In 1991, the Doomsday Clock took a huge step toward safety. Seventeen minutes. The cold war was over. When Berlin Wall came down in 1989, I already confidently felt forever safe.
For perspective, when I had started watching it in 1984, it was 3 minutes.
(If you are unfamiliar with The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientist’s Doomsday Clock, the timeline and update explanation can be found here.)
I thought the world was safe. I wrote off the possibility of nuclear war. I didn’t think about it again until 2016, when the world start looking scarily stupid. Apparently, the world had been getting scarier without my noticing over the intervening years and was now even worse: back to three minutes.
The world was as scary as it was when I had started watching, and at this point, I didn’t understand, even in principle, how to fix it.
This morning I read Julian Borger’s article in The Guardian. 90 seconds. It is now officially the scariest time in human history (or at least since 1947 when the Doomsday Clock showed 7 minutes to midnight.)
Scarier than Russia getting the bomb. Scarier than the upgrade from simple atomic bombs to hydrogen bombs. Scarier than when less stable nations got their own bombs.
in 1989, I would have bet heavily that I’d never worry again about nuclear war. In 2016, I realized that I would have lost that bet, but I could not yet have imagined how badly I would have lost.
At 90 seconds, I am officially scared.
It’s a bet I wish I would have won.