In a new book titled The Doomsday Calculation an expert has predicted the human race will die off within the next 760 years.
Sorry Busted, it seems like we might never see the year 3000.
Of course, unless we make some pretty rapid advancements in medicine, everyone reading this in 2019 would be long gone in 760 years anyway.
Considering anatomically modern humans have been around for about 200,000 years, however, 760 years isn’t really that long.
The Doomsday Calculation was written by William Poundstone, who took a new look at a mathematical approach to predicting virtually anything within a 50 per cent likelihood.
The approach is known as the Copernican method and was developed by Princeton University astrophysicist J. Richard Gott III.
Now stay with me on this; the method is said to work to predict the likely length of existence of anything of an uncertain duration, as long as it’s being encountered at a random point in time.
Do you follow? No? Me neither, to be honest.
Gott might be better at explaining. Speaking to The New York Times in 1993, the astrophysicist said:
Obviously, if you have any specific information affecting the life span of, say, the human race, or a class of stars, you can estimate its life span more realistically.
But this statistical method allows you to make at least a rough estimate of a life span without knowing anything more than how long something has existed.
The Copernican method is based on the Copernican principle, which says the Earth is not the centre of the universe. Gott took that idea and applied it to humanity’s position in time, relative to other things, and he came up with the notion that knowing how long something has already existed can be a guide to estimating how long it will continue to exist.
Using Gott’s method, Poundstone estimated there is a 50 per cent chance the human race will die off within the next 760 years.
He explained his prediction in a piece published in Vox, writing:
Demographers have estimated the total number of people who ever lived at about 100 billion. That means that about 100 billion people were born before me.
Currently, about 130 million people are born each year. At that rate, it would take only about 760 years for another 100 billion more people to be born.
That’s the basis of the claim that there’s a 50 percent chance that humans will become extinct within about 760 years. The flip side of the claim is there’s also a 50 percent chance we’ll survive past 760 years, possibly long past that.
While it might be a lot to wrap your head around, the theory has proved correct in the past.
In 1969, Gott used the method to predict the demolition of the Berlin Wall. He estimated there was a 50 per cent chance the wall would come down no later than 24 years from that day but that it would stand for at least two and two-thirds years more.
The demolition of the wall began on June 13, 1990, roughly 21 years later.
There’s every chance Poundstone’s prediction could be correct – us and the next few generations better savour our time on Earth while we have the chance!
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Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.