There’s a general feeling – and a growing one I think – that we’re headed for disaster, and that no-one is in control or able to steer us away from the precipice. Here are four categories of reasons that people give for pessimism about the near future:
- ecology: scientists are telling us that we’re seriously damaging nature, and that we’re already in a mass extinction event
- war: more and more countries are acquiring nuclear weapons, weapons technology is becoming deadlier, there are flashpoints all around the world, empires and blocs are waxing and waning and there is a distinct possibility that terrorist groups could acquire a nuclear capability at some point
- technology: several other technologies are being developed that could escalate beyond our means to control them, especially genetic engineering, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology
- population: from the first humans to 1960, the human population grew to 3 billion; but we’re now headed towards 10 billion by the middle of this century – all requiring food, shelter, energy and aspiring to cars, TVs and flights, from a planet whose nature is already degrading with 7 billion of us
We absolutely don’t have the models or tools to make accurate risk assessments, so I suggest that we ignore commentators who claim to have a handle on the likelihood of any of these scenarios and lean towards the precautionary principle. Civilisations have fallen before, but without affecting other areas of the world; this time it’s global, and we don’t have anywhere else to go.
Read more here.