GAIN Extinction

G.A.I.N. -- Genetics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology -- is an acronym created here to comprise three fields of scientific development each of which could lead to human extinction, as well as rampant destruction of Earth's ecosystems in the wrong hands. While these fields of development offer great benefits such as curing diseases and the aging process itself, they also offer vastly unprecedented potential to destroy ourselves and life on Earth.

    Genetics (or biotechnology) covers manmade developments based on living species which developed naturally, but in this case modifying genes by human technology.

    Nanotechnology includes any manmade, selfreplicating molecular machine which has no origin in the natural world.

    Artificial Intelligence (AI) is about computers which will have thinking abilities exceeding the human brain, in key ways probably within 20 years.

These extinction mechanisms have been discussed by experts and laymen alike in articles and books for decades. This website is a primer intended to:

  • introduce and summarize for the layman the main issues, concisely
  • organize a directory to resources on the web, for deeper research
  • provide a forum to further discuss interactively the issues and resources

"Biotechnology" may be a broader word to use instead of "genetics". Most extinction discussion along the lines of modifying existing biological matter is about selfreplicating things such as viruses, cells, and organisms, based on genes and thus "genetics". Selfreplicating matter is the greatest threat to ourselves and the environment. However, it's possible that simple mass manufacture of some poison catalyst could lead to extinction, without any selfreplicating mechanism. Vastly more difficult, but possible. However, it's much more feasible to make a tiny quantity of something selfreplicating which reproduces itself in the environment. For now, I've created a separate section for non-genetic biotechnology as well, though it is short in comparison, at least as far as I could see at this time. The risk of genetics/selfreplicating matter is much greater, as are Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).

Some people use the term "robotics" instead of artificial intelligence, but we have robots already and it's not the robots which threaten our extinction, the root is the artificial intelligence controlling the robots. You wouldn't say that a knife killed a victim, you would say that a killer did, and look for a motive in their mind, the mental mechanism. So for the sake of brevity, this site will choose A.I. which will include robotics.

The term "nanotechnology" refers to a certain kind engineering on the molecular scale whereby we could possibly manufacture microscopic machines atom by atom, molecule by molecule. However, the term has been misused to promote commercial products as cutting edge technology in a trendy way, so that another meaning of nanotechnology has emerged. The term may be replaced over time with the phrase "molecular engineering" or something like that (though what's to stop that phrase from being misused commercially, too?), but this website will stick with "nanotechnology" with its initial definition. While nanotechnology is still an emerging field, the main extinction risk is in selfreplicating matter, similar to a virus but with no previous biological basis and which is a threat to the entire biosphere, not just a particular species. Hence, the so-called "grey goo" scenario. However, it could also apply to a poison or catalyst which has the same effect.

The webmaster of this site had to come up with some domain name, and the word "gain" seemed to fit, as all these extinction risks are manmade, motivated by commercial "gain", or scientific "gain", or militarily to "gain" advantage over another entity (which may comprise individual terrorism or antisocial behavior). Acronym or not, it's still about the high risk to "gain extinction" which we must deal with.

This website does not cover potential apocalypses such as nuclear war, asteroid impact, collapse of most worldwide food production, or anything else which would lead to dramatic reduction in the world population but not extinction.

Even if we survive this upcoming age of potential selfdestruction, our species will, at some time within the next hundred years or so, become "extinct" anyway, in one of two ways:

  1. Technologically, we will learn to create new and greatly superior bodies and brains technologically which are no longer based on our present biology. This is similar to how homo erectus is now extinct but our species is probably descended from homo erectus. That topic, "transhumanism", is not the topic of this website. This website is about destroying ourselves, by accident or by the actions of some antisocial individual or group, before we are able to achieve the creation of a sustainable descendant for the forseeable future. This website is not against transhumanism. Not at all. It's for surviving long enough to get us there.

