On July 31, Beijing time, according to foreign media reports, in some sci-fi films, the screen starts with a sparse gray landscape. In the foreground is a rooted and jointing tree. Ashes and debris are slowly floating in the sky. In the distance of the horizon, several people help each other and go forward in a tumbling way Usually, such films describe catastrophic events leading to the extinction of human beings, such as asteroid impact on the earth, human nuclear war, or human trying to save themselves from some kind of huge survival crisis.
this kind of science fiction movie impresses the audience. But what if the extinction of mankind is no longer a science fiction scene in the movie, but a looming reality? This may seem terrifying and worrying, but in fact, researchers work hard every day trying to uncover this possibility and come up with effective solutions to avert these disasters.
this task is not easy. Many factors may lead to human extinction, from alien invasion to catastrophic asteroid collision with the earth. At the same time, scientists have a general consensus that certain risks to human life are more likely to occur than these catastrophic events. At present, researchers call these risks “survival risks”:
survival risks are different from conventional hazards or threats that we may think of. In typical terms, risk should be composed of danger, vulnerability and exposure. For human survival risk, people can imagine the disaster of an asteroid colliding with the earth. In this disaster, the risk itself is an asteroid, and human beings are very vulnerable and vulnerable to attack.
Taking nuclear war as an example, history and popular culture have regarded nuclear war as one of the greatest potential risks to mankind, and this view is deeply remembered in human mind. If some countries produce highly enriched uranium and the political tensions between that country and its neighboring countries escalate, our vulnerability to this risk increases, and that vulnerability determines our exposure.
all survival risks are uncertain. Scientists cannot accurately estimate the number of residents killed by a nuclear war. However, it is estimated that the nuclear winter impact of a nuclear war is long-term. Nuclear winter means that after a nuclear war, the global regional low temperature and food production are greatly reduced due to the blocking of sunlight by nuclear smoke. This is very frightening and will lead to the death of many residents at this stage, but the event seems unlikely to lead to the total extinction of mankind.
the abuse of biotechnology is another risk that keeps scientists awake at night. It is the technology that scientists use biology to make new products. Abusing biotechnology may potentially create lethal and rapidly spreading pathogens. Many epidemic diseases may be caused by human beings, which may be the greatest threat to us by biology in this century.
as one of the leaders of the biosafety group of the Institute for the future of mankind, Oxford University, the United Kingdom, Nelson has studied the biosafety problems facing mankind, such as new infectious diseases, pandemics and biological weapons. She realized that a pathogen specifically designed to be infectious and lethal could be more lethal than a natural pathogen, potentially leading to the death of a large number of residents over a period of time.
pathogens produced by natural selection in nature are also very terrible. If they are spread widely, it will bring about a human disaster. “What I’m more concerned about is that if there’s someone who deliberately designs a pathogen, it’s contagious and lethal, and it’s going to have a lot of negative effects,” Nelson said
However, although people are worried that the epidemic virus may be man-made, there is no conclusive evidence that the new coronavirus was bred in a biological laboratory.
many factors threatening human survival include climate change, which has led to the reduction and extinction of many species on the earth. Will it push human beings to extinction?
climate change will bring about food production reduction, water shortage and extreme weather phenomena, which will threaten the life of residents in the region. But looking to the future, climate change is a global “survival risk multiplier”, which means amplifying other threats to human survival. It seems to have something to do with both armed conflict and political change, making the world more dangerous. One can imagine that when food and water resources are in short supply, international tension will be intensified, nuclear war will be triggered, and huge casualties may be caused.
the way of thinking about this extinction highlights the correlation between survival risks, and large-scale extinction events are unlikely to be caused by a single disaster, such as nuclear war or epidemic diseases. On the contrary, historical data show that the decline of most human civilization is connected with many factors. As we imagine, extinction events lead to the rapid annihilation of all people on the earth, but there are many factors leading to the extinction of human beings.
a catastrophic event may leave only a few hundred or thousands of survivors on the earth. At this time, mankind will face a major challenge: the continuation and viability of human civilization will be questioned. Another possibility is that destructive events may only destroy a part of mankind, but eventually cause global security crisis and armed conflict, reduce the adaptability of human beings to other threats, and lead to a gradual decline of the world. ‘we’re not talking about extinction scenarios, or blaming the destruction of the earth on something, but it’s actually more subtle and complicated than that,’ camper explained.
from another point of view, the risk of human survival may limit our potential as a species, whether we become competitors of advanced intelligent civilization in space or gain some kind of technological dominance. From the perspective of life safety, these activities have risks, but at the same time, they can promote human progress. Artificial intelligence technology is a typical example.
with the continuous improvement of artificial intelligence level, intelligent robots in the future will bring a lot of convenience to human beings, but there are potential risks. Once the intelligent robots are out of control, or surpass human beings in physical and intellectual aspects, they are likely to usurp the dominant position of human beings, and may fundamentally change the significance of human existence.
no matter how big the above-mentioned survival risks are, they all involve one thing in common: human beings play a key role in determining the severity of these risks. What if human beings themselves are the greatest risk of extinction? Or are humans themselves terminators?
most of the survival risks are “made by human beings” and rooted in the society and the corresponding political system. In order to maintain the sustainable growth of society, human beings have led to the continuous development of the environment, the destruction of the earth and armed conflicts. Ironically, the above factors make people face greater survival threats and expose the vulnerability of human beings in the face of survival threats. However, environmental development and other factors can bring about economic growth, which is a necessary condition to ensure the quality of human life.
human civilization can be compared to a row of dominoes. The survival risk is not so much the light thrust that causes chain reaction, but rather exposes the weakness of human survival. Human survival is like a row of dominoes, which is very fragile and vulnerable to any interference. If we really want to change something, we can have very little actual impact on external factors, and more importantly, we change from the internal function of society.