So, I assume like a lot of you, I have been thinking about Infinity War a lot. Like a lot a lot. One day I was work, and I was talking with two of my office buddies about The Snap, aka when Thanos wipe out half the life in the universe. And as I went down a rabbit hole of why The Snap is a bad idea, I started adding more and more reasons as to why this is the worst solution Thanos could come up with (unless he really is courting Death). And I’m not talking about little details about the MCU or superhero logic, I mean like a real thought experiment: what would happen to the universe, as it exists in Marvel, in the immediate time post-Snap?
Welp, I made a list why basically, everything and everyone is doomed. Because this is the kind of person I’ve become.
1) There’s basically no way to keep the death toll to only 50%
First and foremost, the hardest thing to ascertain is if Thanos really did destroy half of the universe’s population, because, as we see in the after credits scene of Infinity War, planes are going down, car accidents are happening, total chaos is occurring. As people start disappearing, more people are getting killed in various situations where other people are in control, like for example traveling, or doing construction work, or surgery. Like say your surgeon disappears mid-operation, or a rock-climbing partner suddenly strands the other. In the immediate aftermath of The Snap, 50% of the population may be gone, but very quickly that percentage rises to rates that approach 60% on Earth and potentially the dozen of alien planets we know have life on them. And more are going to die, but we’ll get to that.
Now, you might think, “That’s not the point. Thanos wanted to do a clean sweep of 50% for everything to be rebalanced” which is correct, but that 50% doesn’t account for all of the immediate collateral that is incurred. He might, might have accounted for them thanks to the Time Stone, but frankly it doesn’t look like mid-battle, he’s got enough time to run through all the numbers. Most civilized planets with technology will suffer massive losses, and even developing planets are going to have a huge gap in their evolutionary development, leading to even more death.
2) Less people does not equal better quality of life
I feel like I shouldn’t have to explain this, but just because there are less people running around doesn’t make things better. In fact, it makes it worse.
For one, Thanos isn’t thinking, “hey, you know I should only take non-specialized workers out of the population” or “I should not utterly destroy governments and infrastructure.” No, he’s doing a totally random grab, and if you are a statistician, you know that random means that anything could happen.
Like, for example, what if that random grab ends up pulling 60% of doctors off of Earth. That would be a literal disaster. We barely have enough doctors to treat everyone now, but think about rural communities where there is maybe a small handful of doctors for several towns. Same thing with mechanics, electricians, plumbers, air traffic controllers, nurses, veterinarians, and tons of other specialized jobs that require years of training in order to keep everyone else running. If the majority of those people happen to get caught up into The Snap, then the people who are left are well and truly fucked. People will have no recourse when they get sick, when important functions and machinery breakdown, when their farm animals get infections and die.
And let’s not forget, governments are run by people. Not even just world leaders disappearing, which by the way would totally happen and lead to some insane paranoia and anarchy. Even just removing the people who run the parts of government that keep roads running, distribute aid and money to people who need them, people who keep the nuclear codes – their losses would be hugely felt.
So basically, The Snap will severely impact not just individual countries but whole planets that will need to scramble to re-fill government positions, get all these complex systems up and running, get the remaining specialists to very quickly train an entire generation of people who may or may not be good at the jobs needed. On the very generous side, it’ll take a year. On the realistic side, five to ten minimum. And all the while, people will continue to die at a much higher rate than average.
Also, let’s be real here, if you wipe out half of a population in an instant, people are going to be terrified. Even if they do know an alien is the one responsible for all the people disappearing, that’s still not comforting because now you know that a) aliens exist, and b) they can get the power to kill you and everyone you love without you being able to do anything about it. The level of collective trauma would be through the roof, and without enough mental health personnel to help people or systems to reassure them, there are going to be suicides, murder-suicides, and destructive death cults faster than you can say “You should have aimed for the head.”
3) Thanos probably put several species on the path to extinction
If you don’t already know, biodiversity is incredibly important. The food chain is a delicately balanced thing, and even one minor change can throw entire species into chaos. Now imagine huge swaths of animals just disappearing. We already have species that are endangered, but this would like throw pandas, tigers, and a ton of other animals right into the extinction phase. You need several breeding pairs in order to sustain a species, not just an “Adam and Eve” pair, especially because not every animal you get is going to be healthy enough or fertile enough to have multiple offspring, especially if you end up decimating their food sources.
