‘Which way I fly is Hell; myself am Hell’ –John Milton


“History is full of civilizations that have collapsed, followed by people who have had other ways of living,” Sale said. “My optimism is based on the certainty that civilization will collapse.” […]

In the final pages of his Luddite book, Sale had predicted society would collapse “within not more than a few decades.” Kelly, who saw technology as an enriching force, believed the opposite—that society would flourish. Baiting his trap, Kelly asked just when Sale thought this might happen. […] Sale blurted out 2020.

Kelly then asked how, in a quarter century, one might determine whether Sale was right.

Sale extemporaneously cited three factors: an economic disaster that would render the dollar worthless, causing a depression worse than the one in 1930; a rebellion of the poor against the monied; and a significant number of environmental catastrophes. […]

“I bet you $1,000 that in the year 2020, we’re not even close to the kind of disaster you describe,” Kelly said. […]

In May 2020, Sale and Kelly settled on the terms of the decision. Their editor, Bill Patrick, would name the winner. Kelly proposed that Patrick wait until the last day of the year to issue his verdict, giving civilization every possible chance to self-destruct. […] the bet was constructed on three clear conditions, and Patrick would consider each one separately […]

Economic Collapse. Sale predicted flatly that the dollar and other accepted currencies would be worthless in 2020. Patrick points to the Dow at 30,000 and the success of new currencies such as Bitcoin. “Not much contest here,” Patrick writes. Round goes to Kelly.

[…] it’s hard to dispute that we are at least ‘close to’ global environmental disaster,” Patrick wrote in his final decision. This one is Sale’s.

The War Between Rich and Poor. […] Patrick calls this round a toss-up, with an edge to Sale. […]

Round by round, the outcome would seem to make it a draw. But when making the final call, Patrick stuck to the language of the original bet. […] Sale called for a convergence of three disasters.

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