Schoolkids around the world still use an ancient mathematical formula to work out the length of a right-angled triangle’s longest side.
In the grown-up world, economists and internet data barons use another old piece of maths theory to predict the future – and their results augur a grim fate for humanity.
In the 18th century, an English minister called Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) devised a formula which predicts the probability of an event taking place using information about conditions relating to that event.
It’s used on the internet to predict people’s behaviour and what they’re going to click on next, based on the sort of web sites they’ve already visited or some other piece of information gathered about their digital habits.
But this formula also predicts that humanity will die out in just 760 years.
This startling prediction is published in a new book called The Doomsday Calculation: How a Formula that Predicts the Future Is Transforming Everything We Know About Life and the Universe by William Poundstone.
‘The so-called “doomsday argument” holds that there is a 50% chance that the end of human life will come within 760 years,’ he wrote in a section of the book adapted and published by the Wall Street Journal.
The end-times sum is really very simple.
First, you need to know that about 100 billion humans have been born throughout history.
There’s a 50% chance that we’re more than halfway through our species’ lifespan as well as a 50% probability we’re in the first half of humanity’s existence.
But if we’re in the second half, then we know there are a maximum of 100 billion babies left to be born.
Currently, we’re popping out about 130 million bambinos every single year.
If we continue at that space, our last baby will be born in about 760 years.
Guess what: many humans are too busy sexing, shopping and social media sharing to pay attention to the possible apocalypse awaiting us.
‘Most of us are too absorbed in our own lives to think much about the centuries to come,’ Poundstone added.
He went on to quote a famous calculation which suggests there’s just a one in a billion chance of humanity escaping Earth to settle across the solar system.
‘Our imaginations often default to the future we’ve seen in the movies: We are destined to build cities on Mars, invent warp drive and live forever among the stars,’ the writer continued.
‘The doomsday math offers a dissent: Don’t bet on it.’
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