The Map of Doom: A Data-Driven Visualization of the Biggest Threats to Humanity, Ranked from Likely to Unlikely

Sure­ly you’ve learned, as I have, to fil­ter out the con­stant threats of doom. It’s impos­si­ble to func­tion on high alert all of the time. But one must stay at least min­i­mal­ly informed. To check the news even once a day is to encounter head­line after head­line announc­ing DOOM IS COMING! Say that we’re all desen­si­tized, and rather than react, we eval­u­ate: In what way will doom arrive? How bad will the doom be? There are many com­pet­ing the­o­ries of doom. Which one is most like­ly, and how can we under­stand them in rela­tion to each oth­er?

For this lev­el of analy­sis, we might turn to Dominic Wal­li­man, physi­cist and pro­pri­etor of Domain of Sci­ence, the YouTube chan­nel and web­site that has brought us enter­tain­ing and com­pre­hen­sive maps of sev­er­al sci­en­tif­ic fields, such as biol­o­gy, chem­istry, math­e­mat­ics, com­put­er sci­ence, and quan­tum physics. Is rank­ing apoc­a­lypses a sci­en­tif­ic field of study, you might won­der? Yes, when it is a data-dri­ven threat assess­ment. Wal­li­man sur­veyed and ana­lyzed, as he says in his intro­duc­tion, “all of the dif­fer­ent threats to human­i­ty that exist.”

When the pan­dem­ic hit last win­ter, “we as a soci­ety were com­plete­ly unpre­pared for it,” despite the fact that experts had been warn­ing us for decades that exact­ly such a threat was high on the scale of like­li­hood. Are we focus­ing on the wrong kinds of doom, to the exclu­sion of more press­ing threats? Instead of pan­ick­ing when the coro­n­avirus hit, Wal­li­man cooly won­dered what else might be lurk­ing around the cor­ner. “Crikey,” says the New Zealan­der upon the first reveal of his Map of Doom, “there’s quite a lot aren’t there?”

Not con­tent to just col­lect dis­as­ters (and draw them as if they were all hap­pen­ing at the same time), Wal­li­man also want­ed to find out which ones pose the biggest threat, “using some real data.” After the Map of Doom comes the Chart of Doom, an XY grid plot­ting the like­li­hood and sever­i­ty of var­i­ous crises. These include ancient stal­warts like super vol­ca­noes; far more recent threats like nuclear war and cat­a­stroph­ic cli­mate change; cos­mic threats like aster­oids and col­laps­ing stars; ter­res­tri­al threats like wide­spread soci­etal col­lapse and extra-ter­res­tri­al threats like hos­tile aliens….

At the top of the graph, at the lim­it of “high like­li­hood,” there lies the “already hap­pen­ing zone,” includ­ing, of course, COVID-19, cli­mate change, and volatile extreme weath­er events like hur­ri­canes and tsunamis. At the bot­tom, in the “impos­si­ble to cal­cu­late” zone, we find sci-fi events like rogue AI, rogue black holes, rogue nano-bots, hos­tile aliens, and the col­lapse of the vac­u­um of space. All the­o­ret­i­cal­ly pos­si­ble, but in Wal­li­man’s analy­sis most­ly unlike­ly to occur. As in all of his maps, he cites his sources on the video’s YouTube page.

If you’re not feel­ing quite up to a data pre­sen­ta­tion on mass casu­al­ty events just now, you can down­load the Map and Chart of Doom here and peruse them at your leisure. Pick up a Map of Doom for the wall at Wal­li­man’s site, and while you’re there, why not buy an “I sur­vived 2020” stick­er. Maybe it’s pre­ma­ture, and maybe in poor taste. And maybe in times of doom we need some­one to face the facts of doom square­ly, turn them into car­toon info­graph­ics of doom, and claim vic­to­ries like liv­ing through anoth­er cal­en­dar year.

Relat­ed Con­tent: 

Info­graph­ics Show How the Dif­fer­ent Fields of Biol­o­gy, Chem­istry, Math­e­mat­ics, Physics & Com­put­er Sci­ence Fit Togeth­er

M.I.T. Com­put­er Pro­gram Alarm­ing­ly Pre­dicts in 1973 That Civ­i­liza­tion Will End by 2040

In 1704, Isaac New­ton Pre­dicts the World Will End in 2060

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (5)
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  • Nambo Stevens says:

    Real­ly? Seems like a lot of work went in just to show cli­mate change killing 100 mil­lion peo­ple…

  • JB says:

    Exis­ten­tial impact is dimin­ished by mis­spelling of exis­ten­tial.

  • WW says:

    Have faith, oth­er­wise; here’s all you need to know about tomor­row, and the future:

    There­fore I tell you: Don’t wor­ry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than cloth­ing? Con­sid­er the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gath­er into barns, yet your heav­en­ly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? Can any of you add one moment to his life span by wor­ry­ing? And why do you wor­ry about clothes? Observe how the wild­flow­ers of the field grow: They don’t labor or spin thread. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splen­dor was adorned like one of these. If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the fur­nace tomor­row, won’t he do much more for you—you of lit­tle faith? So don’t wor­ry, say­ing, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the Gen­tiles eager­ly seek all these things, and your heav­en­ly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the king­dom of God and his right­eous­ness, and all these things will be pro­vid­ed for you. There­fore don’t wor­ry about tomor­row, because tomor­row will wor­ry about itself. Each day has enough trou­ble of its own. (Matthew 6:25–34)

  • Julia54 says:

    I get paid 75 bucks every hour for work at home on my lap­top. I nev­er thought I’d be QAg able to do it but my good friend is earn­ing 14k /monthly by doing this job and she showed me how. Try it out on fol­low­ing website…

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