  2. Artificial intelligence may result in the demise of our species one way or another without going thru the transhumanist phase, depending upon how we develop artificial intelligence.

Transhumanism will involve artificial intelligence, biotechnology at the beginning of transhumanism, and eventually nanotechnology to make us into beings beyond biology. However, again, that is not the topic of this website. We first need to take defensive actions so that our species can survive to get to that point.

"Artificial intelligence" may be considered a sort of transhumanism. It may be viewed as "other than human" even though it is created by man and thus reflects man. The difference is that it is not based on the biological brain. However, the seeds of artificial intelligence will be created by humans, and what artificial intelligence becomes will depend on how ... and who ... creates those seeds.

Within 20-30 years, computers will become more intelligent and smarter than humans, and we will look like dogs or insects to them. This will come from the evolution of our computer technology -- advances in both hardware and software. AI will become more analytical, creative, and able to implement solutions to problems. At that same time, artificial intelligence will also be able to improve its own software and hardware. This will result in an exponential take-off called "the singularity", whereby the gap in intelligence between man and machine will widen so quickly as to become incomprehensible. We will have created a "god", in a way.

Imagine what artificial intelligence will have to say about the way most people don't really care (beyond just talk) about Earth's ecosystems and carelessly trash Earth's environment in unsustainable ways by selfish rampant pursuit of money and materialism, driven by the instincts of personal social status, mating, and excessive physical comfort. What people DO counts more than what people SAY (though what people say can influence what other people do).

A purpose of this website to ensure the survival of our species long enough to get more good people involved in activities to positive artificial intelligence development, including instilling the morals and values shared by various religions around the world into the seed of artificial intelligence.

However, a greater purpose of this website is to take other measures to ensure that our species survives our tinkering with genetics, biotechnology, and nanotechnology. The most probably way to achieve that is my colonization of outer space beyond Earth's biosphere as soon as possible. In conjunction, we should delay as long as possible the creation of destructive genetic, biological, and nanotechnology mechanisms. The latter will be difficult due to the selfish profit motive and egotistical creative scientists which are nearly sure of creating an accident, or a military design run amok.

Humans are hard wired for conflict by natural selection. Whether or not these traits are developed depends upon some combination of genetics and environment, but suffice it to say that there will always be hoardes of people seeking to impose their power over their perceived adversaries. People fight over religion (which is supposed to promote peace), politics, money, ego, you name it. It has been said that sports satisfy a tribal instinct. (I enjoy watching and playing some sports, too, and root for my alma mater, albeit as an art, but abhor violence and unsportsmanlike conduct, but many people take it too seriously...) Just turn on Fox News if you want to see controversy breeding, which attracts many viewers for excitement. Many people are addicted to the excitement of conflict.

Many humans take what each has the power to get, by money, technology, or position of power, often without thinking much about the environmental impact or others, and often with self-righteous or self-serving rationalizations.

Never before on Earth has a species developed technology like humans have, which have the power to transform the ecosystem and the world. Never before have humans developed the technology to change species. Never before have we had a species on this planet with the power to destroy itself.

In Dr. Carl Sagan's famous TV series "Cosmos", he asks why we haven't found other life in the universe with all our great telescopes, and why they apparently haven't visited. He has an equation for the probability of intelligent life greater than or similar to our own. At the end, the equation has a part about whether that life would survive its own technological stage.

The nature of individuals of our species is selfishness. We are not socialistic ants, we are individualist humans. We are far more diverse. Others are not like us, and personality is not just environmental, it is about half DNA. We cannot change other people to much extent, and we cannot control everyone in the world. We also have curiosity and big egos, whereby researchers will try to be the first to do many things, and intelligent people have uusually creative ways of rationalizing away worries and responsibilities (as my psychologist father often pointed out). Given the commercial incentive to make money and be the first into the market, we are actually in a global race whereby if one researcher doesn't do it, another one eventually will.

