Negotiating the Risks of Apocalyptic Tropes in Open Societies
Apocalyptic tropes have tremendous discursive power and extraordinary resilience. That makes them a challenge for communication in open secular societies. Apocalyptic tropes have a tendency to obscure goals, means, agents, and interests, all of which should be open to scrutiny and debate. They are also remarkably immune to intellectual development, thus depriving open societies of learning experiences and intellectual advancement. The net effect is that apocalyptic thinking has an innate tendency to shock-frost ongoing debates, which is anathema to the spirit of democracy. Apocalyptic tropes have served as the ultimate defense where people lacked other, more convincing intellectual rationales.
Against this background, the Ultimate Apocalypse Assessment Machine (UAAM) serves as a risk assessment tool for apocalyptic tropes. While apocalyptic thinking has an innate tendency to impede open communication, some tropes may be more damaging than others. In fact, the impact of apocalyptic tropes may ultimately be in the spirit of open societies when they serve to highlight underrated threats or empower marginalized groups. In order to create more clarity on risks and potentials, UAAM uses a set of ten criteria, assesses them on a numerical scale, and uses a formula to develop a numeric score. At the moment, the analytical matrix allows for a maximum score of 100, which would indicate an extreme risk to discourses in open societies. Negative scores are possible and indicate positive contributions to public debates.
It is open to debate whether numbers and rankings are adequate means to assess intellectual risks. There is also room for disagreement on the criteria that UAAM employs. That is entirely intentional: the goal is to stimulate reflection on the inherent risks of apocalyptic thinking and to encourage comparisons between different tropes. The project also serves as a reminder that apocalyptic tropes are not disembodied ideas. They are spread by specific groups for specific reasons, and they have different consequences for different people. As an actor-centered analytical tool, the Ultimate Apocalypse Assessment Machine seeks to clarify who speaks in whose interests and who is deprived of a voice.
The Ultimate Apocalypse Assessment Machine is currently a work-in-progress. A more refined, online presence will be available in this space soon, which in turn will serve as a mere stepping stone for future projects. Unlike the apocalypse, the Ultimate Apocalypse Assessment Machine makes no claim to deliver a final judgment.
If UAAM paves the way for a more refined approach to risk assessment for apocalyptic tropes, it shall have fulfilled its purpose.