The Worst Has Happened. Where Do We Go From Here?

Join Vocativ as we embrace an uncertain future with a series that explores what could go wrong — and how ready we’ll be

Illustration: R. A. Di Ieso
Jan 20, 2017 at 8:04 AM ET

Up until the last hours on Election night, pollsters and experts believed Donald Trump’s victory would never happen. Yet here we are: In the first months of the Trump era, and it’s already a worst-case scenario for many (but clearly not all) Americans.

Among much else, Trump’s victory is a lesson not to discount or dismiss the improbable, and it’s a case study on why taking a ‘worst-case scenario’ seriously isn’t a mere gloomy game. In politics, technology, economics, and science, imagining the worst that can happen is an exercise that helps societies prevent terrible outcomes and build resilient structures for when Plans A, B, and C must be tossed aside.

Over the next two weeks, Vocativ will publish a series of stories that explore the ‘worst-case scenario’ on topics including immigrant and reproductive rights, privacy and cyber warfare, antibiotic-resistant superbugs, and yes, even a world-ending asteroid. Many of these stories are influenced by the nation’s current political mood: What would it look like if Trump really tries to deport millions of immigrants? How does all-out cyber-warfare happen? 

The goal isn’t to publish science fiction — these stories explore the boundaries of what’s possible, but they’re extrapolations based on history, current events, and expert opinion.

As Vocativ sees it, the future isn’t something that just happens to us. Every day, societies can make choices to create a more just, free, and advanced planet, or they can choose to give into fear and uncertainty, looking back toward the past. In exploring these worst case scenarios, we hope to raise readers’ consciousness about these darker visions and also highlight the people working to avoid these grim potential futures. 

Ahead, explore the worst that could happen — from an advanced surveillance state to a global ocean collapse to an asteroid that puts us all out of our misery.

The Presidency Is At Its Most Powerful Ever — Now Trump Takes Charge

Trump inherits decades of expanded presidential power. Political scientist Casey Dominguez describes how, in a nightmare scenario, he could tip the scale away from democracy. Read more here.

Black Markets, Bus Trips: Abortion’s Future If Roe v. Wade Is Reversed

Experts say women would travel great distances and self-induce with counterfeit abortion pills — but they offer some glimmers of hope, according to writer Tracy Clark-Flory. Read more here

Face Recognition Is Government’s New Weapon—And Your Privacy Dystopia

Trump inherits the most powerful surveillance machine ever built, and face recognition is one of the most frightening tools in its arsenal — Josh Kopstein reports. Read more here

How The Marijuana Industry Might Go Up In Smoke Under Trump

The Justice Department, under Trump’s pick Jeff Sessions, could easily nip the growing legal weed industry in the bud, according to writer Shane Dixon Kavanaugh. Read more here

The U.S. Without Net Neutrality: How An Internet Nightmare Unfolds

Today, we take the freedom of the web for granted. Maybe we shouldn’t, writes Kevin Collier. Read more here 

Hacker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy: The Future Is Cyberwar

We’ve seen data theft, energy grid hacks, and Stuxnet, but not open cyberwar — yet. Read more from reporter Yael Grauer

How Trump’s Deportation Plans Would Wreck The Economy

What if Donald Trump could actually deport all 11 million undocumented residents? In short: economic disaster. Read more here 


The Attack Of The Superbugs

As the antibiotic era ends, writer Ed Cara says, pan-resistant bacteria are here to stay. Read more.

How NASA Plays The Odds With Asteroids That Could Kill Us

The chances of a major impact might be next to zero…but that still isn’t zero. Read more here

The Moment When Humans Lose Control Of AI

Reporter Rick Paulas asks: How worried should we be about the march towards superintelligent systems? Read more here.

The Oceans Are Churning Towards A Warm, Fishless Future

As climate change worsens, writes Taylor Hill, the world faces a scary loss of fisheries that feed the world. Read more