Humans have always been privy to threats to our existence and livelihood. These have evolved along with us, especially as our population and technology continue to advance at breakneck speeds. But what are the chances of these ominous scenarios actually happening? Journalist Mike Pearl, author of the Vice column “How Scared Should I Be?” ventures into this uncertain future in his debut, The Day It Finally Happens: Alien Contact, Dinosaur Parks, Immortal Humans—and Other Possible Phenomena.
Composed of 19 different scenarios/chapters, Pearl assigns each a plausibility rating, the likelihood of it occurring in this century, its scariness factor and whether it’s worth us changing our habits. Some have been contemplated for years, such as “The Day Nuclear Bombs Kill Us All” and “The Day Humans Become Immortal.” But others are more recent and perhaps even surprising, such as “The Day a Tech Billionaire Takes Over the World” and “The Day the Last Cemetery Runs Out of Space.” Many are scary, but some are actually promising, such as “The Day the Last Slave Goes Free.”
Incorporating mind-boggling statistics and expert commentary, Pearl touches on a variety of industries and life aspects, including politics, ethics, science, medicine and technology. As a result, his forecasts are explained with knowledge, opinion and a sprinkling of humor, such as the “hmm . . .” moment in the chapter about alien contact where he muses, “Funnily enough, contact with intelligent extraterrestrials is one of the more plausible topics in this book.”
Luckily not all is gloom and doom. Scientific evidence tells us that humanity will not be the same forever, and Pearl assures us that we wouldn’t want that anyway. We can take comfort in the fact that it’s a slow process and that “new species, in a way, ‘replace’ older ones.” He acknowledges that the book’s idea was born out of his own mounting anxieties and even suggests that writing about these predictions is therapeutic. As the author puts it, “Envisioning future possibilities in a sensible, fact-based way is a helpful habit that leads to clearer thinking.” Ultimately, The Day It Finally Happens is an exercise in light-hearted but crystal-clear thinking.