I’ll be quick, I promise you.
Last week the Doomsday Clock edged closer to midnight by 30 seconds. The clock is now two minutes to midnight, the symbolic hour of imminent doom. The last time the clock edged this close to the end of humanity was in 1953, when the hydrogen bomb was first tested. Luckily for the planet, Flash Gordon and Superman were at the height of their superpowers and dragged the world back from the brink. Now civilization depends on you to stop its impending annihilation. Yes, you heard me correctly, it depends on YOU!
Your task is simple. Firstly, you must prevent North Korea from launching its rockets thereby triggering a nuclear holocaust. Secondly, you must nullify the incessant and provocative tweets spawned from the #realDonaldTrump account which have so damaged world stability in general. Thirdly, as the seconds tick by, you must address the dangers that technology disruption is causing democracies, including disinformation campaigns intended to manipulate elections and undermine confidence in democracy. In the final moments before Armageddon you must resolve the unstoppable growth in greenhouse gases to prevent disastrous warming of the planet.
At this stage you may be asking yourself ‘where the hell do I begin my mission to save the world?’ It is true that you do not have Superman’s cape or tights at your disposal, nor access to Flash Gordon’s rocket ship, but you do have superpowers unimaginable to those 1950’s superheroes. With access to social media and the internet, you can influence millions of likeminded superheroes around the world in nanoseconds. Your strategy therefore, is to inspire enough people with your words of wisdom such that no half-baked political despot can drive the global bus down the path marked ‘This way lies Apocalypse’.
To help you in your quest to wind back the Doomsday Clock, here are four secret nuggets of wisdom:
1) You might think that deactivating the bothersome #realDonaldTrump Twitter account might be the key to improving international relations, but you would be wrong. The account was disabled for 11 minutes in November last year without troubling the Doomsday Clock by even one second. This suggests that the miasma of irresponsible tweets oozing from that infamous account have become a source of wry amusement and lost their shock value long ago.
2) Recognise that the POTUS is half-correct. The Romans invented the phrase ‘If you want peace, prepare for war’ and they were no dummies when it came to vigorous diplomacy. Your mission is to remind those in power that the first four words in that noble phrase are just as important as the last three.
3) Whereas climate change denial among our politicians may once have been tolerated as amusing and quaint, it is now downright dangerous. The five hottest years on record all came since 2010. The international treasure – David Attenborough – has declared that the Great Barrier Reef will be dead by 2100. Greenland is losing 152 billion tons of ice a year. Hurricane frequency and intensity has increased to catastrophic levels.
We not supposed to have major climate change during the next ten thousand years, never mind in our own lifetime. Politicians who play games at the expense of the planet on which we depend for our survival should be booted out of office during their next election. No second chances. Pass it on.
4) The dangers to our social cohesion and democracy, courtesy of Vladimir Putin’s ‘bot factories’ have been smoothed by the obstinacy and negligence of our very own social media giants. (In 2016, 150,000 accounts with links to Russia pumped out 40,000 pro-Brexit messages per day in the run-up to the referendum – then disappeared overnight*.)
The social media behemoths refused to cooperate with authorities until finally, Mark Zuckerberg promised to end the abuse of his platform, “whether through election-interference efforts, fake news, or other nefarious practices”. This only happened because of public pressure. Your part in saving the world is to keep shaming the social media giants into action and become much more ‘fake news savvy’ before spreading the latest Kremlin-generated mischief.
Armed with these four nuggets, the power of the World Wide Web and your superhero’s instincts, you can ensure that the end of the world is not yet nigh.
Good luck with your mission. The world is counting on you.
*Oleksandr Talavera, Swansea University’s, working with researchers from his university and UC Berkeley in America.