The Clock We Can’t Deadlock

Megan Sigismonti, Staff Writer

The Clock We Can’t Deadlock

By Megan Sigismonti

Have you ever wanted to go back in time? Change the past? Perhaps to an embarrassing moment? Unfortunately the laws of time, modern clocks, and key, missing technological innovation prevents our desired “time travel.” Between alarm clocks, digital clocks, and stopwatches, all clocks move forwards— well, most of them. There is one clock that is able to move both forwards and backwards. The name of this outlier is The Doomsday Clock.

The birthday of The Doomsday Clock was in 1947. Around this time Manhattan Project researchers developed the universal symbol. The 71-year-old clock represents the potential of a man-made global catastrophe.

The concept of the clock is relatively straightforward: it has always been set in the hour of eleven, specifically within minutes of midnight. Consequently at the stroke of 12 o’clock, extreme global misfortune and ruin sets in. The further we are from midnight, the more peaceful and secure life becomes.

The furthest the clock has ever been from the dreaded “doomsday” was in 1991 at 17 minutes around the time of the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the agreement upon the first Strategic Arms Reduction.

The closest the clock has ever been to midnight is tied. In 1953 the scientists set it at two minutes once the United States and the Soviet Union began testing hydrogen bombs. The second time was as a result of global powers being unable to address tensions. This movement of the clock occured this year, 2018.

The “2018 Doomsday Clock Statement” breaks down the further progression of the clock into three factors: nuclear risk, climate change, and emerging technologies. In short, persistent global tensions, delays of environmental reconstruction, and distrust with the media have currently placed humanity approximately two minutes before the so-called end of the world.

Rachel Bronson, the president and CEO of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists who has a PhD in political science, is the very person, along with numerous contributors who have given the public a lengthy explanation regarding the clock’s recent movement.

According to the statement, “Although the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists focuses on nuclear risk, climate change, and emerging technologies, the nuclear landscape takes center stage in this year’s clock statement.”

“Nukes” and “bombs” are both five-letter words casually tossed around in conversation now-a-days. The public has become so accustomed to joking around and conversing about nuclear warfare that the surprise of it being one of the clock’s major catalysts is relatively absent.

The assistance of North Korea maximising their nuclear arsenal and President Donald Trump’s provocative language regarding the matter have also facilitated the decrease in the time from midnight. Also, “…tensions over the South China Sea have increased, with relations between the United States and China insufficient to establish a stable security situation.” The statement further indicates that nuclear war may result from distrust, tension, fear regarding miscommunication, and preventable accidents on a global level.

In addition to nuclear warfare, climate change continues on its pessimistic journey of everlasting impacts. As stated in the text, “All the warmest years in the instrumentary record have occurred in the 21st century.” The dramatic increase in temperature along with the excessive amount of greenhouse gas emissions contribute to the impending future of an uninhabitable planet. “…On the climate change front, the danger may seem less immediate, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now.” Bronson and her team illustrate that the prompt for action is evident. As more and more people continue to delay combat against climate change, the more the “doomsday” future becomes inevitable.

The final major catalyst that burdens the public is more consistent than nuclear warfare and climate change: emerging technologies. Two major issues that arise from industrial science are distrust in the media by audiences and the use of electronic components strategically to make political advancements. As noted in the statement “The Science and Security Board is deeply concerned about the loss of public trust in political institutions in the media, in science, and in facts themselves.” The frequent reliance upon fact checkers and even the use of the term “fact,” to some degree in the assessment of the credibility of an argument, have nearly dissolved any remaining traces of certainty the public has in relation to the media. In the words of Bronson, “…Technological change is disrupting democracies around the world as states seek and exploit opportunities to use information technologies as weapons.”

Despite the numerous global issues with seemingly unachievable solutions, The Bulletin points out actions that can be taken in order to reverse the clock.

Regarding nuclear warfare, “U.S. President Donald Trump should refrain from provocative rhetoric regarding North Korea.” Even little actions such as transforming how nations converse about global issues into more appropriate and useful statements rather than the current nonessential and offensive discourse that flood media outlets is a step in the right direction. “U.S. and Russia should open multiple channels of communication.” Compromises and eventual solutions, such as the development of a rational diplomatic conversation, reduce the tensions surrounding nuclear warfare, which is another maneuver towards peace.

In terms of climate change, the Bulletin claims that “Governments around the world should redouble their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” The recent efforts being made by governments are effective, such as the Paris Agreement; however, Bronson and her team propose that enhanced efforts are vital in order to knock down the barricade climate change puts up. Economically and scientifically the decline in temperature is achievable. Collective performance on a global stage would result in control over climate change.

Lastly, in respect to the surge of industrial science, “The international community should establish new protocols to discourage and penalize the misuse of information technology.” By repairing how technology is used through regulations and securing supervision on advanced weaponry, the trust in the media, elections, and global relations will drastically increase.

As reported by The Bulletin, the Treaty of the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons generates a sense of accomplishment for a world without atomic warfare.

Time may seem to be against us; between armed struggles, climate distortion, and looming technologies, our agenda is pretty full. The Doomsday Clock like all other clocks moves forwards, but never forget, it can also go backwards. Humanity united can turn back the clock.