Petrov Day

Although we are a few days late, Eliezer Yudkowsky has an excellent blog post calling for a celebration to honor Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, and admirable and courageous Russian who once saved the world from nuclear holocaust. From Overcoming Bias:

Petrov decided that, all else being equal, he would prefer not to destroy the world. He sent messages declaring the launch detection a false alarm, based solely on his personal belief that the US did not seem likely to start an attack using only five missiles. Petrov was first congratulated, then extensively interrogated, then reprimanded for failing to follow procedure. He resigned in poor health from the military several months later. According to Wikipedia, he is spending his retirement in relative poverty in the town of Fryazino, on a pension of $200/month. In 2004, the Association of World Citizens gave Petrov a trophy and $1000. There is also a movie scheduled for release in 2008, entitled The Red Button and the Man Who Saved the World. Maybe someday, the names of people who decide not to start nuclear wars will be as well known as the name of Britney Spears. Looking forward to such a time, when humankind has grown a little wiser, let us celebrate, in this moment, Petrov Day.