Wired Predictions for Doomsday

Wired has a cool article discussing and debunking all ways we could possibly kick it as a species and to my surprise, the first item uses Richard Gott’s probability formula to guess how much longer we’ll last. This is of course the same formula I’m using in my ongoing experiment, Copernicus Picks the Dead Celebrity (no one is dead yet).

Standing at the Berlin Wall in 1969, Princeton astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III used a statistical formula to predict that the barrier would last 2.66 to 24 more years. It lasted 20. Later, Gott applied the same equation to humanity and calculated, with 95 percent certainty, that it would last 205,000 to 8 million more years. His paper on the subject made it into the august British scientific journal Nature.

Basically, Gott’s formula (you will be spared the details) combines a series of estimates, then treats the result as though it was precise. Speculations about the far future have about as much chance of being spot-on as next week’s weather forecast. But Gott’s academic reputation won’t suffer; if humanity still exists in 8.1 million years, it will be a little late to revoke his tenure.

Read the rest here. My favorite picture is the one of the runaway nanobots.