The Doomsday Clock has remained stopped and continues to mark 90 seconds to midnight as in January 2023: it is the minimum distance from a global catastrophe reached for the first time last year and now confirmed by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the organization of atomic physicists founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein and which since 1947 has marked the time until a planetary disaster. It is “a moment of historical danger”, note the physicists.
“Threatening trends continue to push the world towards a global catastrophe”, they say, referring above all to the war in Ukraine and the risk of an escalation of the nuclear risk. “China, Russia and the United States – they continue – are spending significant sums to increase and modernize their nuclear arsenals, exacerbating the ever-present danger of nuclear war due to error or miscalculation.”
Pointing to the war in Gaza, atomic physicists note that it “has the potential to escalate into a broader conflict in the Middle East, which could pose unpredictable threats regionally and globally.” Alongside wars, adjusting the hands of the world clock ‘Apocalypse is also the climate crisis, with 2023 being the hottest year recorded so far and which “marked the entry into uncharted territory”.
We also look with concern at the «rapid and worrying developments in the life sciences, such as «the increasingly sophisticated technologies of genetic engineering» and the possibility that these could be combined with «the emerging tools of artificial intelligence», with the risk of “incorrect uses”. In general, physicists observe that «other disruptive technologies have accelerated, while governments have made only weak efforts to control them», and in particular they cite the great development of artificial intelligence, with «the acceleration of its use in military sphere”.
However, it notes that “many countries are recognizing the importance of regulating AI and taking steps to reduce the risk of harm.” In recent years it was the war in Ukraine that made the clock tick from 2 minutes to midnight in 2019 to 100 seconds in 2022, up to 90 in 2023.
The decision was made to stop the clock, say the physicists of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, «because humanity continues to face an unprecedented level of danger. Our decision should not be interpreted as a signal that the international security situation has eased”: it should instead be “a stark warning” and an exhortation to respond urgently, “as if today were the most dangerous moment in modern history ».
The clock, they point out, could also move away from midnight. At this moment, however, a scenario like that of 1991 seems far away, when the hands moved to 17 minutes to midnight, 10 minutes more than in 1947, the date of birth of the Doomsday Clock: a record never touched again since. Of the 25 updates made so far, the hands have been moved back eight times and forward 17 times.