Writing a list is a cheap way for a journalist to fill up space which, as we all know, is the main purpose of journalism, two or three levels above ‘informing the public about events that matter which are currently happening in the world,’ and responding to that list is an even more pathetic way for a blogger to fulfill his self-imposed goal of writing a blog every day, but it’s late and I don’t have a better idea, so here you go. The list is from the Guardian, of the 5 greatest threats to the continued existence of the human species.
The writer started off fine. Nuclear War and some kind of bio-engineered pandemic are definitely threats to human existence. I don’t know if I’d have put them in my top 5, but I’d certainly put them in my top 10.
But then the author talks about superintelligence and nanotechnology. These are not, by themselves, threats. Superintelligence may, indeed, lead to the creation of a cyberspecies which supplants the human race, but not in a hostile sort of way. It is not extinction, unless you think that a parent becomes extinct when their child is born. It is passing the torch, and there is an important distinction.
Nanotechnology could be used to develop powerful, and extremely insidious weapons, but it could also be used in medicine, in computers, in a whole bunch of other useful stuff. Like nuclear technology, it is a double edged sword. There’s a threat there, but also a promise.
Then came #5, which was a huge cop-out even by the standards of listicle writing: Unknown unknowns. Way to cover your ass, psuedo-journalist dude.
There are many more things which could go on a list of greatest threats to the survival of mankind: a meteor strike, global warming, the extinction of the honey bees, environmental degradation, a supervolcano, or an alien invasion (a real one, from outer space, not the kind the teabaggers are always bitching about).
There are also some things which did not appear on the author’s list and which could not appear on any similar list written by a sane person of normal intelligence: gun control, abortion, marijuana, immigration, and the overall poor quality of television programming.
We can just stop worrying about those.