It's worth also referencing Vasili Arkhipov, who also showed us the importance of individual action:
RIP Mr. Petrov.
RIP and thank you sir.
You would hope that for a world ending event they would need verification from multiple stations reporting at the same time though...
He specifically acted against bad information and what he was supposed to do, which required bravery and critical thinking to avoid catastrophe. It was also potentially risking very bad consequences for himself, as his superiors easily could have put him in prison, disappeared him, or otherwise punished his life - even just out of spite - for what he did. He says it was a good thing that he was working that shift and he is right. The odds are extremely high that anybody else would make that phone call up the chain of command, and from there the odds of a nuclear response escalate rapidly.
Imagine, your radars see the incoming, by which time they’re already a third of the way.
The SSNN are somewhere, close, about to launch. Those are close, so little time to react.
Short range missiles in Germany are 5 minutes away from wiping your allies.
In the meantime you have to pass this memo along, silo doors have to be opened, missiles warmed up, etc.
Today it’s much more dangerous. Nukes are hundreds, not thousands of mi. away from Moscow, so Moscow has 5 minutes head up before it’s hit. We’re unlikely to have a Petrov double guess a radar full of clouds. Any bug in the Russians radar software that looks like clouds, and poof!
There's a relatively small minority of the world population who live in one of the two countries with arms sufficient to "destroy the world" (although some of the runners up could certainly make life worldwide more miserable).
In practice people living in those countries have pretty much all the say in whether the world will get destroyed or not by choosing to vote for some nutcase in the next election. By comparison someone in <name pretty much any other country> has next to zero chance of moving the needle on potential world destruction.
Nationality plays a role in who has the actual power but anyone can promote peace and have a real impact. Influential words and good ideas can come from anywhere.
But the main moral culpability is just not caring. Nuclear safety isn't even on the mind of the average voter in the US or Russia. If it were an issue as important as major wedge issues as say guns or religion are in the US even a small fraction of the population could have a major impact.
Please add the publish date (September 18, 2017) to the title; it's called Hacker News not Hacker Archives.