorism ops ended there, what, this April? Amnesty International said in July they're (the Russians and Kadyrov are) still torturing and disappearing people. It's not like it's stable. And there's still some separatism. And some changes in the law to accommodate Muslims. But that's only a problem, really, because of the authoritarianism (and corruption, etc).

In the U.S. the only people wanting to make laws which would lead to balkanization are assheads like Colorado Gov. Lamm. Because the rest of us, for the most part, embrace diversity and allow people to wear headscarves, or not, or whatever. Shame there has to be a hue and cry over it, but it has been - despite the constant struggle - a constant and integral value in the U.S. So we can overcome (to borrow the phrase) that.
Now, global warming - different story.
posted by Smedleyman at 4:42 PM on August 3, 2009


The rotting corpses of Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Richard Nixon and Dick Cheney will be dug up and reanimated with nanotechnology.

Like the horsemen of the Apocalypse, they will ride cloned cyberhorses down the remains of Main St., Anytown, US. Reagan will lead his cavalcade of death, waving his cowboy hat while giving wary, ragged passersby a smug, skeletal grin.


this was supposed to be about the future, not the past.
posted by geos at 4:43 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Can we place bets? I'll take 'global economic collapse due to environmental damage caused by global warming and biodiversity loss'. Oh, and as for the date? Within fifty years.
posted by Mitrovarr at 4:59 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Smedleyman: "As long as that tolerance for change remains the defining characteristic of American culture, we'll survive. Which is why I oppose the whole English as an official language thing. It's a very adaptive language as well. So what's 'English' 300 years from now?"

"ZA kiad w'-exùn ya tijuh, da ya-gAr'-eduketan zA da wa-tAgan lidla, kaz 'ban iagnaran an wa-tAg kurrap."
posted by Rhaomi at 5:00 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


There were no "civil rights", only "states' rights". Senators were chosen by state legislatures, not direct vote, and the minimum voting age was 21. There was no income tax, but there was a poll tax. How anyone without a severe learning disabilty could believe this is a step toward greater liberty is beyond me, but there are a lot of them.

Ugh, and one of them is my pilot roommate. The level of cognitave dissonance it takes to mantain these views is really something to behold - at first, I thought that people who believed this sort of thing were simply ignorant. But many, many people choose to nurture this ignorance instead of facing the fact that their worldviews might actually be wrong, on both sides of the political fence.

So if some catastrophe borne of global climate change doesn't do us all in, it will be the intellectual laziness that is indoctrinated into our youth by the public schools we refuse to fund.

My bet's on stupid.
posted by jnaps at 5:32 PM on August 3, 2009


ah, so in the future, we are required to have marbles in our mouths when we speak.
posted by desjardins at 5:34 PM on August 3, 2009


I'll bet on amino acid mutations at positions 60, 92, and 101 of influenza A NS1 protein.
posted by benzenedream at 5:38 PM on August 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Curious how "how will America end" morphs into "how will the world end".
posted by stirfry at 5:53 PM on August 3, 2009


Curious how "how will America end" morphs into "how will the world end".

Well, I don't want to give out any spoilers, but I will say it includes cobalt jackets.
posted by codswallop at 6:14 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


For future reference: "futurologist" != Futurist
posted by Sys Rq at 6:18 PM on August 3, 2009


How will America end? Seen Southland Tales?

Not like that.

God, that movie was terrible...
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:24 PM on August 3, 2009


Seems like a clever way for Slate to gather user demographics and email addresses.

AND to get a build a nifty directory of who's most likely to have stores of canned food and shotgun ammo... which sure could come in handy.

(Never go halfway on your paranoia. It's not healthy.)
posted by rokusan at 6:38 PM on August 3, 2009


How will America end?

