Is Human Extinction Inevitable?
This is an S.O.S. - Save Our Species.
I am fully aware that this page is controversial, and my opinion is very much a minority opinion as of 2012. I am not trying to be popular, nor trying to appeal to the lowest common denominator, nor trying to win any election. For many people reading this, my views and interests will be totally contrary to your own, your friends, your associates, and your peer group.
I wish this were not true, that I didn't need to write this page, that human society would already be concerned with this, and that I could spend my time otherwise in worry free recreational and business pursuits like most everybody else. However, that would be an irresponsible cop-out rationalization.
The reality is that our generation has a profound responsibility which, as a whole, people don't really care enough about, at least not nearly enough. There are many people who care, and who try to do things, for whom I would like to help and work together, but they are such a tiny minority that it barely makes any difference at present. We have a lot of work to do together, and need to recruit many, many more people, especially those with power and influence.
For example, I've been promoting these concerns for decades, but it is only after somebody like Bill Joy (founder of Sun Microsystems) and a few others say anything that many other people start to follow. We can try to appeal to reason, as always, but other ways are often required to start to sway the herd thinkers...
The default human response
The greatest weakness of the human species is its selfishness. Most people are interested in only their own personal interests, seriously. That is what will eventually lead our species to extinction as it drives thru the age of technological advancements.
I split up people into 3 categories:
Reasons for being interested include:
The bottom line
The percentage of humans who are interested at all in existential risks is a very small percentage. Most people are disinterested, and interested only in their selfish pursuits. Many just dismiss and rationalize it away. "Don't worry, be happy." Go back to making money and indulging in conspicuous consumption.
There is no system in place to protect us. Biotechnology companies and small laboratories can do what they want, as can nanotechnology companies. They will keep a lot of secrets due to potential business competitors.
In comparing focus on existential issues vs. the commercial developments leading us to extinction, far more money, time, effort, and focus is on making money and ramping up these risks for the prospect of selfish profits than is spent considering the existential issues.
That is why we are headed towards extinction. Call it individualism and freedom run amok.
This is not advocating extreme control, but there is an opposite extreme of individualism and freedom which is just as bad if not more dangerous. No strawman stereotypes, please. We need to work on solutions.
The PERMANENT Experience
Take a look at the PERMANENT website on space settlement at spacesettlement.com . For more than 10 years, I have pointed out at the very top of the website that PERMANENT is the only way to ensure survival of our species. Yet, out of millions of unique visitors, how many have sent any kind of supportive verbal feedback? Hundreds (maybe thousands). How many have actually made a donation? A few small donations. How many have actually completed a small task requested of them (e.g., researching a particular easy topic on the web and sending a vetted list of links and analysis back)? A small minority of those.
The vast majority support of the interest in PERMANENT has been what I would call the gee whiz, that's cool, playground sort. There are also many people who seem to want to satisfy their ego by being knowledgeable of, or part of, something of higher status, but their elitism ends when it comes time to so something substantially useful.
There are lots and lots of people who are willing to talk and talk but a very small percentage who are willing to do actual work -- so the very small minority are very much appreciated. They are just such a tiny percentage of the total number of visitors, which is in turn a tiny percentage of the overall population.
We won't be successful with only elitists interested in saving our species.
Yet, such a tiny percentage of people are willing to put in any actual work or money. Meanwhile, vast sums of money and immense efforts are going into frivolous things and projects which raise existential risks.
Should Humans Be Earth's Species To Expand into the Universe?
Maybe it would be better for the Universe if humans became extinct and we waited a few tens of millions of years for another species to emerge which has a better community moral code in its instincts, whether it be ants or bees or bonobos or whatever?
Are humans a threat to damaging other life forms on other planets in the universe due to our selfish pursuits? We sure are wreaking environmental destruction on life on our own planet out of selfish consumption.
Will humans survive long enough to create an artificial general intelligence (AGI) which will be designed with better morals ... or an AGI designed to further selfish pursuits without any emotional compassion and minimal ethics?
Is it more likely that a selfish commercial interest will fund the work to win the race to the Singularity and create a superintelligence programmed to spam the rest of us to death, knock out the competition, and greedily take over everything? Is this the competitive and aggressive machine which will be naturally selected over the more peaceful and tolerant systems?
