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This alarm clock will wake you up with your worst fears

AYESHA RASCOE, HOST:

Just in case doom scrolling wasn't enough to remind you of all the bad news, you can now wake up to a reminder.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Scientists expect climate change to worsen wildfires and floods around the globe. Two hundred million people could be refugees by 2050.

RASCOE: That's the voice from an app called the Doomsday Alarm Clock. It was created by Brooklyn copywriters Steve Nass and Peter Henningsen.

PETER HENNINGSEN: I think Steve and I would both agree we're pretty neurotic people. We're both, you know, worried about the state of the world. And then just sort of this idea of, well, what if we could, you know, take that that fear and turn it into an alarm clock that would really just jolt people out of bed in the morning?

RASCOE: Nass says there was actually research involved.

STEVE NASS: The one funny thing about this is we did have to research all these different kinds of apocalyptic scenarios and to get all the facts and pick our favorites, favorites in this weird criterion.

RASCOE: And you can pick from a bunch of other disasters that freak you out, like a super volcano.

AUTOMATED VOICE: A super volcano is a volcano capable of creating extinction level events. Twenty known super volcanoes exist around the world.

RASCOE: An asteroid strike.

AUTOMATED VOICE: If a large enough asteroid were to make contact with our planet, it would cause a mass extinction. Category 10 earthquakes would be felt worldwide. Debris would block out the sun.

RASCOE: The threat of nuclear war.

AUTOMATED VOICE: If a nuclear weapon was believed to have been launched at the United States, the president would only have 12 minutes to react.

RASCOE: And they all go on a loop until you wake up. But it's not all bad. The alarm does have a nice little greeting.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Good morning.

HENNINGSEN: Just the idea of having all these horrible facts and with this good morning - it was something about that was just really funny to us. And we're like, yes, this - we need to make this app.

RASCOE: The guys say they're always thinking of new scenarios to add.

NASS: I think we agreed when we made this, you know, plague was too soon. You know, we got - we have a Google Doc somewhere with a bunch of backups.

RASCOE: But ultimately, Nass and Henningsen say they're hoping to contribute to the greater good.

HENNINGSEN: I mean, there's so much going on in everybody's lives, these issues, these sort of overarching kind of existential issues, but they just - they kind of fall into the back of your mind with all the sort of minutiae you deal with every day. This is just sort of a way to firmly plant it in your head first thing in the morning so you don't totally forget.

NASS: I mean, I think definitely, we want to get people - you know, forgive the pun, but it's a wake-up call in a sense. And then it's a free app. We encourage donations to a global warming charity that we think is pretty good. I mean, if you just throw a couple bucks to that, as you would for a 2, $3 app, I mean, that helps for sure.

RASCOE: Until then, beware the AI.

AUTOMATED VOICE: Facial recognition software is already being employed for mass surveillance.

RASCOE: That was Steve Nass and Peter Henningsen.

AUTOMATED VOICE: But do not be alarmed. I am just a smartphone application who isn't watching you sleep. Good morning.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT (AND I FEEL FINE)")

R E M: (Singing) It's the end of the world as we know it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Hadeel al-Shalchi is an editor with Weekend Edition. Prior to joining NPR, Al-Shalchi was a Middle East correspondent for the Associated Press and covered the Arab Spring from Tunisia, Bahrain, Egypt, and Libya. In 2012, she joined Reuters as the Libya correspondent where she covered the country post-war and investigated the death of Ambassador Chris Stephens. Al-Shalchi also covered the front lines of Aleppo in 2012. She is fluent in Arabic.