Precisely one year from today the world will begin to come to an end, at least if the predictions of Nostradamus are to be believed. He said that on December 21st 2012 "In the sky will be seen a great fire dragging a trail of sparks" which would indicate a comet or meteor strike on the Earth or a very near miss, saying "The Great Star will blaze for Seven days."
He suggested that certain nations would take advantage of the event and some may be obliterated completely. "The Huge dog will howl at night, when the great pontiff will change lands." Many believe the huge dog to be the UK and the great pontiff is the Pope, indicating that both Britain and Italy will be destroyed (in which case it's been nice knowing you all). Finally he suggests that some nations will take advantage of the situation, prompting a new world war.
But predictions aside, and everybody will make up their own minds about what they choose to believe (for example the destruction of European countries, if even true, could be related to the current difficulties with the Euro and the collapse of the currency), what role would technology have if the world did face a cataclysmic event, and how might it help rescue mankind afterwards?
One thing is for certain, Nostradamus never saw the rise of the information age, nor the iPad, and technology is used everywhere on Earth for monitoring natural and man-made threats that are both terrestrial and extra-terrestrial in origin (by the latter I mean comets and meteors rather than little green men).
Our computing infrastructure is much more vulnerable than we might think, due to the interconnectedness of everything. Even satellites in orbit are connected to computers on the ground, all of which require electricity that's controlled and regulated by more computers. A large electromagnetic blast from a massive solar flare or some type of explosion could completely cripple large parts of this infrastructure.
Would this cause the end of mankind? Unlikely, but it would dramatically change our way of life and put us back to being a people that rely on the land and traditional tools overnight. Also, without technology many millions of people would suddenly find themselves being unskilled and having to learn practical farming and survival techniques just to feed themselves, which would inevitably lead to millions of deaths.
Could technology save us from all this however? It's become clear in recent years that world governments haven't done enough to shield critical technologies from electromagnetic interference, nor have they done enough to defend these vital systems from cyber-attack, which will probably be the weapon of choice in future conflicts.
I don't want to be completely dour however because what technology has given us are new ways of being able to predict disasters and communicate effectively and instantaneously worldwide. If there was a problem the planet was facing we'd be looking to technology for a way to avoid it, and if war were to break out then picking up the phone or sending an email is much more efficient than packing someone off on a horse. We can see how lives have been saved by early warning systems for tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanoes. We may not always get it right and haven't been able to save as many lives as we'd like, but slowly we're getting there.
In short our reliance on technology will no doubt prove to be far more of a blessing than a curse should the apocalypse occur in 366 days time (2012 is a leap year). Your iPad might not survive for very long without a charge, but the advances that have brought that tablet to you may yet prove invaluable in saving millions of lives. Governments may not be building enormous arks for us like they do in the movies, but they'll be watching the skies, listening to the earth and talking to each other, and we all have technology to thank for that.Advertisement
Ghacks is a technology news blog that was founded in 2005 by Martin Brinkmann. It has since then become one of the most popular tech news sites on the Internet with five authors and regular contributions from freelance writers.