From basic spearheads and the discovery of fire, to firearms and the Internet, the coupling of humanity’s exceptional brain power and technology has led us to be, easily, the most dominant species on earth. Technology has helped us fend off predators, and, in turn, become predators. It has given us the power to harness electricity, travel long distances, and achieve various other feats we now take for granted. Without it, we certainly would not have become the world’s most dominant species, with the lives of leisure we now possess Yet, while technology has allowed us to become so powerful, it also poses a significant danger to us. It is very feasible that humanity could meet its end as a result of nuclear warfare, artificial intelligence, or climate change.
Nuclear weapons could annihilate all life on earth, and several world leaders can control them with a press of a button. There are now enough nuclear weapons, largely controlled by the U.S. and Russia, to blow up the world several times over (Fung, 2013). The fact that our technology has advanced to such a degree that it literally has the capability of destroying all of humanity, along with the majority of earths biota, is terrifying, and nuclear weapons may be used for that very thing. Communications between U.S. president Donald Trump and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un have repeatedly involved nuclear threats. In response to one of Jong Un’s threats, Trump retaliated with “Will someone […] please inform [Kim Jong Un] that I too have a Nuclear Button, but it is a much bigger & more powerful one than his and my Button works!” (Baker, 2018). Why our country has allowed arguably the most devastating form of technology created to be a button’s press away from an arguably insane man is unconscionable and exceptionally dangerous. Nuclear weapons are extremely excessive; one blast could destroy an entire city with ease, and yet there is a robust supply of this technology. These bombs must be dismantled and destroyed before an emotionally irrational world leader presses a button and sends the world up in flames.
It is also very possible for technology to end the world without any intentional human aid. Renowned physicist Stephen Hawking has repeatedly claimed that artificial intelligence could spell the end of humanity. He points out that, already, humans have begun to rely on the intelligence of computers, meaning that if these computers ever became sentient, they could outsmart humanity, and eventually take over the earth (Martin, 2017). Artificial intelligence seems to be on the verge of becoming a reality with the invention of programs such as Siri. It is very likely that a slightly more advanced program could have the capabilities of thinking for itself, which could lead it to rebel against its creators, causing a “Terminator” type apocalypse.
Another, highly probable cause of human demise, is climate change, which is a result, almost entirely, of man-made technology. The burning of coal and gas has caused global temperature increases, which in turn is causing catastrophic weather patterns, droughts, and various other dangers. As a result of climate change, storms are become more powerful on a regular basis, leading to instant mortality in affected areas. A slower but no less significant effect of climate change is rising sea levels. Sea levels will rise up to four feet in the next eighty years, which could leave many coastal areas, such as New York City, underwater. Contrary, changing weather patterns are causing droughts, which is stripping areas of viable drinking water and agricultural resources, both essential to life (NASA, 2018). While technology has been used to aid human beings, it is also beginning to cause our demise, increasingly rapidly, as a result of climate change. “We’re in the midst of the greatest crisis humans have yet faced” (McKibben, 2017). Action needs to be taken to combat climate change, whether it be through a new form of technology, such as solar panels and wind turbines, or withdrawal from technology entirely. It is clear, however, that the technology we use in conjunction with fossil fuels needs to be eradicated to avoid dire consequences.
Whether through nuclear weapons, climate change, or artificial intelligence, technology can easily cause the extinction of our species, along with many others. The solutions to these problems have varying levels of complexity. With regard to nuclear weapons, the most straightforward answer is to dismantle all of them immediately, before even one is used in combat. Artificial intelligence is a more complicated issue, as computers provide so much for society. It is wise to continue using computers, but computer scientists and engineers need to institute and control programming to eliminate any chance of AI becoming a reality. Climate change is the most complicated issue to address. Humanity needs to take drastic action to combat these changes, through both governmental policies and renewable energy. However, sadly due to the position we have put ourselves in, that may not be enough to combat all the effects of climate change.
Baker, Peter, and Mark Tackett. “Trump Says His ‘Nuclear Button’ Is ‘Much Bigger’ Than North Korea’s.”The New York Times, 2 Jan. 2018.
Earth Science Communications Team at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The Consequences of Climate Change.” Edited by Holly Shaftel, NASA, 13 Feb. 2018.
Fung, Brian. “The Number of Times We Could Blow Up the Earth Is Once Again a Secret.”NTI, 2 July 2013.
Martin, Sean. “Humanity’s days are NUMBERED and AI will cause mass extinction, warns Stephen Hawking.”Express, 3 Nov. 2017.
McKibben, Bill. “The New Battle Plan for the Planet’s Climate Crisis.”Rolling Stone, 24 Jan. 2017.