Slate's "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" finds out what kind of doomsayer you are


If America comes to a catastrophic end, what will the causes be? Josh Levin of Slate wants to know. He's created a "Choose Your Own Apocalypse" web-based application that lets you select five causes from a collection of "144 potential causes of America's future death." Based on your choices, Slate will tell you what kind of a doomsayer you are. People who take the poll are also asked to supply age, gender, zip code. On Friday, Slate will publish the results.

I picked Peak Oil, China Unloads U.S. Treasuries, Deficit Spending, Peak Water, and Megadrought, which makes me a "humanitarian internationalist." Compared to the average Slate reader, I believe more people will survive and that the disaster is more man's fault than nature's.

If and when America expires, we probably won't agree on the cause of death. For proof that autopsies of empires are inconclusive, consider the case of Alexander Demandt, the German historian who set out in the 1980s to collect every theory ever given for why Rome fell. The final tally: 210, including attacks by nomads on horseback, blood poisoning, decline of Nordic character, homosexuality, outflow of gold, and vaingloriousness.

In tribute to Demandt, I've gone looking for every possible reason why America could fall. I've paged through the work of scholars who have studied the characteristics of declining and failed societies. I also collected theories from futurists, doomsayers, separatists, economists, political scientists, national security experts, climatologists, geologists, astronomers, and a few miscellaneous crazy people. The result: a collection of 144 potential causes of America's future death.

Choose Your Own Apocalypse


  1. I’m snickering at a few of these.

    Oh noooes, multiculturalism! Egads, gay marriage dooms us all! :p

    Apparently, I am a bloodthirsty misanthrope. Cool!

  2. Too bad they don’t have an option to vote on least plausible; would be interesting to see the bottom five, too. Many, most really, are scenarios that would certainly wreak havoc on the US but I can’t see them as catastrophic enough to cause it’s failure. Haven’t read all of them but the economic ones seem the most probable while various invasion fantasies seems least likely. Interesting though, very interesting.

  3. Bloodthirsty misanthrope as well. Awesome.

    (I took: Grey Goo, Water Peak, 2012, Supercollider and Big Brother)

  4. Half of those problems are a direct result of overpopulation, yet somehow that didn’t make the top 5 list.

    When you break it down, there are really only two possible causes of an “apocalypse” – Global natural disaster or overpopulation.

  5. I would like to add that I would HAPPILY watch a zombie version of either American Idol or The Hills.

    Someone make this happen.

    With real zombies, preferably.

  6. Hey, they’re using my Nine Nations map (via Wikipedia).

    An odd choice, to be sure, because Joel Klein never suggested that the Nine Nations were lines on which North America would be geopolitically divided, but that, in the non-political sense of the word “nation”, they *already* existed.

  7. I was a humanitarian internationalist the first time, and a bloothirsty misanthrope the second.

    Very disappointed that there weren’t enough options representing America destroying the world. “Christianity” as an apocalypse meant that Christian values make America into pacifists, and we get bulldozed by invaders. Seriously?

  8. Christian values make America into pacifists, and we get bulldozed by invaders. Seriously?

    That one struck me as odd, too. This “Christianity” he describes sounds like nothing encountered here on Earth.

    It’s an odd mixture of serious issues and cheeky humorous scenarios, which is fun in a dark and twisted sort of way, but not really indicative of anything.

  9. It’s not on the list, but a serious breakdown in logistical distribution networks would pretty much render most cities and suburban areas unlivable in a very short time — weeks if not days. Those supermarket shelves don’t stock themselves y’know.

    Or if not that, then yeah, zombies.

  10. This “Christianity” he describes sounds like nothing encountered here on Earth.

    That’s because all the truly Christian nations have been bulldozed by invaders, duh!

    I guess putting xtianity up there as a force of evil in itself, along with militant islam, would be too much to stomach for their readers.

  11. This is complete bullshit! I did multiple scenarios and all told me that “one world government” would tell me I’m right? WTF! that’s exactly the opposite of my choices! This game is a douche!

  12. Too bad North American land (or is it the people?) are such crap that a slightly denser population would destroy it.

    Frankly, I’m amazed that those of us with lots of resources and influence in the world (and low population densities) complain about overpopulation in our outsourced slave countries.

    We’re afraid they actually contribute more significantly than we do (hint: YES) and that eventually they’re going to make us feel that fact more pointedly.

  13. How is the end of the American Empire an Apocalypse? (I agree with #2.)
    an apparent humanitarian internationalist

  14. I’m not clear. Are we supposed to vote for how we WANT it to happen, or how we think it WILL happen?

    Either way, put me down for zombies as number one.

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