11 Extremely Likely Ways Humans Will Go Extinct
There's nothing like a big-budget blockbuster focused around some wild apocalyptic event that threatens to wipe out the entire human race. But once you strip away the special effects and outlandish plot twists, it's actually horrifying to soberly consider how we might all realistically bite the dust.
With that lovely thought in mind, we considered a few remarkably plausible scenarios in which humankind could end as we know it.
1. A black holeEver heard of wandering black holes? Well, it turns out there are a whole bunch of those rogue matter-suckers in our galaxy, and any one of them could potentially end everything for us. For a meticulously detailed account of what might happen if the Earth were gobbled up by one, check this out.
2. Alien invasionIf you buy the Drake Equation, it's only a matter of time at this point before we discover life elsewhere in the universe, but the real question is, will they find us first? And frankly, if Stephen Hawking is concerned it won't be a friendly encounter, we all should be.
3. Global pandemicConsidering how hypermobile society is today, the threat of a fast-spreading devastating disease is greater than ever. Modern medicine can treat and contain a whole swath of illnesses that nearly wiped out humanity in the past (lookin' at you, Black Death), but it's tough to tell what horrible, untreatable mutant virus may be lurking in the wings.
4. Artificial intelligenceAs much as we love our computers and robots at this stage in our technological evolution, there will come a day when they become so powerful that they not only exceed human intelligence, but become capable of expanding their own intelligence to a point where humans are not only redundant, but in their way. That would be very bad.
5. Biological warfareAll it takes is a mad scientist with money to engineer a vicious virus or bacteria with the potential to obliterate our entire civilization. And considering the advancement in DNA manipulation technology that exists today, it's not unreasonable to imagine a truly horrifying scenario.
6. A nuclear warA single nuclear bomb hitting a large city would certainly wipe out an unthinkable number of people, but it probably wouldn't end civilization. However, it's the retaliation of another nuclear bomb that could do us all in. An all-out nuclear bomb off would quickly encircle the earth with devastating levels of radiation and soot, rapidly and dramatically changing the climate in such a way that it'd cause a worldwide famine, among other less-than-ideal scenarios.
7. The sun expandingAs the sun grows older, it will eventually become a red giant, scorching the earth and evaporating the oceans before eventually engulfing the solar system entirely. No need to get too worked up about it yet though, since scientists don't anticipate the sun aging out for a few more billion years.
8. A supervolcanoRemember that crazy Icelandic volcano that erupted a few years ago, causing all kinds of air travel delays? Now, imagine the eruption were thousands of times more intense, and you get the idea of what a supervolcano can do. And while the last known eruption of one was over 70,000 years ago, there are six known supervolcanoes around the world that could, theoretically, send us into a soot and ash-induced volcanic winter at any moment.
9. OverpopulationThought your subway train was packed this morning? Just wait for what the rapidly growing human population will do to our shared resources. Food, water, and a whole lot more will be in short supply once we hit a critical mass, and considering the human population has doubled to 7.1 billion in just the last 45 years, it's entirely possible that we'll be face to face with some of the serious consequences sooner rather than later.
10. Global warmingUnless you've been living on a melting polar ice cap for the last few decades, you've probably heard we're doing some serious damage to the planet. If things get bad enough, we'll be just another one of the countless species to be obliterated by rising sea levels, weird climatic events, and an untenable temperature shift.
11. Asteroid impactConsidering it was an asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs more than 65 million years ago, there's something eerily believable about this one. If (and when) we do get pummeled by the big one, it has the potential to set off super tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions that'll send our pale blue dot into a chaotic tailspin of doom.
Joe McGauley is a senior editor at Supercompressor and will most certainly suffer from black hole nightmares from now on.
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