The World Is Now 90 Seconds To Midnight

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You may have heard the term “(some number) to midnight” in the past. Many readers will know what this means while others will not be as sure. If you are unaware, the term describes how close the world is to its doom. The closer we get to “midnight,” the closer we are to the world ending.

The “Doomsday Clock,” as it has come to be called, is actually run by a group of scientists. The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which was formed by Manhattan Project scientists at the University of Chicago, are the ones behind it. Their expertise is pretty unique.

For those unaware, the Manhattan Project was a secret project conducted by scientists working for the United States Government. The experiments they conducted led to the invention of the first atomic bomb. The Doomsday Clock itself was created by the artist Martyl Langsdorf.

It was designed for the cover of the Bulletin’s June 1947 issue, where it was set at seven minutes to midnight. Their husband, Alexander Langsdorf, Jr., was part of the scientists involved in the Manhattan Project.

The question many now might have is…what led them to change the clock recently?

How Close We’ve Been To Midnight

Doomsday Clock Art
[Image via Joe Burgett]

There have been four times in memory when we were closer to midnight than ever before. The first happened shortly after the clock was invented, back in 1953.

This was when the United States tested its first thermonuclear device in November of 1952, as part of Operation Ivy. The Soviet Union followed with the Joe 4 Test in August of 1953. For decades, nothing ever beat this clock measurement. Then 2017 & 2018 happened.

In 2017, the clock moved to 2 minutes and 1/2 seconds to midnight. This was due to the election of Donald Trump to the office of U.S. President. Mostly, due to his comments regarding nuclear weapons and a threat of a renewed arms race with Russia. Trump also disagreed heavily with notable, clear science. Especially when it came to human-caused climate change.

In 2018, world leaders failed to deal with huge threats of nuclear war and climate change. That led to the clock matching 1953, hitting 2 minutes to midnight. The United States, being a major world leader, led the cause for concern. America pulled out of the Paris Agreement, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, & the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

This was accompanied by more United States/Russia talk, especially surrounding newer nuclear weapons. Along with information warfare threats and dangers from new, disruptive technology. This included things like cyberwarfare & artificial intelligence.

In 2020, we hit the closest number yet to midnight at 100 seconds. This was due to the COVID Pandemic, issues surrounding nuclear weapons, and the U.S. moving out of treaties. Among them included the Iranian Deal. Following 2020, the Bulletin left the 100 seconds to midnight stance in place without improvement.

90 Seconds To Midnight

Doomsday Clock
[Image via Patrick Semansky/Associated Press]

Now we’ve made it to January 2023 and we’re now at the official, closest to midnight according to the Bulletin, 90 seconds. Why and how did we get to this number? There are quite a few reasons, but at the top of the list is the Russian/Ukrainian War.

The war causes a lot of problems for the world, which many nations surrounding the conflict have felt. However, even other nations further away such as the United States have felt the hit. This might have to do with issues getting oil exported among other necessary items.

On top of this, issues with climate change remain a top concern for the Bulletin. They feel the war will only serve to cause further problems in this department for obvious reasons. The scientists also feel disinformation (fake news) is a massive issue, especially due to the rise of AI systems.

A major concern over the last few years has been the COVID Pandemic. The Bulletin also still feel this is a concern, but they are also more concerned about future pandemics. All of this led to the clock hitting 90 seconds, which makes a lot of sense.

It seems odd, doesn’t it? Many feel AI or Robots, even Aliens will be the reason humanity dies off. However, our species might very well be the cause of its own demise.