A view of the world from my own unique perspective

This post is a continuation of Judgment Day Scenarios – Individual.

Throughout our lives, we (at least those of us who subscribe to a Christian religion) have been told that we are going to be judged individually after we die. Why would we think otherwise, since that’s all we’ve ever heard? As you know by now, I view the world a little differently; therefore, I’d like to propose to you that we may very well be judged collectively, as a species. Here’s why:

The idea of Original Sin, and being saddled with the transgressions of others, doesn’t sit well with me. It reminds me of a teacher who decides to punish an entire class because s/he wasn’t able to identify a troublemaker. I didn’t personally do anything to forfeit our paradise; our common ancestors were kicked out of Eden and ruined things for the rest of us. If I didn’t misbehave, then why must I spend my entire life trying to earn back this Utopian existence now known as heaven? The idea of regaining paradise solely for myself strikes me as inherently selfish – Adam and Eve alone ruined things for all future generations, yet I am following rules solely to secure my own place in heaven. Everyone receives the same punishment, but when it comes to salvation, it’s every man or woman for him or herself.

This is one reason why I believe that when it comes to Judgment Day, we’re all in it together. We have to stop looking inward, start thinking about others, and start doing things to help our fellow men and women. You may find this statement shocking, but in my view, going to church is a selfish act, because I’m doing it only to save myself and earn my own ticket into heaven. I’m certainly not sitting in the pew so that I can help someone else in the congregation get to heaven… I’m also wasting an hour that could be used to help others in some way. I think it’s time that we as a species developed a new level of ecclesiastical maturity and started to look outward instead of inward.

A collective judgment also raises the behavioural bar. In fact, despite what we may think of our own inherent goodness, if Humankind was judged collectively at this moment, we’d all be royally screwed (for lack of a better term). That’s why I’d like to you to think about it, and consider our moral and accomplishments in a larger context. Right now, I’ll bet that the creator of the universe is looking down on us and gazing upon a planet full of Costa Concordia cruise ship captains – individuals who will jump through hoops to save themselves, instead of taking the time to help others. I’d now like to offer the following hypothetical evaluation scenarios, divided into three categories: maturity / enlightenment, technological advancement and cosmic puzzles.

Scenario 1: A New, Clear Age of Restraint
Scope: Collective
Angle: Maturity

The Nuclear Age began on July 16, 1945 with the detonation of the first atomic bomb, called Trinity. Since then, the nuclear stockpiles of both the former Soviet Union and the United States have grown to the point where each country is now able to harness enough energy to destroy all human life on the planet several times over. Our judgment in this scenario is based on a comparison of the length of time that we’ve had this immense power, and the length of time that we’ve been able to resist using it to kill innocent people. That restraint lasted about 500 hours – a mere three weeks. On August 6, 1945, the first atomic bomb was dropped on an innocent and helpless civilian population, in Hiroshima, killing 70,000 people immediately. Three days later, a second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing another 40,000-75,000 instantly.

In my opinion, we as a species have already failed spectacularly – even though one could argue that we still have resisted the urge to destroy ourselves completely in a global thermonuclear war. If this were an actual Judgment Day scenario, it could be called Original Sin Redux. The sins of everyone involved in the development of Fat Man and Little Boy have ruined forever, any chance that future generations will have of passing this particular evaluation.

Scenario 2: In God’s Name
Scope: Collective
Angle: Enlightenment

Humankind’s score in this scenario will be inversely proportional to the number of people who have been killed or tortured in the name of any religion. First of all, I need to make a distinction: if you kill someone, you haven’t merely broken the Sixth Commandment; you’ve violated one of your society’s secular laws. You are a threat to others, and should be locked away for a long time so that the rest of society can live out their lives in relative peace. However, if you decide to wield an idea ainstead of a weapon and state, as Galileo did, that the Earth revolves around the sun, then you shouldn’t be persecuted by the church. What bugs me is people who invent an imaginary man in the sky, dictate how the rest of us should live our lives according to rules that they made up themselves, and then persecute or kill those who break these rules. All you’ve managed to do is snuff out a real human life in order to appease your imaginary friend. I don’t like that, and the more you do it, the lower humanity’s collective score will be.

Scenario 3: Global Vegetarianism
Scope: Collective
Angle: Enlightenment

What I’m looking for here is consideration. I want humans to stop eating other living creatures. When they gaze upon a living, sentient animal, they shouldn’t be thinking only about its protoplasm: how delicious its flesh is going to taste on their BBQ or how supple its skin or fur will feel as part of their wardrobe. They should look at animals as living creatures, with feelings, and not think only about how that animal’s body parts might serve them. The score in this scenario will be equal to the percentage of vegetarians among the world’s population.

