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Its The End Of The World As We Know It Podcast

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Martin Rees Can we prevent the end of the world

Ten years ago, I wrote a book which I entitled quot;Our Final Centuryéquot; Question mark. My publishers cut out the question mark. (Laughter) The American publishers changed our title to quot;Our Final Hour.quot; Americans like instant gratification and the reverse. (Laughter) And my theme was this:

Our Earth has existed for 45 million centuries, but this one is special — it's the first where one species, ours, has the planet's future in its hands. Over nearly all of Earth's history, threats have come from nature — disease, earthquakes, asteroids and so forth — but from now on, the worst dangers come from us.

And it's now not just the nuclear threat; in our interconnected world, network breakdowns can cascade globally; air travel can spread pandemicsworldwide within days; and social media can spread panic and rumor literally at the speed of light. We fret too much about minor hazards — improbable air crashes, carcinogens in food,

low radiation doses, and so forth — but we and our political masters are in denial about catastrophic scenarios. The worst have thankfully not yet happened. Indeed, they probably won't. But if an event is potentially devastating, it's worth paying a substantial premium to safeguard against it, even if it's unlikely,

just as we take out fire insurance on our house. And as science offers greater power and promise, the downside gets scarier too. We get ever more vulnerable. Within a few decades, millions will have the capability to misuse rapidly advancing biotech, just as they misuse cybertech today.

Freeman Dyson, in a TED Talk, foresaw that children will designand create new organisms just as routinely as his generationplayed with chemistry sets. Well, this may be on the science fiction fringe, but were even part of his scenario to come about, our ecology and even our species would surely not survive long unscathed. For instance, there are some ecoextremists

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