Trying on a futurist hat

I still remember wandering through Greenwich Village during the Vietnam era, a teenager in search of truth, peace and love in a world of folk singers, war protesters and prophets.

During the Cold War, we were all scared out of our wits, especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis. We lived in constant fear as we watched the evening news on our black-and-white televisions while eating Swanson TV dinners.

It was a time of grim expectations, and more than once during my perambulations around New York City, I came upon a street prophet wielding a placard that said, "Repent! The end is near!" Sort of a modern day Jeremiah or John the Baptist, dressed in robes or rags with a long beard and a wild-eyed look, right out of the Bible or a New Yorker cartoon.
While I’m all for repentance – we don’t do enough of it — I’ve always been somewhat fearful of "The End" because it could come in so many ways at any time.
That apocalyptic view has a new advocate – Stephen Hawking, one of the world’s greatest physicists, who predicts the curtain will inevitably come down on Planet Earth, so we have to start preparing now. (I could have told you that, and I didn’t even take high school physics.)
The human race is in grave danger, Hawking said recently, even before the stock market tanked. What a harrowing headline to read over your morning Metamucil.

Hawking, of course, has always been a bearer of bad news in the secular humanist sense. In the past few years, he’s proclaimed that God is a fairy tale, Heaven is a fantasy and artificial intelligence can destroy the human race.
He recently gave an interview before a BBC lecture and predicted this next century is key to humankind's survival because something REALLY bad is going to happen, worse than the Chipotle crisis.
As a result, we have to make sure nothing goes wrong until we can develop an Uber space ship service that can take us all – at least the young, healthy ones — to a place with lower taxes and faster Internet. He said we need to set up space colonies, sort of like Motel 6 or the UConn dorms, in outer space. Come to think of it, this sounds a lot like that movie Interstellar, where earthlings go in search of a new home because they destroyed their old home.

Hawking is convinced a disaster will strike Earth in the next thousand to ten thousand years, which at least in the short term means you have to file your income tax.
"By that time," he said, "we should have spread out into space and to other stars, so a disaster on Earth would not mean the end of the human race."
Hawking sees numerous threats to mankind, including climate change, excessive technology and genetically engineered viruses. He’s also a bit frightened of what could happen if aliens figure out we’re here and decide to invade Planet Earth.

My hunch, however, is that based on the ills currently plaguing our planet, the most likely disaster will result from the global obesity epidemic. As it gets worse and the human race gets heavier, it will add to the gravitational pull until the Earth falls out of orbit because of all the extra weight and goes into an erratic revolution that takes it toward the sun.
I developed this theory without ever taking a physics course, although I got scientific training from watching "The Outer Limits" and "The Twilight Zone" when I was a teenager.
What we do over next century is crucial, Hawking says, because we have to get off this planet and relocate to better real estate that we can start to destroy the way we destroyed this one.
People of America, we can do this! Didn't you see The Martian? Humankind is a great species with a rational mind and the ability to create new gadgets that you see only on TV like Gazoos Interactive Dog Toy. We have to have faith and follow the visionaries — Hollywood, Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders, George Soros, Rush Limbaugh ... did I forget anyone?

This is a serious crisis, and we have to get the one-percenters off this dying orb so they can prepare the way for the rest of us, and I suspect that means we’ll also have to include the next generation of Kardashians, cloned or otherwise conceived, who can board the stylish Uber space craft and head for newly discovered Planet Nine, where Chipotle is already opening restaurants.

Contact Joe Pisani at