Author William Poundstone Says Humans Only Have 730 Years Left Before We're Extinct

Wednesday, 21 March 2018 - 12:57PM
Wednesday, 21 March 2018 - 12:57PM
Author William Poundstone Says Humans Only Have 730 Years Left Before We're Extinct
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Image credit: YouTube

Elon Musk may come off as a crazed doomsayer when it comes to the robot apocalypse, but human extinction has been on the mind of luminaries like Stephen Hawking and Michio Kaku, not to mention William Poundstone.


Poundstone, a noted skeptic and author, has used an old-school equation to give an estimate of how long humanity has left before it faces extinction here on Earth: roughly 730 years, or six to eight generations.

The number comes from Gott's Principle, an equation created by physicist J. Richard Gott III to apply the Copernican Principle to other areas of life (originally, Gott used it to predict when the Berlin Wall would fall).


In 1993, he applied it to the lifespan of the human race and ended up predicting that we had between 20 and a million years left. That's not very helpful, so Poundstone took a closer look at some of the factors that could end humanity and settled on 730 years.

Poundstone's expiration date for humanity comes on the heels of new research that claims we may be undergoing a massive "sixth extinction" event that may end with the disappearance of humanity, along with most animals on Earth.


According to the paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the amount of species going extinct has increased in recent years and the population loss experienced by most animals across the world (while not necessarily endangering them) has amounted to "biological annihilation."


Opening quote
"The resulting biological annihilation obviously will have serious ecological, economic and social consequences. Humanity will eventually pay a very high price for the decimation of the only assemblage of life that we know of in the universe...All signs point to ever more powerful assaults on biodiversity in the next two decades, painting a dismal picture of the future of life, including human life."
Closing quote

All of these doomsday predictions should be taken with a grain of salt, however—Paul Ehrlich, one of the scientists involved in the new study, famously claimed in his book The Population Bomb that humanity would experience massive starvation in the 1970s (which didn't happen). Likewise, the Gott Principle relies on human judgement to determine its "end" dates, meaning there's plenty of room for error.


If you're going to worry about anything, worry about asteroids.

Science News