The following article was published in N-SPHERE February 2011 issue.


A clock face, without mechanism, without wheels, with only a quarter of it divided and marked. A disfigured presence, a lifeless mask, a useless piece of… but all in all, an installation that carries one of the heaviest multitude of paradigms, theories, beliefs, successes and failures of mankind: The Doomsday Clock. Ah, how James Bond–ish it sounds (with a British accent, you know). However, the reality of the matter is that someone managed to dramatically materialize the highest fears of the end of the second millennium. It is, indeed, a piece of art. Though the builders are scientists, who is to say a rational mind is an unproductive mind?

The Doomsday Clock has the following written on its back (no, it doesn’t, but let’s pretend):
Lemma: The Big Bang actually happened.
Hypothesis: There is a new Bang in the near future, about six minutes from now.
Proposed Theorem: Humanity is one sick bastard.

Proof (it’s only two paragraphs, don’t be scared): Notation: World = F(Human), where F is a nonlinear, complex function of the Human variable.

Given Lemma, it is stipulated that a huge explosion started the World. According to Chaos Theory, the dynamic system that comprises the World is subject to its initial conditions. Thus, it can be concluded that the World has a Bang for initial state. Second, assuming that the Human variable is a function G of Emotion and Reason: Human = G(Emotion, Reason) and accepting the stochastic behaviour of Emotion, it is concluded that the Human variable is random (you’re doing great, one more paragraph to go).

Thus, it is proven that the function World has a stochastic behaviour in time. Systems Theory proves the continuous character of the real complex World, thus stating that stability of a system is immutable, with the lack external intervention. Given the random nature of the Emotion variable and the asymptotic decay towards zero of the Reason variable (proven by means of observation experiment), the World system is unstable over time (good job, get ready for the big finale).

Conclusion: The World, with Bang initial conditions, continuous random behaviour and intrinsic instability will end in a Bang, and it is all the Human variable’s fault. Tsk, tsk.

And now, in layman’s terms: The Doomsday Clock was created at the University of Chicago by the board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947. This installation is a symbolic approach of humanity to global disaster. With three quarters of the face empty, this lifeless clock was first an alarm signal to the threat of nuclear cataclysm, a metaphor to the frailness of human life and self–destructive tendencies of Earth’s inhabitants. The minute hand of the clock advances or recesses according to international political, economical and scientific context, while the hour hand rests eternally at midnight, proving humanity’s disbelief in being more than mere hours away from total annihilation.

Though disturbing, the idea has deep roots in the events of the past century, which do not seem to have progressed very far until present. The 1947 time, in the midst of nuclear weaponry and research, was 7 minute to midnight. Today, the clock reads only 6. The timeline climbs and decreases over the years, but the farthest to doomsday was 17 minutes, while the closest showed 2 minutes. These two dates are important, as they shape a fear not of nuclear winter and death of humanity, but a fear of terror, a fear of social change, an inability to cope with the established social order and a desire to impose it on others. The 2 minutes time was set when both the USA and USSR had their hands on the first hydrogen bombs. The 17 minutes time was set when both the USA and USSR kissed and made up. So what can one conclude from this, other than an unnaturally extreme fear of being forced into a different society?

But the issue is not that simple. The human mind has been imagining utopian worlds into dystopian futures ever since the invention of science–fiction. From Asimov to Wells, the mid–century literary variations of the same concern are distributed over a wide range of philosophical views on society, its structure, and the influence scientific advances has over it. The question that popped at least once in one’s head was “what will happen a century from now?”. Asimov imagined a world of robots, a world of war, a world of cybernetic triumph over flesh decay. Wells, instead, imagined utopian societies, a global state and the victory of man over matter.

However, they both open gates to the true nature of things. In The Dead Past, a 1956 short story, Asimov presents a society in which scientific discovery is restrained and controlled. The government’s motivation was that this tactic has been put in place for the greater good of the society and to protect the personal freedom of the individual. But Asimov’s point was that control over scientific discovery is impossible. Which reminds me, the point of this little story is that when trying to control a large mass of people, there will always be something that escapes. What? You say it resembles the decay of communism we–know–where? Shut up and be a sheep.

On the other hand, Wells tried looking even further into a fictional future and concluded that by the 22nd century the world will be under the “Modern State in Control of Life”, in 1933′s The Shape of Things to Come. With tactics of behaviour control and sublimation of interest, the global organization of this future society was the result of a different unfolding of the World War II related events. Unlike today, when globalization has become a reality and advertising strategies rule the consumerist society… wait, did I say “unlike”?

So you see, a plenitude of fucked–up… err, concerning points reside behind the Doomsday Clock. There is a fine line between the utopia of equality and the dictatorship of fear. However, a small amount of hope survives. Waking up, smelling the roses won’t cut it anymore. Waking up and using the gray matter is desired. But waking up and seeing the destruction that is already happening around is ideal, in this utopic dystopia we call World.

Artwork: Vel Thora. Doomsday Clock. Artistic representation

by Vel Thora

Full article here.