Published: 16 December 2014
Technology is the archetypal golden calf of the modern age. Everything that naturally exists in a purely analog and resonant state is being artificially mechanized, computerized, digitized and hybridized (think half-human, half-robot on this one). And with this gradual suffocation of the living, breathing fabric of our world comes the ominous threat of eventual human extinction, as the very essence of humanity is systematically uprooted in favor of a wholly synthetic and programmed existence.
Much of what is considered technological advancement these days is inherently evil and has the potential to be used as a collective weapon of mass destruction against life itself. Synthetic biology, for instance, which involves re-engineering genes to manufacture fake organisms, is one such example that threatens to set off an unpredictable chain reaction of devastation and death within the larger ecosystem of life itself.
"The idea that technology is neutral or amoral is a myth that needs to be dispelled," said Patrick Lin, director of the Ethics + Emerging Science Group at California Polytechnic University, as quoted by io9. "The designer can imbue ethics into the creation, even if the artifact has no moral agency itself. This feature may be too subtle to notice in most cases, but some technologies are born from evil and don't have redeeming uses...."
Here are 10 other examples of horrifying technologies that, if fully implemented, could spell the death of humanity (H/T io9):
1. Weaponized nanotechnology. Nanotechnology has been billed as the solution to other supposedly imperfect technologies that rely on "flawed" natural materials. By giving scientists the ability to manufacture structures from the ground up, to precise molecular specifications, nanotechnology is often hailed as revolutionary in its potential to transform the way that we harvest energy, transfer and store information, and eat.
But nanotechnology is easily weaponized and has the potential to take on a life of its own. According to io9, the threat of nanotechnology is two-fold: It has the potential to deconstruct into both unchecked self-replication and exponential growth. If this should occur unexpectedly, or be intentionally brought about, governments and other ominous forces could unleash it into the world and trigger a self-replicating army of planet-killing "biomass killers," which would leave in their wake an endless stream of useless "grey goo" byproducts.
2. Conscious machines. The idea of artificial consciousness, or machines that bear real human consciousness traits, is still something of a sci-fi pipe dream. But some scientists are actively developing ways to make it a reality, including efforts to engineer human brains inside machines, which would bear seemingly functional, human-like traits.
"Since we plan to use artificial intelligence in place of human intellectual labor, I think it would be immoral to purposely program it to be conscious," stated futurist Louie Helm, as quoted by io9. "Trapping a conscious being inside a machine and forcing it to do work for you is isomorphic to slavery."
3. Artificial superintelligence. Building upon this idea is the horrifying concept of artificial "superintelligence." Machines intentionally designed with intellects superior to those of humans could easily outsmart humans and literally take over the world. Even if so-called firewalls were built into the technology, it is entirely possible that super-smart AIs could still try to enslave humanity, from which there would likely be no escape.
4. Time travel. There's very little evidence that time travel is even remotely possible at this point. But if quantum science was somehow able to develop a way to transcend the physical confines of time and space, the result would likely be catastrophic, both existentially and paradoxically. Even from a cultural perspective, if traveling back and forth between the ages were possible, it would more than likely trigger irrevocable turmoil between disparate civilizations.
5. Mind-reading devices. This one is already a reality, with scientists in the Netherlands having come up with a way to scan people's brains in order to determine what letter they're looking at on a screen. The fast food chain Pizza Hut recently developed a similar technology that scans customers' retinas to determine what toppings they want on their pizzas.
"Such devices, if used en masse by some kind of totalitarian regime or police state, would make life intolerable," explains io9. "It would introduce an Orwellian world in which our 'thought crimes' could actually be enforced."
6. Brain-hacking devices. If the powers-that-be get their way, the whole of surviving humanity will eventually be micro-chipped, allowing for the likely uploading of people's thoughts and thought processes into a singular database. An international team of neuroscientists has already developed a way for people to communicate directly from brain to brain over the internet, opening up the possibility of this information being hacked.
7. Autonomous robots. If machines ever gain a similar level of intelligence as humans, they could easily be programmed to kill humans. The U.S. military is already developing this type of technology in the form of pilot-less killing drones, for instance, as well as robot tanks and other advanced forms of weaponry that don't require actual human operators.
8. Weaponized pathogens. It is speculated that diseases like Ebola, H1N1 "swine" flu, "seasonal" flu and various other virulent pathogens may have already been weaponized. If further tweaked, these viruses could be intentionally unleashed on humanity, potentially killing off half or more of the world's population.
9. Virtual prisons. If radical lifespan-enhancement technology successfully leads to humans living to 100, 200 or even longer, it is possible that the criminal justice system will have to be altered in response. Convicted criminals could one day have to serve much longer prison sentences, for instance, which if combined with so-called mind-uploading technology could lead to "virtual" prisons in which prisoners are subjected to artificial confinement within their own heads.
10. Genetically modified organisms. GMOs have already been linked to sterility, organ damage, allergies and other chronic illnesses in humans. And as they continue to be planted and harvested in open-air fields, their traits are progressively spreading and infecting other plants and crops, which will eventually trigger widespread crop failures and famine, not to mention an endless stream of new "superbugs" and "superweeds."