Why recognition of the Universal Extinction Constant could help us as a species

The Extinction Threat Level (ETL) is a measurement of risk. Only an advanced sentient species (ie humans) can attempt to calculate, monitor and improve its ever-changing ETL.

Imagine an independently funded institute calculating the human ETL on a daily basis. Now imagine a series of identical beacons or structures, modern touchstones located in major cities around the world, a fusion of art and technology, designed to stand for a millennium. Each one is displaying the current Extinction Threat Level (ETL) for the human race. Think of the publicity surrounding their creation. Now imagine the value of having a shared simple measure reminding us all of the tenuous nature of our existence, how important it is to value life and take care of our surroundings.

The symbolism of these touchstones would be very powerful. They would form a link between people, between nations and from one generation to the next. Any reduction in the ETL would be celebrated. In a similar way to the Nobel Prize, individuals, organisations and governments would be recognised, rewarded and remembered for major contributions to reducing the human ETL. Ultimately we could establish and monitor the ETL for many other species. We would then have the ability to create an index. Each species would, in effect, have a 'life bond', the value of which would go up or down depending on the human race's stewardship of the planet and ability to mitigate threats.

Dramatically reducing the ETL for our species will require co-operation, investment and understanding on a planetary scale. Therefore, adopting a simple shared measure that applies to, and can be understood by, everyone is very important. Used as a common measure, ETL could engender positive aspirational and challenging goals, providing a vision for a better and sustainable future for us all. Ultimately, should we fail and become extinct, perhaps the touchstones would stand as a monument to the fact that we tried.

For the last 60 years our only attempt to give a physical representation of the threat posed from just one of the many dangers facing humanity is The Doomsday Clock. Set up by the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, at the dawn of the nuclear age, and measured in 'minutes to midnight', it is a symbol of how close the world is to destruction from nuclear war. In this vision we supersede the Doomsday Clock with the touchstones, Something on an impressive global scale with a symbolism that engages and links between people, between nations and from one generation to the next. Reporting the human ETL would give us an aspirational measure that everyone can impact to a greater or lesser degree. If you, too, can see the value of measuring and adopting ETL as a universal measure, please visit the how you can help page to find out what you can do.