Biotechnology (other than genetics)
Most of the focus of biological means of extinction is on selfreplicating biological mechanisms such as viruses and superbacteria. However, it's possible that extinction could be created by massive production of a poison.
To kill every human on the planet would require a lot of poison if the poison degrades in the environment or is consumed in the process of killing. It is much more feasible to kill a significant percentage of the human population. However, to kill everybody would be a difficult challenge.
To be effective, it would need to be extremely poisonous whereby a very tiny quantity would be lethal, or else would sterilize the individual. It would probably need to serve as a catalyst -- triggering a detrimental process but not being consumed by the process itself. An example is "prions", a kind of protein which can trigger change in a cell and then move on to the next cell to do the same. For example, "mad cow disease" is caused by prions. A future prion could also be ingested by inhaling, i.e., just released into the air where it would spread globally in a short amount of time.
The poison doesn't need to kill suddenly. It could simply spread and kill relatively slowly.
The challenge here is producing the vast quantities needed to spread around the planet. It is much easier to create just a tiny quanitity of something which selfreplicates in the environment -- but then we are back to genetics.
However, if a biological poison lethal to humans (or sterilizing) could be produced which is resistant to environmental damage over time, then everything changes.
For more information on the risks of biotechnology, see our Links page.
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