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Scientific progress - poison and medicine for the development of civilization
Scientific progress - poison and medicine for the development of civilization

Video: Scientific progress - poison and medicine for the development of civilization

Video: Scientific progress - poison and medicine for the development of civilization
Video: Rebecca Newberger Goldstein - Is Consciousness Irreducible? 2023, December

Perhaps we are witnessing the decline of humanity. Like in the movie "The Matrix", when Morpheus told Neo about the real world and computer simulation - the very matrix in which the peak of development of our civilization was recreated.

If you think about it, the end of the 90s of the last century is really a good time. The population of the Earth in 1999 was 6 billion people, climate change was not so rapid, until the appearance of the first iPhone, there were as many as 7 years left, and Internet access could only be obtained using a modem. And then, according to the plot, scientific progress destroyed humanity and machines seized power. But what is actually happening to our civilization and can scientific progress turn into a catastrophe?

Why will our planet disappear anyway?

Scientists now know that there will be a total solar eclipse on September 23, 2090. This conclusion can be made based on the fact that the Moon, Sun and Earth move in stable, predictable orbits with very insignificant perturbations, and the laws of gravity are verified and known. For this reason, astrophysicists can predict the future of the universe, as well as events that will occur over the next billion years. Therefore, we know that nothing in the universe lasts forever.

In about five billion years, the Sun will destroy our planet. When the life cycle of a star comes to an end, the number of hydrogen and helium atoms in its core will decrease. Because of this, the star will become brighter and brighter, incinerating the nearest planets and the Earth as well. As a result, the Sun will turn into a red dwarf - a small and relatively cool star. It is logical to assume that people on Earth will not be much earlier. At least, this opinion is shared by a considerable number of scientists, and the astronomer and chairman of the astronomy department of Harvard University, Abraham Loeb, admitted in an article for Scientific American that he does not doubt the imminent death of mankind, and therefore proposes to look for ways of resettlement to other planets. And as far as possible from the Sun.

However, it is possible that the Sun will not wait for its death. In space, something is happening all the time: the Universe is expanding with increasing speed, and all celestial bodies and galaxies do not stand still. According to a study published in The Astrophysical Journal, the Milky Way galaxy - very small by galactic standards - will collide with its closest neighbor Andromeda in four and a half billion years. Together they will create an entirely new, larger galaxy. This means that there will be no trace of the solar system. So our galactic home will sooner or later disappear and it is simply pointless to be upset about this. But if the life cycle of the Sun and the Earth is limited, then how long can human civilization exist?

Astronomers recently discovered that the Andromeda galaxy is actually not as big as previously thought. Read more about the real dimensions of Andromeda on our channel in Yandex. Zen.

How long can our civilization last?

In recent decades, many mathematicians have found a new source of concern for the long-term survival of humanity: the theory of probability. The so-called “doomsday argument” states that there is a 50% chance that the end of human civilization will come in 760 years. But why exactly so much and how is such a calculation even possible when it comes to serious scientific research? The answer involves an unlikely combination of an 18th century English clergyman and a Silicon Valley employee algorithm.

As the American writer, columnist and skeptic William Poundstone writes in an article for The Wall Street Journal, Thomas Bayes (1702-1761) was a little-known preacher who was fond of mathematics. The world of science remembered his name thanks to Bayes' theorem - a mathematical formula that shows how to use new data to adjust probabilities. For two whole centuries, little attention was paid to his theorem, until the invention of computers. Today, it can be said without exaggeration that Bayes' theorem is the foundation of the digital economy. This is what allows apps like Google, Facebook and Instagram to use users' personal data to predict which links they will click on, which products they will want to purchase, and even who they will vote for. Today, predictions using Bayes' theorem are probabilities, not certainties, but they are worth billions to advertisers because they are generally accurate.

