One of the most popular Medium pieces Open Source has ever published is producer emeritus Kunal Jasty’s list of solutions to Fermi’s paradox.
The paradox runs like this: there are 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe, each containing billions of stars. At least one in 6 of those stars is surrounded by an Earth-sized planets.
So where is everyone?
A clique of engineers, philosophers, and scientists have come to entertain one particular possible solution: that the reason that the universe is so far silent is that inevitably, advanced civilizations always end up destroying themselves.
It could be a sign that tech takes over, that there’s no avoiding a Fourth World War, or that eventually, the food, or the water, or maybe the phosphorus runs out.
The historian of religion Elaine Pagels gave us an introductory caution. The original idea of an “apocalyptic” war came to a man under stress. John of Patmos, author of the visionary Book of Revelation, was reeling from the catastrophic Roman sack of Jerusalem. He had blood on his mind as he prophesied, and he expected a holy comeback which never came. Pagels proposes that it might be time to move beyond the whole idea of worldwide doom.
But Pagels also noted the meaning of the word, “apocalypse.” In Greek, it’s a neutral and not an ending: an unveiling, a revelation. Maybe apocalypses don’t come in quite the way we expect, but to think that way—about the self-immolation of our civilization—may reveal things about where we are right now, what we’re going through, what we need, and where we’re falling short.
So here at Open Source, we’re using August for some almost-escapist radio about the end of the world and the destruction of everything existing: with three looks at the ways we just might wipe ourselves out.
(Hollywood does it; why can’t we?)
Episode links below. Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher, or Soundcloud—as we tackle the Biggest Problem of Them All: how we’re going to survive the 21st century.
Part 1: The Rise of the Machines
We consider the rise and the meaning of intelligent machines — from the deep-learning Alpha Go computer to early robots and autonomous cars — with guests Nick Bostrom, Anders Sandberg, Lord Martin Rees, Nicholson Baker, Maria Bustillos, Elaine Scarry, and Mark O’Connell.
Part 2: A Remade Man
We realize the futuristic killer-A.I. idea — of self-regulating, self-replicating machines that have taken control of their own code — actually describes where the biotech revolution is now, or will be soon, after the discovery of a technique called CRISPR. With Siddhartha Mukherjee, George Church,Michael Sandel, and Pardis Sabeti.
Episode Three: So Far, So Good?
We turn our gaze to the clear and present dangers: the collapse of institutions and ideas, the creeping effects of climate change, the stress of scarcity and inequality. With Amb. Chas Freeman, Jeremy Grantham, Paul Kingsnorth.
Subscribe to Open Source on iTunes, Stitcher, or Overcast. And hear a whole lot more about climate, politics, and ideas on our website, www.radioopensource.org. And if you liked this series, please consider supporting the show on Patreon or at our website.