Apocalypsophiles everywhere are breathing a huge sight of relief. The vision of humanity marching into an indefinite future which, once reached, will consist of humanity marching into another indefinite future has always disturbed us. We want the end of the world and we want it now, to paraphrase the Ramones, who, like the Beatles, are 50% deceased and hence only half as likely to be worried about the Apocalypse as the average musician.
How will it happen?
These scientists sneer at popular candidates for the end, including nuclear war, global warming and mega-disasters. Some humans will inevitably survive any of those catastrophes and repopulate the globe, these guys say. They are probably basing their reasoning on Hollywood depictions of post-apocalyptic societies, like any keen analyst would, in which all good-looking guys have to grab guns and defend themselves against all ugly guys, who have embraced their unattractiveness by turning into slavering mutants. Meanwhile, women with taut, trim bodies have survived the catastrophe by tearing strategically-placed slits in their tight garments or fashioning primitive bikinis out of leather or fur.
The key word here is survival. Some people are going to be left, even if the rest of us get wiped out and while they'll probably be running around shooting at each other, it's likely they'll run out of ammo before the human race goes completely extinct.
These Doomsday predictors remain confident, however, that mankind will eventually build a banana peel big enough for all of us to slip on. As far as global warming and nuclear warfare go, these guys are saying Nice! But you're not there yet. Keep trying! We got your back!
This may strike you as circular reasoning, or merely insane cheerleading, but it's not without some basis in a projected reality. These scientists' candidate for the way mankind will hit the reset button is the development of artificial intelligence, or machines capable of mimicking the workings of the human mind.
Going back to our Hollywood model, this is the Terminator theory of doomsday, only brave Sarah Connors and friendly robots like Arnold Schwarznegger will not be enough to save us from super-intelligent, self-replicating, heavily armed machines. They will kill us all, as soon as they discover, as many college sophomores already have, that humanity is stupid and useless, and replace us as a civilization.
These men of science have been modest enough to include themselves in the mass of humanity that will be wiped out, although perhaps secretly they think that the robot posses of the future will spare them and put them in zoos or carnivals so the little robot children can laugh or throw peanuts at them. The rest of us are on our own. It's never too early to start thinking about preventing the utter destruction of all humanity is what I say, and I believe I've found the out.
The key is that artificial intelligence will mimic the human mind, and the human mind is quite easily distracted. As soon as these robots get invented and start getting surly, we turn them on to Robo-brew and Robo-weed. Sure, this is going to increase robot crime, but why worry? We already have Robo-Cop.
The robots we can't turn into drunks or stoners can be turned on to other addictive practices, like golf or video games, or merely lured into sports bars and forced to engage in endless debates about the relative merits of players and teams, whether human or robot. Or just invent Robot Facebook and Robot YouTube and let these future mechanical marvels spend all of their immortal days liking other robots' posts or watching hysterically funny robot fails.
There will, of course, be some robots who won't be distracted. They will beam mind-messages to the other robots, saying things like What about destroying humanity today, for a change, or How about you guys quit looking at pictures of naked robots, for Chrissakes, and let's get obliterating organic life on earth back on schedule?
But since mankind first stumbled, probably accidentally, out of the trees, there have always been similar members of the human race, people who devoted their lives to upbraiding the rest of us to make of ourselves something bold, brainy and noble, and so far we have successfully ignored them. I think we can be confident our robot bros will do the same. Side by side with our machine buddies we will swill beer, trade insults and try to remember the good jokes together through the days to come.
Until something else gets us all in the end.