From climate change to AI
Climate change, a global phenomena that is already causing the loss and extinction of numerous species, cannot be excluded from a list of the dangers to human survival. Could it push mankind in the same direction?
At a local level, the accompanying effects of climate change—food insecurity, water shortages, and severe weather—are expected to pose a growing threat to human life. Looking ahead, though, Kemp also noted that climate change acts as what he called a “existential risk multiplier” at the global level, amplifying other dangers to humanity’s existence. The world is now much more perilous to live in because it does seem to have all these connections to political upheaval and violence. Imagine if a lack of food or water would increase international tensions and lead to nuclear conflicts with possibly very high human casualties.
This perspective on extinction emphasizes how intertwined existential concerns are. As Kemp has said, it’s improbable that a single catastrophe like a nuclear war or pandemic will cause a global extinction event. The majority of civilizational collapses, history teaches us, are actually caused by a number of interrelated events. And one possible outcome is extinction, as we generally see it: the quick eradication of all life on Earth.
Only a few hundred or thousand people may survive a catastrophic disaster, raising concerns about the future of mankind as a species. Alternately, a collapse may eliminate only a portion of mankind, but as a result, it would cause widespread unrest and strife, weaken our resistance to other dangers, and start a more slow decline. “There isn’t a single preconceived notion of how or what an extinction may look like. That’s not really how it works, “Kemp said.
Another perspective on this is that an existential danger to mankind need not necessarily be one that jeopardizes our ability to survive. A danger might be something that limits the potential of our species, such as our ability to advance technologically or become a spacefaring race. In some respects, Nelson added, “that’s nearly as big of a threat to our survival.” In other words, it undermines our conception of humanity’s ultimate goal, which some could say is to advance. Artificial intelligence is one significant concern that falls under this category. According to academics, if intelligent robots were mistakenly released into the world, they would impose extensive human monitoring or even outperform us intellectually and physically. That might drastically change people’s perceptions of what it means to be a human, usurping our position as the dominant species on the globe.