|2 Feb 2002 @ 16:22, by Flemming Funch|
OK, Bono and Bishop Tutu might be shaking hands, but the scientists at the World Economic Forum seem to look towards a rather grim future filled with biological threats, global warming and out-of-control technology. Article at Yahoo.
Scientists at Economic Forum See Grim Future
Fri Feb 1, 1:12 PM ET By Alan Elsner
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists at the World Economic Forum predicted on Friday a grim future replete with unprecedented biological threats, global warming and the possible takeover of humans by robots.
"Extreme pessimism seems to me to be the only rational stance," said Sir Martin Rees, Britain's Astronomer Royal, at a session devoted to the future threats and opportunities presented by scientific advances.
He was especially concerned about the development of new biological weapons that could easily fall into the hands of dissonant groups or individuals and cause widespread devastation.
Even if governments tried to regulate and limit the spread of dangerous technologies, Rees said such efforts would probably be little better than current attempts to control the international drugs trade.
A foretaste of what might lie ahead was provided by the anthrax panic that gripped the United States last year after several letters carrying the deadly germ agent were sent to political leaders and media figures through the mail. The perpetrator has not been found.
The forum, which brings together politicians, business leaders, academics and intellectuals, has presented a number of sessions devoted to science. However, few politicians have attended them, preferring to devote themselves to discussions of foreign policy.
At a session on climate change on Thursday, Robert Watson who chairs an international panel on the issue said the earth's climate would warm by at least 1.4 degrees centigrade in the next century even if urgent action was taken right now to stem emissions of carbon dioxide. If insufficient action was taken, warming could be as great as 5.8 degrees.
He predicted more droughts in some areas and floods in others, more intense cyclones and massive social and economic disruption especially in poor countries.
Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University in England said that while rich nations could and would protect themselves against flooding by building sea defenses, a nation like Bangladesh could expect ever more frequent and severe flood disasters.
Howard Ris, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said climate change could well lead to future conflict as nations found themselves confronted with unmanageable new challenges.
"Climate change will become a security issue," he said. "Hundreds of millions of people will find themselves fighting new threats to survival."
Another threat posed by science revolves around the development of artificial intelligence which could eventually blur the distinction between humans and robots.
Rodney Brooks of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said: "It is not too far-fetched to see a situation where we put implants into our brains before too long."
Brooks said humans would become more like robots as they implanted more and more technology into their bodies, while robots would be based on biological material and become semi-human in their own right.
Robots were already taking a greater role in warfare and might soon be capable of making their own battlefield decisions without human control, he said.
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