It is logical to assume that if Bayes' theorem can be used to predict the likely behavior of Internet users, then it may well be used to predict the end of the world. This is how the doomsday argument came about. In a 1993 article published in the journal Nature, Princeton University astrophysicist Richard Gott III used mathematical calculations about the growth of the Earth's population and as a result predicted that the end would probably come in a thousand years. Gott's doomsday theory begins with the fact that we make a list of all people who have ever lived on Earth, as well as those who live today and will live in the future. All people on the list must be sorted in order of birth. No one living today knows their life expectancy, so statistically there is a 50% chance that we will be in the first or second half of the list.

Despite the fact that no one numbers us at birth, demographers estimate the total number of people who have ever lived on Earth from Homo Sapiens to the present day at about 100 billion people. This means that your “serial number” of birth order, like any other person, is somewhere around 100 billion. Since it is equally likely that those of us who live today are in the first or second half of all past and future human births, we can assume that we will be in the second half of the list - this would mean that no more than 100 will be born in the future. billion people. Again, there is a 50% chance that this is true. At the current global birth rate (about 131 million people a year - as of 2019), there is a 50% chance that human civilization will last no more than 760 years.

Gott's research is still the cause of controversy, and dozens of influential scientists are trying to refute his findings. However, the most popular complaint about Gott's work is that it lacks the likelihood of nuclear war and other disasters. The philosopher John Leslie of the University of Guelph in Canada has developed a mathematical model of the end of the world that allows for estimates of the likelihood of any chosen scenario of the apocalypse. Using more accurate variables led to even gloomier predictions than the 1993 study. However, there are also more pessimistic forecasts.

So, back in 1973, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) developed a mathematical model called World3. She modeled the influence of many factors on life on Earth, such as population and industrial growth, and food production. The results obtained cannot be compared with the studies of Gott and Leslie - a computer model predicted the death of our civilization by 2040. And if this result seems to you something absolutely incredible, do not rush to conclusions.

In May 2019, scientists at the Breakthrough: National Center for Climate Restoration presented a massive report that analyzed the worst-case scenarios for our civilization. This is the most frightening scientific report to date, as according to the results, humanity will be gone in 30 years. The researchers argue that the forecasts of climatologists are too limited, and climate change is a larger and more complex process than all the threats faced by members of our species.

But despite the rather gloomy predictions, it must be remembered that probabilities are an ever-changing river that cannot be entered twice. Every click on a link on the Internet updates advertisers' perceptions of who you are. The same is true for the end of the world. So, Dr. Gott suggests that the creation of an outpost on Mars may be a good idea, a kind of insurance against a future catastrophe that struck our planet. But what threats can cause our extinction today?

The main threats facing humanity

The future is unknown, but the scientific method allows us to predict the development of certain events. And given the theory of probability, hazard awareness can help us take the necessary measures to prevent disasters. In the 2019 report, experts from the World Health Organization identify at least 10 factors that threaten the health of the world's population. Many of them coincide with the report on global threats to humanity Global challenges report 2019. Meanwhile, the hand of the Doomsday Clock is a metaphorical clock that exists on the pages of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists magazine, which has stood at 23:58 for the past year. Midnight on the Doomsday Clock marks the beginning of a nuclear war. On January 23, 2020, scientists must announce to the world whether the position of the hand on the clock will change. It should be noted that since 2007, the watch has reflected not only the threat of a nuclear conflict, but also climate change. According to the authors of the Bulletin, humanity is slowly but surely moving towards catastrophic changes.

Nuclear war

2020 began with an escalation of the conflict in the Middle East. According to experts, in 2017, there were at least 40 armed conflicts and wars in the world. The turbulent situation, as well as the growth and development of new nuclear weapons, threaten life on Earth more and more every year. In 2019, scientists at Princeton University published a video that paints a dire picture of the aftermath of a massive nuclear war. In a statement posted on the Science & Global Security website, the risk of nuclear war has increased over the past few years as the United States and Russia abandoned long-standing nuclear arms control treaties. According to experts, as a result of hostilities, more than 3.4 million people will die in the first 45 minutes alone. Needless to say, the catastrophic consequences of a nuclear conflict, which is capable of destroying our civilization with incredible speed.

