Tag Archives: Black Swan

#27 On satire

Dear Mat,

I’ve tried lamely over the years to make fun of leaders for doing stupid things. Pretty standard really. I’ve always felt that something like, say, mutually assured destruction 1)Re: your last letter. Your second claim about doomsday was that “we’re most likely to die to a Black Swan, so we’d probably not realise it was coming”. But I gotta say, although we obviously can’t predict Black Swans because they will include unknown unknowns, that doesn’t imply we’re more likely to be wiped out by one of them than some more mundane reason like nuclear annihilation. Sure, there are things we can’t anticipate or prepare for (save for diversifying our portfolio by colonising other planets as you point out), but that doesn’t negate the point that there are known knowns that could kill the fuck out of us. is so insane that maybe very harsh mockery is the way to tackle the apathy and the status quo bias on this issue. Ditto for climate change, wars, treatment of refugees or any other thing where people in power need to have their actions subjected to a much harsher burden of proof.

Satire for me is an extension of scepticism or falsification. Ridicule everything and the really stupid ideas will sink and those left floating will be, not perfect, but passable. Obviously you share this view as well, hence the momentous and world-historical publication of our satire manifesto this week. But does satire work? Continue reading #27 On satire

Footnotes

1. Re: your last letter. Your second claim about doomsday was that “we’re most likely to die to a Black Swan, so we’d probably not realise it was coming”. But I gotta say, although we obviously can’t predict Black Swans because they will include unknown unknowns, that doesn’t imply we’re more likely to be wiped out by one of them than some more mundane reason like nuclear annihilation. Sure, there are things we can’t anticipate or prepare for (save for diversifying our portfolio by colonising other planets as you point out), but that doesn’t negate the point that there are known knowns that could kill the fuck out of us.

Letter From Planet Earth: Nuclear Weapons

Hey Gzorgax,

Apologies that this is an email; I didn’t have time to write a snail-mail letter this week. But at least I can include some links below to some hilarious shit on YouTube. Also, I’ve CCd in your mate Klangvar who I know wanted those links to the “pinata accident” vids. They’re pretty awesome. XD

Anyway you probs want to know how that Kony thing panned out in the end. Um, quick summary: dude who started it flipped and went all Lady Godiva on our arses; started messing with his own junk on the street in broad daylight; movement now discredited; people back to not thinking about tortured Africans.

I’d give you more but I’ve been pretty stressed this week, thinking about even bigger problems. That North Korea country I’ve mentioned before (the one with the constitution written by George Orwell) has long range missiles ready to point at Australia and may soon have more nuclear capabilities too. FML.

This will only add to the set of nations that have weapons capable of destroying whole cities. Moreover, at least two of those nations have automated systems which mean as soon as a missile is launched against them they will initiate a massive counter strike; this cascade effect of nuclear missile launches would precipitate a short lived war and a resultant clouding of the atmosphere that would destroy civilisation and most of the biosphere. It probably sounds like I’ve gone all preachy and that I should let others deal with it, but just hold off until I tell you our method of prevention.

There isn’t one. The fact of mutually assured destruction is what is supposed to stop mutually assured destruction. Proponents of MAD as a deterrent actually point out that no missiles have ever been launched, deliberately or even accidentally. It’s superb rhetoric because there really hasn’t been a single instance of a nuclear holocaust since the advent of MAD, or before.

But then again, right up until the instant of the atomic bomb being dropped on Hiroshima, there hadn’t been a single case of dropping nuclear bombs before. The entire course of human history had been the story of not-dropping bombs on Hiroshima. In fact, prior to 1945 every single person on Earth had been constantly not dropping atomic bombs on Hiroshima. And even including Nagasaki, if we take averages over time, we have been dropping atomic bombs so infrequently in the last few thousand years that it rounds down to zero. 😉

And now, as we approach the Earth’s 4.5 billionth anniversary of not having nuclear wars, judging MAD solely in terms of whether it has prevented nuclear annihilation happening or not, it has an effectiveness rate of 100%… Which will drop quite a lot, in fact right down to 0%, if a single missile is ever launched. That’s the problem with using only past events to make predictions of the future.

As you can imagine for a problem of this magnitude, it is widely ignored. Frankly, as a trope, the Earth is bored by the hackneyed idea of nuclear winter; we’re much more interested in vampires, tapas and microblogging, all of which are massive on your planet too so there must be something in them.

Anyway dude, chat soon. Oh, and keep sending me those links to “Shit Gliese 667 People Say” — total lolocaust.

Jamie.

This article originally appeared in Woroni in 2012.