Based on precedent, I'd bank on the country ending with something called "The Save America Forever Act".
posted by rokusan at 6:39 PM on August 3, 2009 [11 favorites]


Side bets on the Yellowstone supervolcano?
posted by aeschenkarnos at 7:01 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


They label me a bloodthirsty misanthrope, but I'm actually a pyromaniac with an interest in civilization-destroying infectious diseases.
posted by little e at 7:29 PM on August 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


I think I will put off adding Starry-eyed utopianist to my business cards.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:57 PM on August 3, 2009


Ah, you talk like a fag, and your shit's all retarded. What I'd do, is just like... like... you know, like, you know what I mean, like...
posted by orthogonality at 10:18 PM on August 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Out of sheer futurological curiosity, I did a little math and figured the approximate dates for the hypothetical milestones I mentioned earlier:

60th president - Assuming Obama and all future presidents are one-termers (and barring any assasinations, impeachments, or resignations) the earliest term a 60th president could serve would be 2073-2077. Assuming Obama and his successors are all two-termers, the latest possible term for #60 would begin in 2145.

200th Congress - Barring any unforeseen disruptions, the 200th session of Congress is scheduled to meet on January 3rd, 2187 -- nearly four centuries after the 1st Congress met in New York.

Fiftieth Amendment - Way more speculative, even more so than the presidential forecast. But seeing as how we have 27 amendments after 222 years of sovereignty, some quick and dirty algebra suggests that, if we hold to that rate, we should see a Fiftieth Amendment around the year 2200.

Any guesses as to what such an amendment might concern?
posted by Rhaomi at 10:23 PM on August 3, 2009


I tried to read IT CAN'T HAPPEN HERE on vacation but had to put it down when the fascist speeches sounded like FOX News talking points.
posted by The Whelk at 11:26 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


ISOLATIONISM America pulls back from world affairs, getting left out of a newly forming global community of cooperation.

You call that an apocalypse?
posted by Phanx at 11:28 PM on August 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


The terrorists are going to stop pissing around and actually do something. This will kill at least 10,000 people, making it easily the biggest humanitarian disaster America has ever heard about. Filled with righteous indignation and idiocy, some moron will accidentally pull the trigger on a nuke, without launching it first. The chain reaction will take out the entire continent. Sorry, Canada.

An automated Fox News presentation will continue to boast that even without implementing government health care, there are No Children Uninsured. Also, the illegal immigrants are no longer stealing your jobs. America is once again proved to be the greatest country evar!
posted by jacalata at 12:23 AM on August 4, 2009


They label me a bloodthirsty misanthrope, but I'm actually a pyromaniac with an interest in civilization-destroying infectious diseases.

Edit: add "misunderstood".
posted by rokusan at 1:26 AM on August 4, 2009


We had our toys, and didn't care,
and little gizmos worn in our hair,
that told us how to dress and think
in simple lines that made us blink

And so the days went on in fashion rote,
we knew everyone and yet never left
the houses where our time was spent.
Tiny pics and little notes, and apps
and apps and apps and then you vote!

A shining star, an island where two girls pout
now we know what's life about.
I had a thought - no wait, it's gone
Santayana, a new cure for your lawn
but I can't move so well these days
the weight's too large, the couch too beige.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 7:36 AM on August 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Based on that map you'd only need a quick nuclear war and you're nearly at Mega City 1, Mega City 2 and Texas City. Living in what is left of the US would certainly count as the Cursed Earth either way I would guess.
posted by biffa at 7:43 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


I like that you can combine different scenarios, but I didn't see anything that covered my best estimation as to the what will end us: a zombie army of cybernetic molemen who alter the earth's core into a directional magnet which they will use to pull the moon into us in a planet shattering collision.

I'm actually a bit surprised by the exclusion; I figured this was the one that most scientists were leaning towards as well.
posted by quin at 10:14 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


This chart is woefully inaccurate, since none of these options are "invincible Nazi Zombies rise from the bottom of a lake during rock festival and become the immortal vessels of the Illuminated masters, prepared to overtake the world through black magics". I'm guessing this is because the summary wouldn't fit underneath those tiny icons.
posted by FatherDagon at 10:47 AM on August 4, 2009 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't there be an icon for "excessive farting"?

i am five years old
posted by davejay at 11:11 AM on August 4, 2009


Curious how "how will America end" morphs into "how will the world end".

Well, I'm pretty sure that if the world ends, America will too. So they are kinda related.
posted by sandraregina at 11:21 AM on August 4, 2009


I'm an anthropocentric pragmatist.
posted by sadiehawkinstein at 11:42 AM on August 4, 2009


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