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60 seconds to midnight

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I grew up with lots of things, but one that struck me in the heart was a song Seven Minutes to Midnight that came out in the late 1970s (showing my age). What did the song mean? I discovered it related to the Doomsday Clock, the clock that measured the threats to our planet and when our world will end. Our world will end at midnight.

Last year, the Doomsday Clock had reached 90 seconds to midnight. In the course of forty years, the clock has reached its moment of doom. Oh, that’s cheerful isn’t it? Why blog about this today? It’s because today will show the clock’s change since last year. Today, the clock will move even closer to midnight. I’m predicting sixty seconds, but hey, what’s a few seconds between friends.

Where did the Doomsday Clock come from?

The concept of the Doomsday Clock originated in 1947 with the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, a nonprofit organization that sought to warn the public about the danger of nuclear weapons. The Bulletin was founded by a group called the Atomic Scientists of Chicago in September 1945 at the University of Chicago. Its founding members and sponsors were scientists who had contributed to the development of the first atomic bombs as part of the Manhattan Project, including physicists Albert EinsteinJ. Robert Oppenheimer, and Eugene Rabinowitch. Concerned about the devastating consequences of this new technology, the group published their first newsletter, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, in December 1945. Their mission was to communicate with other scientists about the moral and social responsibilities regarding nuclear energy and to educate the public about its possible consequences.

What does 90 seconds to midnight mean?

Bulletin members have constantly emphasized that the clock is not intended to make people fearful, but rather to spur them to action. Board member Prof. Robert Rosner calls the clock “the canary in the coal mine,” which prompts miners to take quick action to save their lives.

Why bother blogging about this Chris?

Because Davos just took place and, according to Reuters,  the banking guys were all talking about the increasing risks of “geopolitical tension, macroeconomic uncertainty and technological disruption”, surprise, surprise. Reuters reports that bank CEOs assembled at a private meeting in the Swiss village and talked mainly about “competitive risks from fintech firms and private lenders, and onerous regulations”. Nothing new there. They talked about “a challenging global economic picture, with shifting interest rate policies and rising debt”. Nothing new there. Interestingly, according to the Reuters write-up, there was no mention of the increasing risks of climate change. Hmmm …

90 seconds to midnight, maybe sixty. Maybe just one minute, not seven.

Shouldn’t these guys wake up and talk seriously about how to stop the clock?

The clock is update today at 10:00 Eastern Standard Time, USA. Watch this space.

Meantime, it’s also worth reading the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report 2024 to understand more about what we should really be talking about.

“While climate-related risks remain a dominant theme, the threat from misinformation and disinformation is identified as the most severe short-term threat in the 2024 report.”

Thanks to Visual Capitalist

Extreme weather and the threat of AI … those happen to be the themes of my last book Digital for Good and my next one Intelligent Money. Hey ho, there you go.

 

Postnote:

Even with the Israel-Hamas conflict, the clock is still at 90 seconds to midnight ... and that's still a lot closer than seven minutes.

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Chris M Skinner

Chris Skinner is best known as an independent commentator on the financial markets through his blog, TheFinanser.com, as author of the bestselling book Digital Bank, and Chair of the European networking forum the Financial Services Club. He has been voted one of the most influential people in banking by The Financial Brand (as well as one of the best blogs), a FinTech Titan (Next Bank), one of the Fintech Leaders you need to follow (City AM, Deluxe and Jax Finance), as well as one of the Top 40 most influential people in financial technology by the Wall Street Journal's Financial News. To learn more click here...

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