I came up with the perfect first question for the “Essential Skills for the Coming Apocalypse” panel at WisCon 24 hours after the panel ended. I should have started with:
What does apocalypse mean?
It wasn’t that I hadn’t prepped for the panel. But it took doing the panel and then thinking about why it didn’t satisfy me to figure out that we needed to start by defining our terms.
So what does apocalypse mean?
The original Greek word means revelation. Biblical scholars tell us that apocalypse pieces were common in Jewish writings even before we get to the Christian Bible’s Book of Revelation. It was, essentially, a genre. And it was very metaphorical, as Revelation demonstrates.
Some of it, I think, was revolutionary in scope, though expressed in religious terms.
This obviously was not the focus of the panel. We were talking about the modern meaning, which is more along the lines of horrific catastrophe.
When I was young, the term meant the aftermath of nuclear war. That’s where all the bunkers and ideas about back to the Stone Age come from.
But while that is still possible today (too many extremist governments have nukes and of course the US already used some of ours), I suspect most of us are thinking about the multiple disasters coming from climate change aggravated by fascism and income inequality.
While those will cause great suffering, we aren’t all headed to the stone age or even hunter gatherer or subsistence farming lifestyles as a result.
I don’t even think we’re going back to a world where most people are farmers. Right now most of the people on the world live in cities.
Zombies may be entertaining but they are just another metaphor after all. And as for the chatbots becoming evil sentient AI, well, that makes for entertaining movies, but that’s not even close to the actual threat posed by large language models. They’re a problem but they’re not the apocalypse. Continue reading “Thinking About the Apocalypse”…