How will America meet its inevitable end? According to the readers of online magazine Slate, it's going to be a nuclear apocalypse that'll do us in. Well, either that or societal collapse brought on by a lack of oil.
We've already told you about Slate's polling of how the experts think the country will collapse, but this latest spate of doomsaying comes as the result of a Choose Your Own Apocalypse feature that allowed readers to vote on which one of 144 possible ends for the US they thought was most likely. While we were very fond of "Space Attacks" and "Robot Overlords" as options, it seems as if the majority of Slate's readership have more grounded concerns:
The most popular scenario-"Loose Nukes," chosen by 10.5 percent of Slate readers-combines modern and old-fashioned anxieties. "Taliban fighters wrest nuclear weapons from a destabilized Pakistan. Or al-Qaida acquires a small arsenal of nukes from a disintegrating Russia," the scenario description embedded in "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" reads. "The nonstate actors launch against the United States in an attack exponentially worse than 9/11." The presence of terrorists at the top of the charts indicates that we're still smarting from al-Qaida's 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon-perhaps the most recent event that raised momentary doubts about the country's continued existence. The fact that we envision those terrorists hitting us with nukes indicates that we have the same fears as the World War II generation. In the last 65 years, nothing has come along to supplant the scariness of a mushroom cloud.
Also in the top five were the decline of peak oil production, an Israel/Arab war, China unloading US treasuries and, of course, antibiotic resistance... even if that last one surprised the Slate team:
The bacteria-run-amok scenario-"As a result of factory farming and spiking sales of antibacterial hand soap, superstrains of bacteria develop that are resistant to medicine"-outranked anything to do with money ("Wealth Gap" came in ninth), political collapse ("Red vs. Blue" at No. 11), or global warming ("Rising Sea Levels" at No. 14). You could make the argument that bacterial worries reveal misdirected agita about our current swine flu worries-except that the actual "Swine Flu" scenario came in 64th out of 144. The only conclusion to draw here is that the Slate hive mind is genuinely concerned that we'll go under on account of microbes.
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Hey, that kind of thing has been on our minds ever since we started watching House...
How Is America Going To End? [Slate]