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?

Australia
The Australians will decide that only 'floofs' and 'noobawarfies,' or some term that no one else can pronounce, need ice in their beer anyway, and that will be the end of the problem.

Canada
The Canadians will ban the sale of ice and will force everyone to pay massive premiums to a national ice distribution system, administered by completely inefficient Quebecois bureaucrats. All will congratulate themselves for being more caring and sharing than the Americans, even as the system goes broke.

Newfoundland
The ice will be deep-fried and covered with salt. When the salt melts the ice, people will mutter that "this wouldn't have happened if we didn't join Canada".

England
There will be plenty of ice, although it will cost £50 a cube, and it will be served warm and absolutely tasteless—even for ice.

France
France will sell defective ice to despotic dictatorships in the Middle East and to Africa. They will then wait to see what the American policy is on ice so that they can vote the opposite way in the UN.

USA
The Americans will import ice from Mexico and Asia and re-stamp it with their own brand names. Movies, music, coffee-table books, bumper stickers, and commemorative coin commercials will all claim ice as an American invention.

Mexico
The Mexican government will spend millions on subsidized ice blocks for its citizens. Months later, after being reduced by bribes and corruption, some citizens will receive lumps of dirty slush.

Korea
Koreans will replace ice in drinks with kimchi and then extol its benefits. The media will demand new security rules for foreigners after an English teacher is caught hoarding an ice cube. The shortage will be blamed on historical Japanese aggression.

Japan
The Japanese will produce tiny ice cubes with microchips in them that double as cell phones. The cubes will be advertised by cute, annoying cartoon characters with huge eyes.

China
China will mass-produce cheap ice with the following instructions: "Ice is box! Must in house one or glass. Not for use the other one." Ice makers in Taiwan will be threatened by the Chinese government for not obeying the 'one-cube' policy.

Middle East
The Middle East countries will use their oil wealth to build ice palaces for the rulers' families. No one else will have any ice, and protest marches will erupt on Arab streets demanding death to America and Israel because in some way it must be their fault.

Africa
Bono will plead with world lenders for frost forgiveness. Benefit concerts with Al Gore and numerous forgotten '80s bands will raise millions for Africa to buy ice with to prevent continental tragedy. All of the money will be spent on machine guns.

Europe
The European Union will present discussion papers on ice management and will form standing committees to debate each member country's ice allotment. What ice is eventually parcelled out will melt undelivered on streets as everybody goes on strike.

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.