For the second-straight year, the Bulletin for the Atomic Scientists have determined the time placement of the Doomsday Clock at five minutes to midnight, with midnight representing the destruction of mankind, presumably by its own doing.
The metaphorical clock was introduced in 1947 as a means by atomic scientists to communicate to the world of the dangers of nuclear and environmental misadventure. Through the years, the time has been adjusted to represent the evaluated threat to the survival of mankind based on scientific, industrial, and political developments. The time on the clock has been adjusted some 20 times since its 1947 inception, with times ranging from two minutes to midnight in 1953 (following the test of the first hydrogen bomb) to 17 minutes before midnight in 1991 (following two years of peaceful political revolution in Eastern Europe and the reduction of nuclear arms by the United States and Russia).
So the clock symbolizes, supposedly, the threat of humankind’s destruction from nuclear or biological weapons or environmental abuse, but personally, I think it’s a bunch of shit. This is mainly because I’m confused on what the clock actually represents, and I cant find anyone or any article that can explain to me what the bastard thing means. All I get from people is that, “Well, it’s supposed to represent how close mankind is getting to wiping itself out.” Yeah, I get that. But relative to what?
First of all, what does this grating clock supposedly represent? The entire history of mankind? The history of life on earth? Or just the history of mankind in the Atomic Age? I’m assuming that it represents the history of mankind.
Next, assuming that the clock itself represents the history of mankind, what duration are we talking here? What represents the history of mankind, clock-cycle-wise? Just the 11 o’clock hour? The twelve-hour cycle? The 24-hour cycle? Without some idea of what parameters are established here, what’s the point of using clock metaphors? If anything, The Price Is Right’s Cliff-Hanger game, with its yodeling Swiss mountain-climber icon, would be every bit as suitable as a visual dynamic.
If midnight is the destruction of the human race, then what does 11:00PM represent? What does the previous 12:00 noon represent? Is there an hour on the clock that represents the advent of mankind? What time on the Doomsday Clock did civilizations in the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers emerge? What time did mankind discover crop rotation? What time was it when Johannes Gutenberg developed the first moveable-type printing press in the Western World? What time was on the Doomsday Clock when Jonas Salk developed the polio vaccine? For that matter, what time on the Doomsday clock was the analog clock itself invented?
What time was on the Doomsday Clock back in the year 1000 AD, just as a general reference? What time was on the Doomsday Clock in 1918, when World War I was raging in Europe and the Spanish Influenza was ravaging the global populace? Was that 11:30 PM on the Doomsday Clock? Was it a quarter after nine? Was it 6:30 PM? How about some kind of temporal yardstick here, to help define the metaphoric device that the Doomsday Clock represents? Otherwise, this clock just seems like another annoying pain-in-the-ass gimmick intended to worry the public.
Suppose we integrate Daylight Savings Time to the Doomsday Clock. Does an extra hour mean that mankind gets a reprieve it doesn’t deserve? On second thought, maybe we’d better forget that idea. The next “spring forward” might just do us all in.
For that matter, why even have a Doomsday Clock? Why not pull the plug on the dumb-ass thing, and delay the wholesale destruction of mankind indefinitely? I like that idea better, and it’s a clear notion we can all get behind.