Quantcast
Connect with us

Acclaimed British astrophysicist warns humanity has only a 50 percent chance of surviving the 21st Century

Published

on

One of the world’s leading scientists says technology gives a handful of bad actors the power to do serious harm on a global scale — and he gives humanity a 50-50 chance of surviving the 21st Century.

Martin Rees, Britain’s astronomer royal and a Cambridge University cosmologist, has written a new book called “Future: Prospects for Humanity” that gives reason for optimism about humankind’s chances for survival, but he told Vox that his hopes rely heavily on a series of good decisions getting made.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’m an optimist in that I believe that the ability of technology to provide a good life for everyone, not just in our countries, but throughout the world, is going to grow,” Rees said. “But I’m also an ethical pessimist in that I recognize that this is not happening in the way that it should.”

His previous book, 2003’s “Out Final Hour,” explored all the ways humans could destroy themselves through technology, and he said the rapid explosion of technology with little regard for ethics has made him even more concerned about societal disruption triggered by small groups or individuals.

“This is a relatively new thing, and I’m not sure we fully appreciate the dangers,” Rees told Vox. “Technology has not only increased the ways we could destroy ourselves, it’s also made it much easier for us to do it. So that means we’re always close, potentially, to a global disaster.”

He said the demand for energy and other resources was unsustainable, but he said individual bad actors pose a potentially greater threat in the short run.

“I worry about the disruptive effects of cyber attacks or some form of biological terror, like the intentional release of a deadly virus,” he said. “These kind of events can happen right now, and they can be carried out by small groups or even an individual. It’s extremely hard to guard against this kind of threat.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Those threats are potentially catastrophic, but Rees said humans are not socially prepared to handle them.

“Our societies are more brittle now and less tolerant of disruption,” Rees explained. “In the Middle Ages, for example, when the Black Plague killed off half the populations of towns, the others sort of went on fatalistically.”

“But I think if we had some sort of pandemic today,” he added, “and once it got beyond the capacity of hospitals to cope with all the cases, then I think there would be catastrophic social disruption long before the number of cases reached 1 percent. The panic, in other words, would spread instantly and be impossible to contain.”

ADVERTISEMENT

Technological changes are rapidly changing human society, and Rees said economic pressure to pursue new advances exerts stronger pressure than ethical considerations for using them responsibly.

“Is it too fast for society?” Rees said. “I don’t know. I do know that we’re struggling to cope with all these technologies. Just look at the impact of social media on geopolitics right now, and the risks of artificial intelligence and biotechnology far exceed social media. But these things also have potentially huge benefits to society, if we can manage them responsibly.”

ADVERTISEMENT


Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Confederate battle flag banned — Marine Corps declares it a ‘threat to our core values’

Published

on

The United States Marine Corps banned the public display of the Confederate battle flag on Friday.

"Depictions of the Confederate battle flag are unauthorized in public and work spaces aboard an installation," the Marine Corps wrote in guidance to the troops.

The ban applies to bumper stickers, clothing and flags among other items.

"The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps," the Marines explained.

"Our history as a nation, and events like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, highlight the divisiveness the use of the Confederate battle flag has had on our society," the continued. "The presents a threat to our core values, unit cohesion, security, and good order and discipline."

Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

BUSTED: Police arrest Anthony Brennan III on assault charges after viral video of attack on teenage protesters

Published

on

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that authorities have arrested Anthony B. Brennan III, a man suspected of being the attacker caught on camera in Maryland attacking teenagers putting up posters protesting the death of George Floyd, and charged him with second-degree assault.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Trump is ‘a soulless man with a broken mind’: George Conway calls out his wife’s boss in scathing op-ed

Published

on

George Conway, the prominent Republican attorney married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, blasted his wife's boss in a new Washington Post op-ed published online on Friday evening.

"Until three brief months ago, President Trump never faced a serious crisis, at least one not of his own making. But now he has faced two, and is failing two, in short order: the covid-19 pandemic, with its concomitant economic devastation; and now social unrest, and rioting, stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody," Conway wrote. "Lacking in humanity, Trump has had no idea how to handle either one."

Continue Reading
 
 
You need honest news coverage. Help us deliver it. Join Raw Story Investigates for $1. Go ad-free.
close-image