The End of Everything
Published in The Truth About the Fact: International Journal of Literary Nonfiction 5:1 (2010)
There's a famous college-dorm poster depicting a native Indian which says something to the effect that, 'One day when people have burned down all the trees and polluted all the lakes, they'll discover that they can't eat money.' I'm not sure I agree; I suspect that just before these things happen, they'll start printing edible money. It's already possible to make money out of semi-food products such as hemp, and it probably will taste no worse than microwave pizza anyway. So you see, we're really much smarter than those native Indians think we are.
Why am I discussing things like this? I read an article the other day from a group of environmental experts on global warming. Usually these experts paint outlandish scenarios of how the planet is going to melt like ice cream on a picnic table unless we stop driving cars and taking showers. But this article wasn't like that; basically, it said we might as well heat stadiums by burning Styrofoam cups now. It's too late; we've passed the point of fixing anything; dance naked in the moonlight bathed in tangy rib sauce for all we care, we're all going to die anyway, tra la la, what's that? I can't hear you! Well, I added that last bit in, but I think it conforms to the general ideas the authors of the study were trying to express. They thought mayonnaise would be more appropriate for naked dancing. You know how conservative scientists are.
This interest in the future all started because I worry about strange things. Some people worry about being sued or losing their jobs or spouses, or things like that. I don't, of course, because of the broad-based liberal education I've received in life, which has ensured that I'll never have enough money to worry about people bothering to sue me for it. Rather, I worry about the big 'if's in life that all deep thinkers of our time ponder: what if self-aware robots from the future destroy mankind?
Movies like the Terminator or Matrix scare the pants off me, assuming I'm wearing them to begin with; if not, I get out of bed and put some on so that they can be properly scared off. I worry about robotic machines of the future becoming intelligent and then deciding that, hey, maybe man's the one with the Y2K virus! In the Terminator, evil robots from the future return to now to kill a future resistance leader who knows too much (i.e. that a terminator robot can be re-booted by wiggling its nose, with or without xylophone sound). In the Matrix series, humans are enslaved and trapped in a deceptive, artificial reality, which the machines name 'Fox Network.' The robots either cause or perpetuate the destruction of the earth's environment.
Then I realized something that made me feel much better: Amateurs! You silly robots think you can devastate the earth, but we're the ones who wrote the book on devastation, buddy. We were destroying the earth when you were a gleam in Univac's eye. No one knows planetary ruin like humans, and don't you forget it. After we're through, our cities will all be flooded or parched, and you'll all be too busy short-circuiting from the humidity levels to plan your cute little robot rebellion. In fifty years there won't be much of earth left for the machines to bother razing anyway, and this makes me feel so much better.
Perhaps there are so many movies now about machines betraying humans that it's becoming passé anyway. Sure, sure, blow up the world, kill everybody, what's new, same old clichés. Every action movie has people diving into the air as the building explodes. Every Christmas movie has a shot of Santa's sled silhouetted against the moon, or a dog who covers its eyes with its paws when something bad is about to happen. Every teen movie has a nerd and a bully. Every science fiction movie has a robot uprising. Why can't robots ever teach the uptight town with the crooked sheriff how to dance?
Um.. how do I link this back to the topic? Well.. these days popular movies are shown all over the globe.. the last time I saw a movie it was far too warm in the theatre… speaking of global warming, it's similar to many social problems: being aware of the issue isn't the same as doing something about it. The Bush administration considered global warming a 'theory', which I suppose is true if you also call gravity or airplane flight or stuff like that theories. Conferences, which are much more fun when they're held in Bali rather than in northern Greenland, produce no better results than President Obama saying, "You know, a little water never hurt anybody."
So it's too late. Blowing up the asteroid that's about to strike the earth won't help us; in fact, if the asteroid is made of ice, it might even help cool us down. There's going to be disaster; floods, typhoons, heat waves, Wham! reunions... the worst can be expected. I know you're just as much a human being as I am, and you're thinking the same thing: how can I get rich from all these people panicking?
Here's the secret. I'm going to give you an investment tip. You see? There must be some reward for slogging through this entire essay. Here it is: invest in ice.
Yes, ice. Invest in frozen water. Experts say that the earth continues to heat up and drinking water becomes polluted and scarce, ice might be the world's most valuable commodity. Make all you can, and fill your refrigerator with it. Throw out the pickle slices—you know, you might as well be honest with yourself, you're never going to eat them—and store ice cubes.
No? Well, if I were a time-travelling robot, and a nice non-homicidal one who gives flower-shaped microchips to its mother on Sundays, I would bring back a report on what the world's people do once ice does become the most valuable item on earth. Governments and industries all over the world will have their own way of dealing with the ice shortage, and information is the best way to help you decide where to go. What would people do in their own nations twenty years from now to maximize their chances of survival?
That was the end. At this point, the robot from the future stopped giving me its report on the ice industry, and pulled out a bass guitar and began to play Red Hot Chili Peppers. That's my type of robot. There's hope for the world yet.