And we’re all gonna die

Well, yes, we are, but probably not the way the guy monopolizing the microphone is trying to tell you:

These prophets of doom rely on one thing — that their audience will not check the record of such predictions. In fact, the history of prophecy is one of failure and oversight. Many predictions (usually of doom) have not come to pass, while other things have happened that nobody foresaw. Even brief research will turn up numerous examples of both, such as the many predictions in the 1930s — about a decade before the baby boom began — that the populations of most Western countries were about to enter a terminal decline. In other cases, people have made predictions that have turned out to be laughably overmodest, such as the nineteenth-century editor’s much-ridiculed forecast that by 1950 every town in America would have a telephone, or Bill Gates’s remark a few years ago that 64 kilobytes of memory is enough for anyone.

More often quoted as 640kb, which is still nowhere nearly enough.

Often as not, these dire projections are full of crap. Here’s one which was literally so:

Nineteenth-century cities depended on thousands of horses for their daily functioning. All transport, whether of goods or people, was drawn by horses. London in 1900 had 11,000 cabs, all horse-powered. There were also several thousand buses, each of which required 12 horses per day, a total of more than 50,000 horses. In addition, there were countless carts, drays, and wains, all working constantly to deliver the goods needed by the rapidly growing population of what was then the largest city in the world. Similar figures could be produced for any great city of the time.

The problem of course was that all these horses produced huge amounts of manure. A horse will on average produce between 15 and 35 pounds of manure per day. Consequently, the streets of nineteenth-century cities were covered by horse manure. This in turn attracted huge numbers of flies, and the dried and ground-up manure was blown everywhere. In New York in 1900, the population of 100,000 horses produced 2.5 million pounds of horse manure per day, which all had to be swept up and disposed of.

Ah, those were the days. And sayers of doom were duly heard from:

Writing in the Times of London in 1894, one writer estimated that in 50 years every street in London would be buried under nine feet of manure. Moreover, all these horses had to be stabled, which used up ever-larger areas of increasingly valuable land. And as the number of horses grew, ever-more land had to be devoted to producing hay to feed them (rather than producing food for people), and this had to be brought into cities and distributed — by horse-drawn vehicles. It seemed that urban civilization was doomed.

It’s difficult to make predictions, especially about the future, but the things that would probably kill us, such as the collapse of the global financial system, on the heels of its diversion from maintaining monetary policy to allowing the top one percent of the top one percent to ascend higher, will be discussed only by nimrods on late-night radio or other nimrods on YouTube or the likes of me; meanwhile, things that probably won’t kill us — North Korea, various Russian entities, sport-utility vehicles — fill the news cycle to the brim and then some.

(Via Bayou Renaissance Man.)


  1. fillyjonk »

    11 July 2017 · 11:23 am

    Random thought: maybe this is the secular version of that guy on the street corner braying about how the Rapture is coming? Except in the WAGD worldview, there’s no having-faith-as-a-protection; it’s more about buying gold and keeping your powder dry and making sure you have freeze-dried food and all that exhausting stuff that tells me that, come that kind of world’s-end, I’m not sure I want to be a survivor. (Not in a world without chocolate and TP and climate control and where I have to boil all my water before drinking it….)

  2. McG »

    11 July 2017 · 12:03 pm

    Millions of people have predicted the end of the world. So far they’ve all been wrong. I suppose that could change someday but the odds are still against anyone not talking asteroid, supernova or a revival/reboot of “Hannah Montana”.

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