The Doomsday Clock that has been ticking for 77 years is no ordinary clock — it attempts to gauge how close humanity is to destroying the world.
On Tuesday, the clock was again set at 90 seconds to midnight — the closest to the hour it has ever been, according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which created the clock in 1947. Midnight represents the moment at which people will have made Earth uninhabitable. Last year the Bulletin set the clock at 90 seconds to midnight mainly due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the increased risk of nuclear escalation.
From 2020 to 2022, the clock was set at 100 seconds to midnight.
The decision to keep the clock at the same time this year is largely due to ongoing concerns about the war in Ukraine, the Israel-Gaza conflict, the potential of a nuclear arms race, and the climate crisis, Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin, said in a news conference announcing the time Tuesday.
“Trends continue to point ominously towards global catastrophe,” Bronson added. “The war in Ukraine poses an ever-present risk of nuclear escalation. And the October 7 attack in Israel and war in Gaza provides further illustration of the horrors of modern war, even without nuclear escalation.
Bronson cited recent advances in artificial intelligence as another concern, saying they “raise a variety of questions about how to control a technology that could improve or threaten civilization in countless ways.”
What is the Doomsday Clock?
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded by a group of scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project, the code name for the development of the atomic bomb during World War II.
Originally, the organization was conceived to measure nuclear threats, but in 2007 the Bulletin made the decision to include climate change in its calculations.
Over the last 77 years, the clock’s time has changed according to how close the scientists believe the human race is to total destruction. Some years the time changes, and some years it doesn’t.
The Doomsday Clock is set every year by the experts on the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which currently includes nine Nobel laureates.