What are the biggest threats faced by humanity? It's a question that has been in the news quite a bit lately...
ITEM: The Guardian published an article this week asking ten notable scientists how the world might end.
Among their answers were:
- Climate Change
- Nuclear War
- Robot Takeover
Also included as threats were telomere erosion, a viral pandemic, asteroid impact, cosmic ray blast, super volcanos, and black holes.
ITEM: Last week, before the Guardian story ran and prior to the reports that the British government had foiled a major terrorist plot to blow up US-bound airliners, Alex Steffen posted an entry at the WorldChanging blog asserting that "sustainability, not terrorism, should be our real security focus." And even after the big story hit the news, he reiterated his position.
ITEM: Shortly after the liquid bomb terrorist plot was reported, the Lifeboat Foundation raised its GETAS (Global Existential Threat Advisory System) alert level to ELEVATED, its first raised alert.
So, what should we fear most? One obvious answer is that we should not make the mistake of focussing on just one or two things. As one WorldChanging reader wrote:
We can do two things at once. We can deal with terror attacks in whatever way is appropriate, and work on environmental problems. You can seek to improve the education of poor kids in developing nations and work on seeing that they are fed and receive health care.
From CRN's vantage point, climate change and global sustainability are very serious issues. We should encourage efforts now to reduce energy use, find viable alternatives to burning hydrocarbons, and make more balanced use of available resources. We also should look to advanced generations of nanotechnology, especially molecular manufacturing, as a potential long-term answer for a sustainable energy future.
And what about robots taking over? Depending on how you look at it, that may be a threat or it may be a boon, as Hans Moravec suggests:
These intelligent machines will grow from us, learn our skills, share our goals and values, and can be viewed as children of our minds. Not only will these robots look after us in the home, but they will also carry out complex tasks that currently require human input, such as diagnosing illness and recommending a therapy or cure. They will be our heirs and will offer us the best chance we'll ever get for immortality by uploading ourselves into advanced robots.
There is an ironic curse/blessing that says, May you live in interesting times.
If you are reading this, it seems that you have been blessed in just that way.