Scenario 4: Species Diversity
Scope: Collective
Angle: Enlightenment

Species do disappear from time to time, but some become extinct as a direct or indirect result of human activity. I, as the creator of the universe, know exactly how many species have been extinguished by the human race; humans have no idea how many forms of life they are destroying, while they continue their destructive, polluting lifestyle in ignorant bliss. The greater the number of extinct species (both plant and animal) during the reign of humans, the lower their score.

Scenario 5: Energize
Scope: Collective
Angle: Enlightenment

I (as the creator of the universe) have set things up deliberately so that the Earth will provide more energy than humans could ever consume. I expect that humans will devise machines to convert the wind, water and solar energy to other forms of power, or simply use them to do work. The windmills in Holland are a good example of using wind power to perform labour-intensive tasks. There are other sources of stored energy – oil, natural gas and uranium – but their extraction, refining. burning and disposal damages the planet. The score in this scenario will be based on the percentage of the world’s power that is derived from wind, water and solar energy.

Scenario 6: Equilibrium
Scope: Collective
Angle: Enlightenment

As Mankind moved from an agrarian to an industrialized society, our standard of living improved, but we also started consuming more raw materials to sustain it. We are currently using more resources than the Earth can replenish naturally, and in the process we are changing the living conditions of the planet itself through global warming, deforestation, the hole in the ozone layer, and even the precipitous drop in the bee population. We are not living in harmony with the Earth – we still behave as it the planet and everything on it is ours for the taking. The alarm has already sounded, and one day we will actually wake up and alter our lifestyle. Ideally, we will discover a way to live in harmony with our environment and to maintain an equilibrium with the planet. We will receive our passing grade when this equilibrium is achieved.

This is an interesting case, because the dinosaurs will likely score higher than humans. They may not have erected towering monuments, composed stirring music or created breathtaking art, but they did know how to live in harmony with the Earth. I would also argue that they had a negative carbon footprint, since the oil we’re extracting from the ground today came from their protoplasm. They gave to the Earth more than they took from it.

Scenario 7: Mapping The Universe
Scope: Collective
Angle: Technological Advancement

How complete is our model of the universe? How accurately have we determined its approximate size, and our approximate position within it? Most importantly, how much of it have we observed and mapped? In this scenario deals only with technological advancement, rather than maturity and enlightenment. We will be assigned a score based on the percentage of the universe that Humankind has discovered and charted. If we were able to see everything – from edge to edge – and catalogue everything within it, then we would receive a perfect score.

Scenario 8: The Transmission Bubble
Scope: Collective
Angle: Technological Advancement

What exactly is a transmission bubble? When you watch television, is natural to assume that the (over the air) television signal travels directly from the transmission tower to your TV set. Actually, the TV signals travel in all directions, including upward into space. This means that the Earth is broadcasting television and radio waves in all directions, surrounding the planet with a transmission bubble. How large is this bubble? According to Wikipedia, the first radio transmission was made in 1900, followed by Marconi’s trans-Atlantic transmission in 1901. The first television broadcast was made on January 13, 1928. Radio waves have been travelling outward from the Earth’s surface in all directions for 112 years (as of the time of this writing, July 2012), and television signals for 84 years. Since electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light, this means that the Earth has an audio transmission bubble with a radius of 112 light years (224 light years in diameter) and a video transmission bubble with a radius of 84 light years (168 light years in diameter). As a comparison, the sun is 8.3 light-minutes away. Our transmission bubble has already reached the Alpha Centauri System (4.3 light years away), Sirius (8.6 ly), Vega (25 ly), Arcturus (37 ly) and Regulus (77 ly). The larger the transmission bubble, the more technologically advanced I can assume the species is, and the higher their score.

These next three scenarios fall into the puzzle category, and are my favourites. In each one, there is a puzzle to solve, but no one on Earth knows what that is. That’s because these are actually the creator’s goals. For example, if you’re playing the computer game SimCity, one of your goals might be a population of 100,000. To achieve this, you wouldn’t just tell your citizens “be fruitful and multiply”, you, as the city’s designer, would build the necessary environment and infrastructure that would allow your Sim-citizens to reach that population goal.

