Monday, January 02, 2006

Dangers to earth

the guardian looks into the same question (although probably not actually trying to destroy the earth this time)
They say


1: Climate Change

Chance of temperatures rising more than 2C (the level considered to be dangerous by the European Union) in the next 70 years: High
Danger score: 6

2: Telomere erosion

Chances of a human population crash due to telomere erosion during the next 70 years: Low
Danger score: 8

3: Viral Pandemic

Chance of a viral pandemic in the next 70 years: Very high
Danger score: 3

4: Terrorism

Chances of a major terrorist attack in the next 70 years: Very high
Danger score: 2

5: Nuclear war

Chance of a global nuclear war in the next 70 years: Low
Danger score: 8

6: Meteorite impact

Chance of the Earth being hit by a large asteroid in the next 70 years: Medium
Danger score: 5

7: Robots taking over

Chance of super-intelligent robots in the next 70 years: High
Danger score: 8

8: Cosmic ray blast from exploding star

Chance of encountering a supernova in the next 70 years: Low
Danger score: 4

9: Super-volcanos

Chance of a super-volcano in the next 70 years: Very high
Danger score: 7

10: Earth swallowed by a black hole

Chance of Earth being gobbled up by a black hole in the next 70 years: Exceedingly low
Danger score: 10


I propose
1: Climate Change
danger score = 0.1
It is VERY unlikely that this will wipe out humanity - cause death and disease? Sure - but not wipe it out.
Probability -
95% that something will happen
About 50% that it will be much more noticeable than summers being a little hotter and less snow.

2: Telomere erosion (i.e. our genome decaying
Danger score = 0.1
Either we will fix it with GE or we will probably be to stupid to care (lets say civilization falls over in that time)
probability = I think evolution would fight back on this one (of course you could then say we have a NEW species but that is a bit stupid since it is self referential) IF humans still had a niche - so maybe 5% over the very long run - millions of years.

3: Viral Pandemic
Danger score -.5
A super virus could be dangerous and might wipe out humanity - but it has not done so in the last few million years it is unlikely it will do so in such a way that we could not react. It could however wipe out a lot of people
Danger that it will happen 9.9/10

4: Terrorism
Danger score 4
the first thing with a decent danger score - the problem here is technology - weapons get better and more powerful one day a planet destroying machine will be almost hand held. At the moment however such a weapon doesn’t exist (so current technology danger = 0)
Probability of minor attack 9.99/10
Probability of one that might destroy earth 5/10
Probability of one that will wipe out humanity 3/10

5: (Nuclear) war

Danger level - 3
Even a nuclear war would probably not wipe out life on earth but it might and in the future that might be more likely but I also expect government to be more integrated in the future.

Chance of a global nuclear war in the near future 1/10
Chance in the long term future 3/10

6: Meteorite impact

Danger score - 9
A big enough asteroid could wipe us out pretty easily

Probability - about 1/300000000 of wiping us out but much less that it might cause serious damage.

7: Robots taking over
Danger score - 2
I think both cybog and GE technology seems to be likely to outrun AI by a long way this means that the "takeover" will be more of "us merging into them". So I don’t see it as a danger per se.
Probability - 9.8/10 the other possibility probably involves us becoming primitive.
Probability that robots will take over like some sort of "I robot" movie 1/10. I don’t see people being irresponsible enough to start some evolutionary thing going with robots where they gain the sort of motivations like the desire to replace us with them.

8: Cosmic ray blast from exploding star

Danger level - 8
We would be toast if it was close enough

Probability - .1
Something else would probably get us first

9: Super-volcanoes

Danger score: 7

Probability - 10/10 that it will happen (pressure has to be released)
1/10 that it will seriously cripple humanity
1/1000 that it will happen in our lifetime.
Of course it is quite possible that it would be taupo so us NZders would be cooked well done.

10: Earth swallowed by a black hole

Danger score: 10
Probability closes enough to 0 to not matter.

3 Comments:

Blogger Icehawk said...

Regards climate change:

From memory, we'll get earth to an average surface temperature of approx 80C if we succeed in raising C02 levels to about 3% of the atmosphere. Approx 4% gets us to 100C. Thereafter the affect starts to trail off because of albedo since the atmosphere is completely clouded.

I agree: very unlikely. But I think the probability of pushing ourselves to a tipping point is probably higher than that of a killer meteorite impact. We're moving the atmospheric mix into unknown lands, with greenhouse gasses at levels vastly higher than they have ever been since modern life evolved.

Nuclear war: virtually certain to happen. 20 years ago surveys of my cohort showed most of us expected a major nuclear war in our lifetime. The world is a much, much safer place now than it was then.

Terrorists: ha!

80 years from now Al Qaeda will be remembered the way we remember the anarchists of 80 years ago. The anarchists were a trans-national movement that killed a US President, killed various european heads of state, blew up lots of stuff. The anarchists loomed large: they fought civil wars with the communists in Russia, and with the fascists in Spain. But in the long run, they were just not important.

Terrorism has been with us for a long time, and will be with us for a long time, and while it is tragic for those killed it's less dangerous than traffic accidents.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Genius said...

> I think the probability of pushing ourselves to a tipping point is probably higher than that of a killer meteorite impact.

Even a drastic tipping point is highly unlikely to be that devastating. As the right is happy to point out the earth has been in hotter cycles than it is now and life coped (it didn’t cope so well with meteors hitting it) - besides of all the species on earth humans are one of the most able to adapt to that sort of slow change.

One could also using the terrorist analogy suggest that things like a rise in the sea level of a meter or two or a drop in temperature of a couple of degrees are likely to be less likely to kill you than car accidents etc.

> With greenhouse gasses at levels vastly higher than they have ever been since modern life evolved.

You mean since mammals were the dominant species I guess. Well we are not really all that different from the previous animals. And the dinosaurs had the bad effects of there being a single continent to deal with also.

That of course doesn’t mean global warming is not worth dealing with just that it won’t wipe us out.

> Nuclear war: virtually certain to happen.

I thought about this - I am relying on China annexing everyone relatively peacefully.... either that or EU NAFTA etc slowly merging into one.

> 80 years from now Al Qaeda will be remembered the way we remember the anarchists of 80 years ago.

I don’t think Al Qaeda is the problem in itself or the danger in itself there is no point wiping out hamas and replacing it with hamas or whatever - the problem is "random crazy people" with "random big weapon".
things that add to that danger is a general attitude that terrorism is justifiable and sucessful (resulting in more crazy people) the availability of weapons (eg nuclear non proliferation) and so forth.

5:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what don't we know? The guardian post was doom and gloom and this blog seems like human technology or western civilization has got it all right, i.e. not in big danger because we re so advanced.

First off, we don't know how well we are doing because we can't compare ourselves to anything. Second, the human race has never lived liked the world lives today, so we are in new territory.

Climate change has many variables to be played out, and they may simply compound problems we already face. So, loss of cropland or fisheries may prove rather substantial if it happens during an economic recession or depression. Or, very little will happen at all and the other models were correct.

To say the threat of global nuclear war is past is naive. Once again, problems seem to compound. So lets say virus kills half of China, which causes drop in stocks, which brings recession, which moves to depression, which brings Hitler II. What do you get? Nuclear freakin' war dude!!!!! Remember, don't eat irradiated canned food, it could kill.

Take home message here is, we ain't out of danger yet sweet heart.

Cheers!!!!!!!!!actually I hate it when people in U.S. say that.

Peace y'all!!!!!!!!

9:58 PM  

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