After all, how many computer viruses have been created by countless humans, which are purely malicious and destructive?
Then this "life" from Earth simply flicked by the intra-Universe's or extra-Universe's superior intelligences which surely run a universal Bit Defender (R)?
Narcissism to the End?
Many humans think our species is very special and great.
I will tell you right now that I don't think so, based on my 50+ years of direct observation and experience.
While I know a lot of very good people who work for the Greater Good, these are such a tiny minority and overwhelmed by the careless and selfish people. I see a vast majority of selfish humans absorbed in their own self interests and indulgences, and at best fleetingly interested in responsibilities in our generation for life on our planet, mainly just lip service and easy opinions, even though we have been destroying other life on Earth at alarming rates with our new technologies and modern consumer economies.
Look at the destruction of the environment, disappearance of forests, extinction of species, and all the trash, all out of wanton consumption in our throw-away economy.
Next time you are on an airplane, look down. What do you see? How much natural ecosystem do you see down there?
Sure, people will talk a little bit about concern over the environment, but they usually aren't willing to make sacrifices. How many are concerned with their carbon footprint? What percentage donate money, or work, to any cause such as saving species or the environment?
What matters most to people is making money and materialism.
Politics and votes are mostly about the economy, money, how to grow the economy, as any dummy knows. What politician is saying that we need to appreciate what we already have and learn to live happily with less, and more responsibly? How important is environmentalism in voting for our leadership? If you promote these issues, you're pretty sure to see your popularity plummet with the general population.
Democracy is lowest common denominator government.
(This is not advocating alternatives. It is just that democracy is not working well enough due to the human nature of the masses. Of course, communism and totalitarianism are worse, turning out corrupt crony pyramid societies, and usually offensive to a free press, thereby further cutting away checks and balances. Not much more needs to be said about that. However, despite a free press, and all the verbage on the internet exposing politicians and our political systems, look at our governments. There is a revolving door between government regulators and business interests. Political election campaigns get major funding from special interests. But the voters are simple -- for most of them, it's all about money and the economy. Scandals come and go, but special interests just need to wait until a bad event passes and people forget about it, and then they can resume. I suspect this will happen with biotechnology and nanotechnology, too, if not in all countries then in enough countries to be dangerous.)
Meanwhile, turn on the TV or walk into a movie shop and look around at what is popular. Action violence. Mating. Money. Wanton power. Variations from this, such as educational documentaries about the infinite wonder of our universe from microscopic to universal, are a very small minority, and not prime time, just tiny niche markets. Overwhelmed by action violence, mating, money and wanton power.
Imagine YOU are an Alien Looking at Us
Imagine that you are an extraterrestrial civilization and you tuned into Earth's broadcasts, whereby you saw all that violence, and such a tiny percentage of our TV programming and internet traffic about education and responsibility? What would you think about us?
Oh, what a wonderful species? NOT! What an UGLY world. Humans behave so selfishly, not much for the Greater Good. And look at what humans are doing to the environment and precious life on Earth, other species. Humans think only for themselves.
Humans will get what they deserve, and if they create a next generation, artificial intelligence in their own image, then we will probably need to zap the monster they create. Something like that. And until then, just not interested.
An extraterrestrial civilization which embedded some undercover humans on Earth would experience the real, non-Hollywood version, and it's also ugly. For example:
Just fly over most of the world and look down. What happened to the forests? Millions to billions of years of evolution destroyed in just a few human generations, and it just keeps going on and on and on. Overfishing of the oceans. Sure, we have laws on the books, but nobody is policing international waters. Just a few coast guards protecting their own fisherman under local political pressures. Who cares enough beyond their borders?
We create big militaries to fight each other, but the only thing protecting the whales is a rag tag group called Sea Shepherd, who are going up against a huge industry and a supportive government and society.
And what about other overfishing?
Who really cares? Most people care only about money and conspicuous consumption, without really caring about the environment or the Greater Good.
Companies rush to develop biotechnology and nanotechnology, but we really cares about the extinction risks? They just care about the money, and will rationalize away the rest. You can always find opinions of scientists on both sides of the issue, but it is human nature to believe the opinions of those on the side of wishful thinking.
