>Doomsday Clock Architecture

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There is something fascinating to me about the doomsday clock—where we attempt to predict our own self-destruction and hopefully prevent it!

The chart in this post from the Mirror in the U.K. shows the movement of the Doomsday Clock over the last 60 plus years.

Currently in 2010 (not shown in the chart), we stand at 6 minutes to midnight (midnight being a euphemism for the end of the world or Armageddon).

Since 1947, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has hypothesized and visualized with the dials on the clock how close they believe mankind is to self-extinction.

The closest we’ve gotten is 2 minutes to midnight in 1953 after the U.S. and Russia test the first nuclear devices.


The furthest we’ve gotten from midnight is 17 minutes in 1991, when the Cold War was over, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed, and the U.S. and Russia took their fingers off the hair-trigger alert on their nuclear arsenals pointed at each other.

While some may take the Doomsday Clock as a morbid or pessimistic reminder of our human frailties, missteps, and movement toward potential calamity, I see it as a tool that attempts to keep us—as humankind—from going over the edge.

This is very architecture-like, to me. We look at where we are and (implicitly here) set targets for ourselves to move the hands backward away from Armageddon. The architecture piece that we need to concentrate on is a crystal clear plan to get those hands on the clock way back to where we can feel more secure in our future and that of our children and grandchildren.

Wired Magazine (October 2010) has an article called “Suspend the Deathwatch,” calling for the measurement of “a wider variety of apocalyptic scenarios” and for the addition of a “Doom Queue, with a host of globe-killing catastrophes jockeying for slot number one.” The main idea being that we “do more than predict The End; it would organize our collective anxieties into a plan of action.”

I definitely like the idea of a plan of action—we need that. We need to plan for life, continuity, and a flourishing society that goes beyond the limits of sustainability of our situation today.

We are aware of the world’s growing population (aka the population explosion), the scarcity of vital resources like water, energy, arable land, etc. and the potential for conflict that arises from this. We need to plan for the “what ifs” even when they are uncomfortable. That is part of responsible leadership and a true world architecture. That is a big, but meaningful job indeed.

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