Scenario 9: Planetary Defense
Scope: Collective
Angle: Puzzle

The goal in this scenario is to defend the planet successfully against a force that could destroy all life on it. In many modern adventuring-style computer games (World of Warcraft, Diablo etc.), your character has to do battle with multitudes of monsters and assorted bad guys. At the end of each level, there is often a “boss” monster – one that is larger, more powerful and considerably more ferocious than the others. If you can defeat the boss, then you move to the next level in the game.

This is what I envision in this scenario. The world will have its usual problems – poverty, hunger, military conflict, global warming and the rapid depletion of natural resources – but, in the grand scheme of things, these are all just minor annoyances. Every now and then, I (as the creator of the universe) will create the planetary equivalent of a boss monster. This is humankind’s test; if you can defeat the boss, then you advance to the next level. If you don’t defeat the boss, then everyone dies.

My boss monster is a massive asteroid that will strike Earth every 160 million years or so. As you may recall, the dinosaurs didn’t do a particularly good job of defending themselves when an asteroid struck the Earth, but in all fairness, they didn’t have much of a grasp of technology either. They were outstanding at achieving an equilibrium with the planet, and existing with a negligible carbon footprint, but that’s another scenario. Humankind might fare better against a threat of imminent extraterrestrial extinction, since we can already track near-Earth objects and predict when they will be closest to the planet. If a near-Earth object of a significant size is on a collision course, then we could unleash enough power (perhaps by using a nuclear device) to either alter its trajectory or break it apart into smaller, less harmful pieces. Our continued survival, and more importantly. our collective score in this scenario will depend on whether, and how efficiently we can vanquish the “boss”.

These final two scenarios are the most creative in the list, and will require thinking outside the proverbial box. If you used to own an ant farm as a kid, then you’ll understand. To the ants inside the ant farm, you are God, watching over them and seeing everything that they do. As far as the ants are concerned, their universe extends only as far as the plastic housing of the ant farm. Now imagine that our entire universe is nothing more than an ant farm on some other plane of existence. Specifically, this is what I want you to picture: on this plane of existence there is a university science lab full of students. The professor assignment is as follows: Create a universe that starts from a singularity, and expands as a result of a Big Bang. Set the physics parameters such that the matter will eventually coalesce into stars, then solar systems. Ideally, the conditions will allow life to emerge from the primordial soup, and then evolve into humans. Then, watch carefully as the simplest forms of life, bacteria and viruses, battle the most complex form of life, homo sapiens, for planetary dominance.

Scenario 10: Man vs. Microbe
Scope: Collective
Angle: Puzzle

In this scenario, our entire universe could be nothing more than this ethereal science experiment, Man vs. Microbes, playing out like a celestial game of chess. For millenia, viruses and bacteria had the upper hand on our planet because we had no understanding of microscopic organisms or their potential danger. The tables turned in a cosmic instant, in 1928, when Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. Since then I imagine that our “science student / creator of our universe” has been watching in fascination as the events unfold. We eradicate these bacteria and viruses, only to have them mutate and become resistant to our over-prescribed antibiotics. Naturally, we resourceful humans then begin to develop new drugs, which are effective for a while – until the microbes mutate again and develop new resistances. Back and forth it goes, until today when we find ourselves standing on an epidemiological precipice; new viruses that we call “superbugs” – resistant to everything we can throw at them – have emerged, and all we can do is hope that that they can be contained. Which side will emerge as the ultimate victor: the arrogant ones enjoying their perch at the top of the evolutionary ladder, or the life forms right at the bottom?

Scenario 11: Message In A Bottle
Scope: Collective
Angle: Puzzle

This scenario is Science Experiment #2. The professor has asked the students to do the following: Create a universe that starts from a singularity, and expands as a result of a Big Bang. Set the physics parameters such that the matter will eventually coalesce into stars, and then solar systems with life-supporting planets. Wait until life emerges on one of these planets, and then evolves into humans. Wait until the humans comprehend, measure and map their universe. Ideally, some of them may wonder if some alternate reality may exist beyond the edge of their universe, and then try to send a space probe or a transmission beyond their universe and into ours. There will be a time limit though – as soon as their universe stops expanding, it will start shrinking, and eventually collapse back into a singularity, in an event known as the Bog Crunch. This will destroy everything in their universe, and it means that you will receive a failing grade. If the humans are able to send a message to you successfully before the Big Crunch, then you will receive a passing grade.

That’s the puzzle, and our ultimate goal. This time the creator is being judged, and by extension, so are we.

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