How Science Is Trying To Save Humanity From Self Destruction

How Science Is Trying To Save Humanity From Self Destruction

A look into the potential causes and ways to prevent our self annihilation.

Recently, the physicist Stephen Hawking was quoted in a plethora of popular media sources. His comments were in response to questions from the audience during his first lecture as part of the 2016 Reith Lectures organized by the BBC. The questions surrounded the possibility of humanity causing its own destruction. This is an interesting lead-in to the second part of my series on how science is trying to save humanity.

Hawking has voiced concerns about various technologies humanity has developed or may develop in the future which could cause our destruction. Included in the list is artificial intelligence, genetically engineered biological weapons, global warming and nuclear weapons.

Between the present day, up to 100 or 1000 years from now is the period in which most scientists agree humanity is at the greatest risk of self-destruction. All of the risks above are extremely valid concerns and it is important for humanity as a whole to be mindful of the dangers these things pose.

The scientific and engineering community must be able to critically analyze the possible risks associated with any future technologies in development. They must also think of the long term implications of these emerging technologies. This process of risk management and mitigation is a difficult prospect. A pertinent example would be the Manhattan project.

During World War II, the race to develop the atomic bomb was initially sparked by the belief that the Nazi’s were in the process of developing one for themselves. This was something that could have quickly turned the tide of the war effort against the Allied Forces. The Nazi’s abandoned the project after a short while, declaring the study of this weapon “a Jewish science.” Nonetheless, the project moved onward as a way to end the war.

A key figure in the project was J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer joined the project shortly after it began, based upon an order by Franklin D. Roosevelt. He was instrumental in the effort to create the weapon and stayed with it until its completion. It is widely accepted that he strongly supported the development of the atomic bomb up until the point he saw images of the damage and human casualties caused by the bombs dropped on Japan.

After the project ended, he worked on a nuclear advisory committee for the United States government. He was stripped of his position and accused of being a communist after arguing against nuclear proliferation. He argued against proliferation because of (warranted) fears of sparking a nuclear arms race with the Soviet Union, the increased strength of hydrogen bombs, and the potential human cost involved in a nuclear war.

Oppenheimer, in some sense, felt guilty for not foreseeing the long-term implications of developing a nuclear bomb. The cold war, at its most tense moments, was very close to sparking an all-out nuclear exchange, which could have caused the annihilation of humanity. Though the threat of nuclear war still exists, it is not as big of a threat now as it was in the past.

The most pertinent threats to humanity’s survival are the emerging technologies I mentioned earlier as well as global warming. Artificial intelligence is a very credible threat to our survival. The issue with artificial intelligence is inherent in the idea itself. How do you know when you have created a true form of artificial intelligence rather than a computer with good programming? The danger is when you create something that you don’t realize is true artificial intelligence. It is very possible that an artificially intelligent form of life could quickly outpace the intelligence of even the smartest human being and cause our own destruction.

Genetically altered viruses have the possibility of quickly spreading across the globe with a disease which kills more quickly than any “damage control” medical procedures can compensate for. Though bans on their use and development exist, not all countries have signed these treaties and they could be easily developed in secret.

Global warming is another pertinent threat, which is a result of our long-term impact on the planet rather than an emerging technology. Though alternative energy sources are beginning to take hold, some people fear that this is not enough to overcome the damage we have already done to our planet.

Hawking has been vocal about these issues in the past and for good reasoning. As he recommends, the key is to be mindful of the potential dangers that various technologies may pose. These things cannot completely stand in the way of scientific advancement. Some things, like artificial intelligence, could also revolutionize the way we live, with the proper considerations accounted for.

Though there is an inherent danger in advancement, the absence of progression could very well be a death sentence as well. We must be mindful of the dangers while still constantly striving to better our world and advance our technology. While complacency may kill, the dangers of stagnation are ever present, as well. Though the coming years will undoubtedly be trying for the human race, the conclusion is that our survival is very possible. Though, it is not assured.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.

Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

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When Words Are Not Enough

Sometimes you just need to be.


Life is a roller-coaster of ups and downs. We all desire easy fruitful lives where no one ever dies and no one ever leaves. Instead, we suffer through hardships and great trials that test our faith. These conflicts often leave us worn down and feeling helpless. This is the time when words become a languid breeze, going through one ear and out the other. This is what you should do when words are not enough to satiate the pain you hold in trembling hands.

Focus all your energy into just being. No one expects you to get over the tragedy that occurred in your life, so don't force yourself. Just eat, breathe, and sleep until you feel up to doing normal tasks. Whatever circumstance that has stolen your breath and turned your life upside down won't go a week in a couple of days or a week. Wounds like yours don't go away instantly; instead, they take time and nurturing. Sometimes it's best to keep a sore covered but in some circumstances, know that seeing someone is okay.

These tragedies you face are real, and they try to break down the very substances that make you who you are. Counselors and therapists can help you make sense of the burden you carry. There are many reasons why you might be hesitant to see a therapist, but if the burden you carry becomes too much, a therapist can help you lighten that load.

Know that what you are going through is real and it is tough, but you will make it out on top. You are a survivor and a success story. Every single bad thing that has tried to tear you down hasn't succeeded, and this will be no different. Trust me, your story is not over.

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