12 Events That Will Change Everything

[The feature article of the June 2010 edition of Scientific American (pp. 36-48) is actually a compilation of articles titled “12 Events That Will Change Everything.” Online version here.]

Scientific American, June 2010 Cover

This Scientific American feature discusses 12 major events. Below are the twelve events in order as presented in the magazine. (In parentheses are the likelihoods of each event as described in the magazine; the terms in order from least likely to most likely—very unlikely, unlikely, 50-50, likely, almost certain.)

The 12 Events:

  1. Cloning of a human (likely)
  2. Extra dimensions (50-50)
  3. Extraterrestrial intelligence (unlikely)
  4. Nuclear exchange (unlikely)
  5. Creation of life (almost certain)
  6. Room-temperature superconductors (50-50)
  7. Machine self-awareness (likely)
  8. Polar meltdown (likely)
  9. Pacific earthquake (almost certain)
  10. Fusion energy (very unlikely)
  11. Asteroid collision (unlikely)
  12. Deadly pandemic (50-50)

Each of these would have profound implications for the world, though some are certainly more important than others. The ones with the most immediate and negative global effects would be 3 (extraterrestrial intelligence), 4 (nuclear exchange), 11 (asteroid collision), and 12 (deadly pandemic). Of these, 4, 11, and 12 are deadly, while 3 has the likely potential to be.

Numbers 1 (human cloning), 2 (extra dimensions), 5 (creation of life), 6 (room-temperature superconductors), 7 (machine self-awareness) and 10 (fusion energy) all seem to be beneficial.

This leaves 8 (polar meltdown) and 9 (Pacific earthquake), of which the former will have slower but costly consequences, and the latter will have a non-global effect.

Whether the good events or the bad ones come first—or even at all—will depend on science, determination, and chance.

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