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The Jackpot Explained
December 4, 2022
by William P. Meyers

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The Peripheral and the Slow Motion Apocalypse

You might hear the term Jackpot referring to a future event. This is an ironic use of the term from the phrase hit the jackpot, meaning winning a bet. I doubt it was long after that phrase was first used that it was used sarcastically, either to mean winning something of little significance (really hit the jackpot), or running into some serious bad luck.

In the 2014 novel The Peripheral, the Jackpot refers to a somewhat vague time in the future when Malthus is proved right and the human population of Earth shrinks very significantly. So it is not unlike your typical apocalyptic science fiction. While William Gibson, the writer of The Peripheral, is a reasonably popular science fiction writer, I believe most people first heard the term during the opening season of the Amazon TV series The Peripheral, which was first streamed in October 2022. In the TV series, which expands on the book, some people in the future, post-Jackpot, explain it to some people they can communicate in a closer, pre-Jackpot future.

Science fiction is filled with apocalyptic futures that were dated too soon. Many of those have passed, like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Neither Gibson nor the TV script give dates certain, though the earlier future might be placed in the 2030s and the later future in the 2050s.

In a casino slot machine you hit a jackpot when the symbols all line up. For the Jackpot several bad events line up: economic turmoil, disease pandemics or epidemics, global warming and ecosystem collapse, famine, crime, infrastructure collapse, particularly electricity and the internet. In other words the Slow Motion Apocalypse we are currently experiencing hits several negative tipping points all in a bunch. Not an unlikely scenario, if our real-world scientists are right.

In his book Gibson ignores the details of the Jackpot. It is just an explanation of why the London mob of the late-21st-century future has built a sort of quantum internet connection back to a closer future set in rural America, to a county run by drug lords. In the TV series they seem to want to sketch out the Jackpot in considerably more detail. After all, they need to run multiple seasons.

There it is. When you here someone use the word Jackpot, and they seem to be referring to a time in the future, they are describing an apocalypse. Not the coming of Jesus or space lizards, but the unraveling of nature and civilization.

I now estimate the chances of famine in the U.S. at about 20% per year, and rising each year as the global temperature rises, drought intensifies, and ecosystems collapse. Better to know what is coming than to be caught unaware.

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