And even if you say that Thanos only destroys intelligent life (which is stupid, because animals like cows and horses use up a ton of our resources but okay), then you are still throwing tons of species into real danger. For example, we see Mantis get destroyed in The Snap. Mantis, who back in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 said that she is the last of her people. Thanos already killed half of the Asguardian population that was floating around in space, which was already a small portion that survived Hela’s attack and made it to the spaceships in time. So we’re down to say, 1/4 of the Asguardians pre-Snap, and maybe at 1/8 post-Snap.
He destroys Xandar, which also had lots of people from lots of species, and Knowhere had the last of many different species. Which brings us to our next issue…
4) Thanos doesn’t account for all the people he’s already killed
Thanos pre-Infinity Gauntlet is already insanely powerful. He’s already been on a killing spree, starting with Gamora’s people and not slowing down on bit. Throughout Infinity War we see him kill a bunch of people, and yet there’s still hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions, that have been slain before. Does he take those into account? Nope.
Now you might thing that all the people he killed before didn’t make that big of a dent in the world, and have already started the repopulation process. Sure, but for the reasons listed above (loss of specialized people, destabilized governments, massive collective trauma), those worlds are still going to be severely damaged, and their unbalance may have affected other nearby planets because of trade issues or political upheaval, or even something as simple as being unable to stave off an attack from their enemies.
Either way, he’s not starting from zero, he’s starting at -10 and plummeting already hit populations. That means that The Snap takes away more than 50%, right from the get-go. Now, we’ve talked about larger issues in the months and years after The Snap, but there’s a lot more problems like…
5) Resources would become a huge problem
We’ve talked about specialized jobs and the people who work them being an issue, but there are even more problems on the horizon. Did you know that there are many places where we are growing food that, because of one reason or another, we do not have enough people to pick, just rots away in the field? And that’s with the population we have now. Imagine 50% of those farmers and their workers gone. And if livestock count as life in The Snap, imagine half our meat supply totally vanished.
And sure, maybe other planets in the galaxy don’t have this issue, but there’s also statically as many who would. Resources are not infinite and a lot of them are not sustainable. Food will go to waste, we will not have the ability to get the food we do have to everyone who needs it, we will run out of medicine and gas and clean water very quickly, especially if the wrong people are taken out of the equation. People are going to die from illness, starvation, bad water, and lots and lots of accidents, and let’s not forget natural disasters that happen every year that we have no way of stopping. Sure, we’ve still got Tony Stark running around, but one man can’t invent a thousand different solutions to the massive infrastructure holes left behind by millions of people disappearing.
And all of that to say…
6) Recovery is not guaranteed
I don’t know what exactly Thanos thought was going to happen when 50% of all beings disappeared in an instant, but I do know he made a huge assumption: he expected most civilizations, if not all, to bounce back in time. And he was wrong.
Like we’ve discussed above, there are going to be tons of issues concerning immediate post-Snap deaths, suicides and trauma, lack of specialized people to keep large societies afloat and alive, lack of resources and the ability to get them where they need to go. When Gamora confronts Thanos about her home world, he says that the children of the next generation “know nothing but blue skies and full bellies” which…does he actually know that? And if that’s true, great, but there’s no guarantee that all these effect populations are going to bounce back soon, if ever.
We’ve got the people lost to extinction, and any species that relied on those species that are going to suffer. The dead are going to be piling up because of the number of issue we’ve talked about, and hey, you know what people tend not to do when they’re stressed out, malnourished, and know they might not get medical care? Have babies. You need people to refill all the empty spots in society if we want to run in even a semblance of how it used to. Sure, we’ll still have some successful pregnancies, but the infant mortality rate is going to skyrocket, even in developing countries, and that’s just the babies that make it to term. For all we know, we could hit the extinction threshold where we are no longer producing enough kids to sustain our existence, and this likely wouldn’t just be a human problem. And that’s if no wars break out.
Life is resilient, sure, but it’s not perfect, and getting new species to appear in the wake of these disaster could take centuries, millennia even, if it happens at all, assuming the climates are still hospitable to the life in that area. So yeah, if Thanos wanted to rebalance the universe, he didn’t even the scales with his little plan, he threw a boulder at it and broke the whole thing, and now we’re all spiraling towards massive extinction on a near galactic scale.
Good job, buddy.