Monday, March 14, 2011

The End of the World: Planning Ahead

I originally wrote this for SiMF and wasn't planning on posting it here because it was more of a jumping-off point for a discussion than an actual article. It didn't generate much discussion over there though, so I thought my nerdy friends might have more fun with it.

Nerds never get tired of discussing the End of the World. The question of what the rest of us would do if some significant portion of the population was ‘gone’ (abducted by aliens, turned into zombies, killed by a plague, wiped out in a war, etc.) is one of the most popular themes in science fiction. For good reason, since it allows us to explore interesting questions about our own nature. How would I respond to a crisis? Would I survive the zombie apocalypse? Pretty much every nerd I know has a Zombie Attack Plan and has assessed their home for the level of protection it would provide against the Horde.

The speculation is half the fun, really. No one knows how the world will end. There may be an invasion of robotic vikings from Omicron Persei VII next February. Things may continue on without a hitch until about four billion years from now when our sun expands enough to vaporize the planet. If anything does go down though, the nerds will be ready. We’ve practically been preparing for it our whole lives. In case of zombies, we all have our weapon of choice picked out and probably within easy reach.  At the first signs of global pandemic, we’ll all move to Madagascar. Whatever the scenario, we have a plan in mind. We just ask what Batman would do.

Imagining the worst and preparing for it mentally, even if it’s all in fun, is what really gives us the edge. I recommend picking your favorite disaster scenario and preparing for it as thoroughly as possible. You’d be surprised how much overlap there is between, say zombie and earthquake preparedness. Of course, survival in the long term in case some major disaster actually does cause society to collapse is a bit tougher to plan for. As a microbiologist, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that in a post-apocalyptic society I will have very few marketable skills. What about you? When society collapses, will you still be able to hold your own? Or will you end up a walking plot device waiting to be rescued by the main characters? How secure would you be in the event of a zombie attack?