September 7th, 2009

in motion

and i feel fine

Josh Levin at Slate assembled a wild assortment of doomsday scenarios:

If and when America expires, we probably won't agree on the cause of death. For proof that autopsies of empires are inconclusive, consider the case of Alexander Demandt, the German historian who set out in the 1980s to collect every theory ever given for why Rome fell. The final tally: 210, including attacks by nomads on horseback, blood poisoning, decline of Nordic character, homosexuality, outflow of gold, and vaingloriousness.

In tribute to Demandt, I've gone looking for every possible reason why America could fall. I've paged through the work of scholars who have studied the characteristics of declining and failed societies. I also collected theories from futurists, doomsayers, separatists, economists, political scientists, national security experts, climatologists, geologists, astronomers, and a few miscellaneous crazy people. The result: a collection of 144 potential causes of America's future death.

Then he made a little game out of them.  One might wonder if that in itself signals the decline of civilization, but hey, it's fun!  Try it:


The interactive features include an Apocalypse Matrix charting your degree of pessimism and whether you think humanity or natural causes pose the greater danger.  My results were: "You are a bloodthirsty misanthrope. You believe mankind is stupid and fallible and that America will destroy itself in a bloody mess."

Which seems a little harsh -- I'm tempted to protest I was just goofing around, and am fairly certain "Robot Overlords" aren't really such a threat as I might have suggested -- but I guess it's a fair cop.