Wherever you are, just look at the people around you. What are they interested in? What are they doing? What would be their reaction if you raised the issues of the environment, or the human extinction issues discussed on this website, or the responsibility of our generation?
The best way to raise these issues is in the context of their children and what will happen to them. Will they get wiped out the same awful way as everybody else during the extinction event?
Are their kids interested?
Do they care about their community?
Do they care about themselves?
Most people don't even care much about their diet. Get what tastes good, what feels good. Look at the ingredients of many foods in the grocery store, processed for taste, many with chemicals which are not good for us, and corporate institutions which are interested only in image and making money, not in taking responsibility to leading us for better nutrition.
Take a look at food companies. So many foods are misleadingly advertised as "natural" and with various benefits in trendy keywords but you read the ingredients and quickly conclude that they are big liars, interested only in their selfish profits and not interested in the millions of consumers they should naturally be responsible for.
These are not individual liars. These are large institutions lying, to mislead, so that they all make a lot more money for themselves, and never mind the vastly greater number of people they are affecting. Are they interested in nutrition, or health maintenance, of all the consumers they should be responsible for? No, they would rather the consumers just believe the myths and images they weave.
(I've known people in the food flavoring business. As it's sometimes joked, "We put the junk into junk food!")
Indeed, institutions can be the worst liars, due to the group think of the majority, lowest common denominator numbers. Generosity tends to come from individuals, not institutions. "Business is business" decisions come more from institutions than individuals.
Stories abound of lots of tricks. It's not just poisonous foods from China, as that's just an extreme of what happens all over the world.
In our political capitals, the food companies throw around money to support politicians who need money for their election campaigns, and favors are returned. Big corporate money also supports and biases academic research organizations. People move back and forth between government and private sector positions, corrupting government regulations and their enforcement. And not many people are aware of this because they don't care, as they just want to make money and eat tasty foods. So much happens behind the scenes to support special interests instead of the majority or the Greater Good.
Most individuals will do what feels good. If given a choice of what feels right vs. what thinking says is the right thing to do, most people will rationalize what feels right, as long as there is not a threat of arrest or punishment or losing money or losing something else otherwise.
Very selfish species, doesn't even take responsibility for its community, much less its planet.
Allowing Human Extinction
To make us extinct, we don't have to do anything, and that's the point. We allow it by NOT doing anything ourselves.
I'm not saying "Let's allow extinction." Not at all. I'm putting forth solutions.
Most readers of this article are "allowing extinction" by not doing anything substantive to help prevent it. You don't have to create a bioweapon yourself. You just have to not care and allow others to do so.
Some maniac individual or group, or some commercial interest, will do it. One person or one company laboratory or one privileged government operation will do it. The sin of irresponsibility is being aware of this but doing nothing.
Given human nature, as displayed by our inability to govern ourselves all over this planet, our species is doomed as long as it is all living in this one biosphere and dependent upon it, as noted in other sections of this website.
The only practical and realistic thing we can do to prevent human extinction is create a separate biosphere somewhere, such as in outer space, and survive there self-sufficiently and independently of Earth, while our species eventually destroys itself on Earth.
Perhaps that outer space society can have a sufficiently good ethical code governing research and development, and be small enough to have that code enforcible, to survive. Further, this space colony could be made from carefully selected individuals who would create an artificial general intelligence oriented to doing things for the Greater Good rather than competing for just their own selfish special interests, unlike what is likely to emerge on Earth.
But that takes focus, money, work, time and effort, something such a tiny percentage of humans are willing to provide, and obviously not nearly enough to date ... and given the lead times to get us off the planet self-sufficiently, time is running out, if it isn't already too late. Our species will just continue to follow its instincts as to what "feels" right, which is selfish instincts, until the date of Surprise!, the show's over, and it's too late to do anything about it, should have thought about that a long time ago, too late now, no second chance, kiss the species and all it has accomplished good bye.
The Universe, in its infinite patience, would simply wait to see what next species comes up on Earth. Maybe the next species would learn from our mistake.
Again, I realize this article is controversial. If you have to be popular and make the most money, then just tell the people what they want to hear. Otherwise, it can be another inconvenient truth.
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