The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveiled the resetting of the Doomsday Clock on January 20th 2022, electing to keep the clock’s setting at 100 seconds to midnight, same as 2021, which is not at all encouraging since that’s as bad as the setting has ever been.
The past few resets of the incomparable clock have essentially been SOS signals to world leadership to get its act together or suffer horrendous consequences, specifically regarding: (1) nuclear and biological weaponry, (2) climate change/global warming, and (3) disruptive technologies exacerbated by an over-the-top, in their words: “Corrupted information ecosphere that undermines rational decision making.”
The world-famous clock was initially set at the dawn of the Cold War at 7 minutes to midnight in 1947. Subsequently, its best (most promising) level was 17 minutes to midnight in 1991, following the fall of the Soviet Union, widely considered the end of the Cold War.
In 2016 the clock was set at 3 minutes to midnight but subsequently dropped like a lead balloon and now appears to be suspended in midair beyond the cliff’s edge à la Wile E Coyote trapped in a persistent cartoonish make-believe world at 100 seconds to midnight.
The Chicago Atomic Scientists group that developed the first atomic weapons in the Manhattan Project founded the organization in 1945. The midnight hour of the clock is the metaphoric imagery of apocalypse with its target at 24:00 hours, now only 100 seconds away, symbolic of an impending nuclear explosion countdown. The famous clock is located in the lobby at the Bulletin Offices of the University of Chicago.
Accordingly, the clock shows how close… “we are to civilization-ending apocalypse because the world remains stuck in an extremely dangerous moment, in 2020 we called it the new abnormal, and it unfortunately persisted.” (Source: John Mecklin, editor, At Doom’s Doorstep: It is 100 Seconds to Midnight, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January 20, 2022)
So, what gives? What is so horrible in the world that the Doomsday Clock is stuck at a nail-biting 100 seconds to midnight?
The following is a summation of the opinions of the roster of luminaries, including 11 Nobel laureates, who determine the eminent setting of the Doomsday Clock: “Last year, despite laudable efforts by some leaders and the public, negative trends in nuclear and biological weapons, climate change, and a variety of disruptive technologies—all exacerbated by a corrupted information ecosphere that undermines rational decision making—kept the world within a stone’s throw of apocalypse. Global leaders and the public are not moving with anywhere near the speed or unity needed to prevent disaster.”
The members consider the following issues as important “for continuation of civilization”:
- Regarding nuclear weapons: The push by China, Russia, and the US to “develop hypersonic missiles; and the continued testing of anti-satellite weapons… if not restrained, these efforts could mark the start of a dangerous new nuclear arms race.”
- As for climate change, the headline about the issue sums it up: “Climate change: Lots of Words, Relatively Little Action.” Global warming remains an underappreciated stuck-in-the-mud threat that simply will not go away. Accordingly, “For many countries, a huge gap still exists between long-term greenhouse gas reduction pledges and the near-and medium-term emission-reduction actions needed….”
- The members applauded the new Biden administration’s strong commitment to reestablishing the role of science and factual evidence in public policy, a welcomed relief from years past, but they said: “Corruption of the information ecosystem continued apace in 2021,” which is a continuing thorn in the side of science and thoughtful policy-making.
- Reference was made to the craziness of internet-based disinformation infecting America with an utterly false narrative that Joe Biden lost the presidential election. This threatens to undermine (1) future US elections (2) American democracy in general, and (3) severely limit the US ability as a global leader in managing worldwide existential risks.
Moreover, an enormous vacuum of any semblance whatsoever of thoughtful leadership these past few years, since 2016, has put the world on edge and into a deep hole that’s difficult to climb out of, leading to concern of whether a significant prominence in leadership in this topsy-turvy world can be effective once again.
In concluding remarks, the members stated: “Leaders around the world must immediately commit themselves to renewed cooperation in the many ways and venues available for reducing existential risk. Citizens of the world can and should organize to demand that their leaders do so—and quickly. The doorstep of doom is no place to loiter.”
Their concern about loitering around “the doorstep of doom” prompts consideration of what is required to blunt rampant lies about the 2020 presidential election. Lies that are relentlessly pounded and embedded into the public’s mindset via the personification of a screaming megaphone propped up on disproportionately small talons that tear apart weak-kneed ignoramuses.
Studies of the Illusory Truth Effect have been done about people believing whatever they’re told, but only if told repeatedly enough times: “Repeated information is often perceived as more truthful than new information.”(Source: Aumyo Hassan & Sarah J. Barber, The Effects of Repetition Frequency on the Illusory Truth Effect, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, May 13, 2021).
The Hassan/Barber study tested people’s perceptions: “People tend to perceive claims as truer if they have been exposed to them before. The more often participants had previously encountered a trivia statement, the more truthful they rated it.”
Repetition can establish false truthfulness or an illusory state of mind that believes lies. Of course, this is the open secret behind Trump’s boldfaced lies about the 2020 election.
So, why does Trump’s fake news persist even when clearly proven wrong? Answer: Studies have proven that “repeated information” is perceived as more truthful than “new information.” Typically, new information or facts that discredit the lie are not repeated over and over and over again, thus losing relevance to the lie that continues repeating as a truthful lie.
The only solution is the truth, the truth, the truth over and over again and again in direct contrast to the lies, and it must be repeated over and over again until people are sick and tired of hearing the truth, and, over time, it becomes indisputable because people believe (1) repetition of fact or (2) repetition of a falsehood, either one, whichever is repeated the most! That’s factual!
Robert Hunziker is a writer from Los Angeles