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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

SciFi Op-Ed

So the Times op-ed page just gets stranger and stranger. Was it just yesterday that Douthat was lecturing us on how the Iraq war was like the U.S. occupation of the Philippines--announcing that that occupation had had up-to-now unappreciated long-term benefits for the United States? Apparently, Brooks wouldn't be one-upped and wrote a column on what would happen if a massive solar flare sterilized one half of the earth.


Apparently, if this happened, "Within weeks, . . . everything would break down and society would be unrecognizable."

But would the social breakdown be as complete if, say, a zombie apocalypse occurred? Or if, say, alien invaders began replacing human beings with almost perfect copies and infiltrating our societies? Or what about if computers developed consciousness and decided that human beings were the greatest threat to their autonomy and decided to wipe us out? Now that would make society unrecognizable!

Everything would certainly break down if a virus killed off 99.9% of the earth's population, or if a massive asteroid impact caused worldwide, months' long winter.

I'm waiting for Brooks to explore these weighty matters from his perch at the nation's paper of record.


At 11:27 AM, Blogger fronesis said...


That Brooks piece reads as if its the product of a genuinely deranged mind. Truly bizarre to the nth degree.

At 5:18 PM, Blogger tenaciousmcd said...

The funniest part is that Brooks seems to think he's picked the controversial view--that shit would hit the fan--over the conventional wisdom, that genocidal sterilization = ho hum.

I've got no problem with thought experiments, but you've got to judge them by what insights they produce. Brooks's biggest epiphany seems to be that "our future's all about the children!" Ho hum.

At 5:44 PM, Blogger DK said...

Yeah. And he doesn't even address the likely outcome of the half-world, genocidal sterlization thought experiment. Baby markets (or just outright baby theft without such markets); transfer of financial and technological resources to bioengineering, etc. Doing that would at least make it more interesting and less "i believe the children are the future" ho-hum.

At 7:17 PM, Blogger Number Three said...

Here's how this would work in practice. Eventually it would get to DK's point. But first there would be a long period of, huh? Because it's not like it's obvious who's sterile and who's not. So it would take a while to figure out what had happened. There would be a scientific debate. Studies. There would be alternate theories of causation, searches for a cure, etc. The secular, at least, wouldn't resort to baby stealing for at least a couple years.

The religious folks wouldn't think God had forsaken them. They would believe that they were being punished for their sins and they would go ape shit crazy!


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