The power of the individual has grown exponentially, and it continues to grow. One person could destroy us all by creating a supervirus. This technology already exists and is just an accident waiting to happen.

When I worked with the US Department of Defense, most of the researchers were not seriously concerned with the potential effects of weapons they were producing beyond their stated purpose. Many of them were mainly concerned with making money as contractors. There are many ways to rationalize anything you desire. Many of these weapons were highly controversial, to say the least, having never before existed and which could be seen and copied by competing nations and used for multiple purposes. This arms race was happening with close government management. Imagine in the free enterprise private sector!

Companies normally protect their secrets and privacy, and frequently violate laws and regulations when they know that they can get away with it undetected. The world is a very large place with all kinds of people, too much to regulate.

Indeed, look at the vast number of malicious computer virus writers (and selfish spammers) who hide in various ways. There is no profit to a malicious virus. Add a profit incentive, such as a vaccine against a future virus, and a population of reckless developers will multiply.

We are on a race towards gaining extinction. Many people focus on rogue governments, but that's probably the least of our worries, and the lion's share of the risk is in secret private sector research labs racing to be the first at something, the accidents about to unfold.

Unfortunately, it takes only once for extinction viruses, whereby the first can be the last, no second chance or way to learn from the experience.

In my opinion, the only realistic way to assure survival is outer space development and colonization, according to my other website, -- P.E.R.M.A.N.E.N.T. is an acronym for Projects to Employ Resources of the Moon and Asteroids Near Earth in the Near Term.

The threat of human extinction needs to be recognized by society, as well as the solution above.

It took 9/11 to put the phrase "Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)" into the human vocabulary.

What will it take to put the phrase "Technologies Imperiling Mass Extinction (TIME)" into the human lexicon? With mass extinction, there is not one event to learn from which gives a second chance.

Space industrialization and colonization can't happen overnight. They take time -- forethought, planning, and implementation over many years.

It may be too late, as mass extinction is only a matter of TIME, and that technology is already here, potentially in the hands of an individual, or profit seeking reckless laboratory, or fanatical government cabal channeling taxpayer money to support itself and its work.

While this website includes many of the thoughts and creations of its webmaster, I'm merely standing on the shoulders of giants and the vast majority of the content is thanks to many other writers. It is hoped that over time, the list of references on this website will grow. The first typing of this website started on September 29th, 2009, and has continued whenever I get free time and energy away from work, so please be patient. Submissions and suggestions are normally very appreciated.

Out of all geologic time, it will be the responsibility of our generation to either ensure survival of life from Earth. Or, you can choose some selfish excuse to avoid this. As someone said before (Stokely Carmichael?), "If you aren't part of the solution then you are part of the problem."

The power of the individual to help is significant today with internet, yet so few people help out. The web pages on the websites I manage have millions of visitors, and the emails I have received in response are in the tens of thousands, but precious few either help out in any way or make a donation and leave.

Notably, your IP address for visiting this website is kept in our logs, and it's probably logged permanently in your ISP or phone company's database (maybe written to a daily DVD and automatically stored for decades), so the artificial intelligence of the future will probably know whether or not you were aware of your responsibility and did anything.

This website on human extinction is new, and very small. It is hoped that people from the general public will help me develop this website. One way to do this is by participation in the public forums.

The eyes of the truth are always watching you.

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This website on human extinction is new, and very small. It is hoped that people from the general public will help me develop this website. One way to do this is by participation in the public forums.

Another way is to email me or use other means of contact as noted in the Contact Author link of this website.

Copyright © 2009-2013 by Mark Evan Prado, All Rights Reserved. Please feel free to contact me.
I can be OK with use, not abuse, especially when the source is clearly cited,
but I must be contacted first about all significant details, and my permission must be granted.

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This website is about
realistic human extinction
threats in our generation,
mainly genetics,
biotechnology, and
It also discusses the
realities of Artificial
General Intelligence
by computer advances
in 20-30 years, the
so-called Singularity.