Archive for January 17, 2013

Would You Use A Doomsday Device?

January 17, 2013 39 comments

I often ask hypothetical, and semi-hypothetical, questions to make people see familiar situations from a new viewpoint. The question posed in this post is meant to help you see the true nature of an individuals connection to the rest of humanity. So here is goes..

Would you use a Doomsday Device (DD) if you had exclusive access to one?

Let us first consider the most important issue surrounding the use of such a device, namely that it will kill every human being on earth including the one who used it. There will be no human survivors left to enjoy any excess of material goods after the event nor will it be possible to rebuild human civilization in any shape of form. It will mark the end of humans as a species and nobody will care, remember or commemorate your achievement.

So, would you still use it? or would you use the threat of the device to achieve personal fame, power, wealth or some ‘higher’ goal such as changing human nature for the better?

While I don’t claim to know, with a high degree of certainty, what you guys would do- I have a strong suspicion that most would try to use the threat of such a device as leverage to achieve personal goals. In short, I doubt it will be deliberately used as most humans are too interested in continuing their pathetic existence on earth.

I, however, would use it without hesitation and here is why..

1] My views on humanity have changed over the years. There was a time when I would have entertained the hope that humans beings might voluntarily change for the better. It has however become increasingly clear to me that human beings are incapable of voluntarily changing even when doing so is highly beneficial to them. Most people seem to prefer plodding around in shit-filled pits rather than try to get out of them. They don’t even want to acknowledge the mere possibility of anything existing beyond their shit-filled pits.

While you can change group behaviors through fear, such changes will be temporary. They will likely disappear once the threat is gone or people find a way or ideology to continue living in their shit-filled pits. Furthermore, since humans beings are mortal even exclusive possession and access to the DD for the rest of your life would at best improve things for 3-6 decades after which things might start to fall back to previous state of affairs. Then there are more mundane problems such as maintaining exclusive control and access to the DD or monitoring the progress and effects of your reforms.

2] You could always use your exclusive access to the DD to obtain personal fame, power, wealth and get everything else that accompanies them. However that is a very mediocre use of such a capability. Warlords, kings, emperors and dictators throughout human history have obtained all of the above through some combination of dumb luck, extreme sociopathy or accident of birth. Even people like Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan can get almost all of that through little more than behaving like unstable and depraved attention-whores. Threatening to use a DD to attain public fame, make tons of money and fuck lots of hot groupies is a lot like hunting mice using a guided missile- certainly feasible but a massive overkill.

Moreover, maintaining exclusive control and access to the DD will (once again) occupy a considerable percentage of your time and mental efforts. Your situation under these circumstances would be rather similar to that of Gollum in LOTR, where his overwhelming desire to keep physical possession of the ‘one ring’ twists him into someone who cannot enjoy the true power of the ring. In my opinion, using a DD to get fame, power, wealth and sex is more trouble than it is worth.

Another possibility involves destroying the DD to prevent anyone else from using it. However anything that can be created once can also be created again. There is also nothing to stop the next person who gains control of such a device from either using or threatening the rest of humanity with it.

So far I have tried to show you why not using the DD or destroying it is less than optimal. So let us consider the ‘unthinkable’ option- using it.The principal objection to using the DD is that it would kill all humans including the person who activated it. But is death avoidable or optional in the first place? Even agelessness does not confer true immortality.

The real questions surrounding death therefore are ‘when’ and ‘how’. Linked to these two questions is another issue- namely the quality of life.

The answers to these questions depend upon on the amount of suffering and pain involved in living or dying. For example most people would prefer to die in their sleep or through some other relatively quick and painless means. Almost nobody wants to slowly die from painful terminal cancer or some other disease that leaves them invalid or bedridden. Similarly few people in good health and in a stable socio-economic situation are interested in dying. It is really about taking the path of least pain and suffering as far as the individual is concerned.

But does the survival of human beings as a species after your death matter?

The answer to that question lies in the nature of the relationship between the individual and society he or she lives in. Scenarios where the relationship between the individual and society are symbiotic and mutually beneficial do not typically cause a dying individual to wish for the death of the society he or she lives in. However the same is not true in scenarios where society is either uncaring, abusive or exploitative towards the individual. Individuals in such societies have either no interest in what happens to everyone else after their death or they actively wish for their destruction.

As I have said in many of my previous posts- it is painfully obvious to a large and rapidly increasing minority of people that we live in a society that is uncaring, abusive and downright exploitative. Now factor in the very high levels of social atomization, frequent betrayals in close relationships and fewer people having any kids. It does not take a genius to figure out that a significant minority of people today have little to no interest (or hope) in the continuation of humans as a species.

I therefore believe that the chances of a DD being used are much higher than most people are willing to themselves believe. Another factor that makes this scenario more probable is that throughout human history people lacked the technological means or opportunity to kill everyone else along with them. Today, that is no longer the case and such an outcome is within the realms of both technology and possibility. It is therefore really a matter of ‘when’ not ‘if’.

What do you think? Comments?