Often, we don’t think about the generations yet to come when we talk about the recent crises. We don’t know how long humanity will continue to exist on this planet. This is because there are certain existential risks that can wipe out the entire human race. However, not everyone has shown such ignorance. Nostradamus and other great mystics of the past have tried to prophesy how the world would end.
In the book The Time Machine, HG Wells had tried to forecast humanity’s far future. We might be in a position of great privilege today. Yet, we’re not even close to controlling natural disasters. Here, we’ve tried to present some of the possible threats faced by humanity:
1. Nuclear war
The entire world has seen the destructive powers of nuclear weapons. In the Second World War, they were used in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The nuclear arms race reached its peak during the Cold War. We must not forget the Cuban Missile crisis as well. Although the nuclear stockpiles have reduced considerably, the threat still exists.
There have been a lot of close calls and dangerous mistakes with regards to nuclear deterrence. It would be a mistake to conclude that a nuclear war is impossible. A full-scale nuclear war would terminate millions of humans directly or through its aftermath.
2. Artificial intelligence
We became superior to the apes only by a small enhancement in our intelligence. As if this intelligence was not enough, we’ve developed artificial intelligence today. This might remind you of The Matrix Trilogy and the Terminator series. In these movies, we’re shown a doomsday scenario where machines take over the world.
Now, it’s highly possible that the development of certain super-intelligent systems might end in a big disaster. If the goals are badly set for the development of super-intelligent systems, the consequences would be even more disastrous.
3. Abuse of nanotechnology
Nanotechnology refers to the molecular or atomic precision by which matter is controlled. Of course, for most of the applications, this is definitely good news. The problem is that it can be abused if it falls into wrong hands. Here, you might be reminded of the ‘grey goo’ scenario, where everything gets eaten by the self-replicating nanomachines.
The most obvious risk would be the manufacture of weapons using nanotechnology. For example, it’s possible to build surveillance systems that can keep populations obedient. Arms races might accelerate and become unstable, resulting in a greater threat to humanity.
4. Engineered pandemic
More people have been killed by natural pandemics than wars. Today, we have excellent resources that can counter natural pandemics. Unfortunately, today’s technologies make it possible to engineer pandemics. Governments looking for something controllable have worked on developing bio-weapons. This is because it is not militarily useful to wipe out humanity.
Some have lived with the idea that the Earth would be better without humans. These are the people who might indulge in the engineering of pandemics. Who can forget the doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo? Its founder, Shoko Asahara had masterminded the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway.
This attack resulted in more than 5,500 individuals being taken to hospitals. Out of the 14 who died, 37 were deemed critical, and 984 developed vision problems.