Air pollution and climate change

Nine out of ten people in the world breathe polluted air. Microscopic pollutants in the air enter the respiratory and cardiovascular systems, damaging the lungs, heart and brain. Polluted air kills 7 million people every year. About 90% of deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries with high air emissions. This makes air pollution one of the main causes of climate change. Climate change is expected to cause 250,000 additional deaths a year from malnutrition, infectious diseases and extreme heat, according to WHO, between 2030 and 2050.

Let me remind you that climate change is making our planet hotter every day. Melting glaciers, rising sea levels, extinction of wildlife and rising temperatures could be catastrophic in the very near future, according to the latest reports from the UN-sponsored International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is important to understand that we are not talking about the end of the world as such, but the number of premature deaths from a variety of reasons will increase significantly. In a sense, most of the challenges facing humanity today are a direct consequence of climate change.

Pandemic and bacterial resistance to antibiotics

Viruses are constantly evolving. For this reason, the threat of an influenza pandemic or other fatal infectious disease persists permanently. In one part of the world, from time to time, there are outbreaks of a variety of diseases, from Ebola to coronavirus. However, no matter how deadly this or that virus is, it is unlikely to leave at least a few survivors, since it can reproduce only in the host's body. In the end, humanity has repeatedly fought a variety of viruses and bacteria, and the victory is still ours.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, however, are of serious concern to scientists. These bacteria can infect humans and animals, and the infections they cause are more difficult to treat than infections from bacteria that are not so resistant. In practice, this could mean an extreme rise in mortality from previously treatable diseases. The threat cannot be underestimated as bacterial resistance to a wide variety of antibiotics has risen to alarmingly high levels worldwide.

It should be noted that the most dangerous scenario for the development of events is a combination of all of the above factors. Climate change could lead to millions of climate refugees and rising temperatures, which in turn could lead to epidemics of a wide variety of diseases. Antibiotic resistance, hunger, conflict over resources and the search for refuge can lead to international conflicts and wars. And where there is a war, sooner or later someone will begin to threaten with the use of nuclear weapons.

Can scientific progress destroy humanity?

Thanks to the scientific and technological revolution, the average life expectancy throughout the world has increased, many deadly diseases have been defeated, man went into outer space, created powerful computers, the Internet, and now is on the verge of creating artificial intelligence. But this is only one side of the coin. On the other hand, there are less pleasant things, you yourself know which ones. Today you and I do have cause for concern. However, it must be distinguished from panic, and all the more, one should not believe all sorts of statements that in N-th number of years all people on the planet will die together.

The reverse side of scientific and technological progress, paradoxically, can ruin us. Predicting an impending danger requires an active response. Today, we not only passively explore the natural world, but also actively intervene in it. As Oxford University researcher Thomas Moynihan writes in an article for The Conversations, our expectations about the dangers of nature are prompting us to intervene more and more in pursuit of our own interests. Accordingly, we are more and more immersed in the world of our own creativity, in which the gap between “natural” and “artificial” is narrowing. This underlies the idea of the "Anthropocene", according to which the entire system of the Earth is influenced - for better or for worse - by human activities.

While some of today's technologies are rightfully considered the pinnacle of progress and civilization, our drive to anticipate and prevent disasters creates dangers of its own. This has put us in our current predicament: industrialization, which was originally driven by our desire to control nature, may have made it more uncontrollable, causing rapid climate change. Our attempts to predict the future tend to change everything around us in unpredictable ways. Along with the discovery of radical opportunities such as new drugs and technologies, scientific and technological advances pose new risks to humanity - on an even greater scale. It is both a poison and a medicine at the same time. 50 to 50, whatever one may say.