Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Humans to become extinct

Are we on the verge of our own unexpected extinction. Well, that's according to an international team of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers at Oxford University's - Future of Humanity Institute - which is investigating the biggest dangers.

So exactly what are the greatest global threats to humanity?

I suppose the big threats for us all will be a world wide pandemic. Bubonic plague is commonly believed to be the cause of the Black Death that swept through Europe in the 14th century and killed an estimated 25 million people, or somewhere around 60% of the European population. The 1918 flu pandemic was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic. The first of the two pandemics involving H1N1 influenza virus. It infected 500 million people across the world and killed 50 to 100 million. Making it one of the deadliest natural disasters in human history.

While natural disasters might cause colossal and catastrophic loss of life. The Future of Humanity Institute believes humanity would be likely to survive. This is because as a species we've already outlasted many thousands of years of disease, famine, flood, predators, persecution, earthquakes and environmental change. So the odds remain in our favour.  

There have been mass extinctions in the past, the dinosaurs extinction after all came from an asteroid impact. Total inhalation of life on earth will depend on the size of the next big one - and mathematically - there will be another big one. We have already started searching the cosmos looking for suitable candidates.

There is also the chance of a super sized volcanic eruption. The Minoan empire was wiped out when Thera (Santorini) blew its top. Will humans become extinct by our own hand. We have had a good go at it with unprecedented self inflicted losses in two world wars. And now we have Nuclear weapons that might cause appalling destruction. Plus there is also the chance of accidental meltdown creating a wide spread nuclear pollution.

The biggest threat it seems will be technological in areas such as synthetic biology, medicine, agriculture, nanotechnology and machine intelligence. Including experiments carried out on genetic modifications, dismantling and rebuilding of genetic structures. The creation of new organisms for agriculture and medicine could have unforeseen ecological side-effects.

Dr Bostrom of the Future of Humanity Institute says there is a real gap between the speed of technological advance and our understanding of its implications. "We're at the level of infants in moral responsibility, but with the technological capability of adults. As such, the significance of existential risk is 'not on people's radars.' But Dr Bostrom argues that change is coming whether or not we're ready for it. "There is a bottleneck in human history. The human condition is going to change. It could be that we end in a catastrophe or that we are transformed by taking much greater control over our biology. It's not science fiction, religious doctrine or a late-night conversation in the pub. There is no plausible moral case not to take it seriously."

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