In the previous two chapters, we discussed the external threats that threaten humanity, as well as generally recognized self-threats. This chapter will review and reflect on these threats to ascertain the most important factors that endanger humanity and seek corresponding solutions.
External threats exist objectively; they have nothing to do with human nature or social systems. They exist whether we want them to or not. Self-threats are a different matter. They are largely decided by human nature and human social systems. In order to reflect on the threats we pose to ourselves, we must first understand human nature and the main social systems.
SECTION ONE: RE-ANALYZING EXTERNAL THREATS
Based on our previous analysis, we can re-analyze external threats on a new level. It may be beneficial to rise above the issue of external threats itself and look upon the future of humanity instead.
One: Accepting the Extremely Unlikely
We all know that external threats like disease are almost impossible to avoid, as is individual death. The only thing we can do in the face of such threats is to calmly accept. Individual death does not threaten the whole species; contrarily, humanity would not last long if humans lived infinitely.
Accepting individual death is a matter of common sense. Although most people are reluctant or afraid of death, they do accept the reality of illness and old age. However, any normal person would not be able to accept the extinction of humanity. As members of the race, it is only logical that we value overall human survival above all else.
Previous discussion has made it clear that many external threats can endanger the survival of humanity, such as black holes, antimatter planets, close-up supernovas, and alien invasion. Any one of these could be the end of mankind. The question is: Will we really encounter them?
There are only two lethal external threats that will definitely befall us and cannot be solved with current technology—the end of the universe, and the sun’s evolution into a red giant.
Existing cosmological theory has determined that the universe must come to an end, but that day is trillions of years in the future. We are completely helpless in the face of this threat, and all of our current solutions are still within the realm of scientific fantasy; therefore, it might be wiser to leave this problem up to the more intelligent future generation.
At five billion years, the evolution of the sun into a red giant is also sufficiently far off in the future. Though it is impossible to deal with or even take precautions against such a threat today, we can hope that humans five billion years in the future will be better equipped to handle the situation. It is possible that future humans will be capable of moving away and building a new home elsewhere in the universe once the sun becomes a red giant.
Before the sun evolves into a red giant, there may be two other threats that could end humanity: asteroid collision and human devolution. However, humans already possess the ability to guard against these threats. The possibility of an asteroid collision large enough to destroy Earth is quite minimal. Some further development in astronomical observation, nuclear technology, aerospace technology, and missile technology would be enough to predict and resolve this issue.
The possibility of human devolution is somewhat higher. It is inevitable that some human organs will devolve after long periods of reproduction and threaten human survival. This day may be far in the future, but it will come sooner or later. Fortunately, the genetic engineering technology we have mastered today is enough to imagine the prospect of genetic re-engineering as a solution to this problem; thus, our future is still looking very optimistic.
Our optimistic estimate here has ruled out external threats like black hole swallowing, stellar and independent planet collision, micro-black holes, antimatter planets, and alien invasion. This is because these threats are all either purely theoretical speculation, as yet unconfirmed, or exponentially low in probability.
The abovementioned threats are all impossible to prevent or avoid with current technology, and solutions are not likely to be found in the foreseeable future either. If such unlikely coincidences really do occur, humanity can only accept them as they are.
Conversely, there is no need to expend too much energy on combatting these extremely unlikely circumstances. Mankind has many things to accomplish before the sun evolves into a red giant, so it would be unwise to divert our attention to such theoretical possibilities. Especially since it is unlikely that we would receive satisfactory results even if we did focus on these matters. Therefore, calm acceptance is the only reasonable attitude towards such things of extreme unlikeliness that are also infinitely difficult to surmount.
Two: Determining Reasonable Precautionary Periods
Threats that endanger human survival and happiness are bound to transpire, so it is only reasonable that we consider corresponding prevention methods. Such external attacks will only occur as isolated events at specific points in time, so it would be a huge waste of resources to maintain constant vigilance at all times. Moreover, a constant state of preparation might dull our sense of danger and numb us to potential threats, proving detrimental to the implementation of these preventative measures.
When it comes to the prevention of likely external threats, a reasonable and secure precautionary period is necessary. This period should be long enough to ensure the development and implementation of a series of effective measures. It should be emphasized that this precautionary period must be both reasonable and also secure. For example, for a serious and unequivocal threat like the sun’s evolution into a red giant in five billion years, a precautionary period of one billion years should be implemented.
This period of time is acquired through comprehensive future projections based on the scientific and technological capabilities we currently possess. (As science and technology advances through the years, the number will be adjusted accordingly.) Based on existing capabilities, humans would only be able to survive the sun’s evolution by moving out of the solar system to a different planet; building a large, man-made living space; or moving the earth towards a new secure star. The above designs are obviously impossible to achieve today, or even in the near future. Countless generations of scientific and technological research would be needed just to build the bedrock for such achievements. Therefore, a preparatory period of at least hundreds of millions of years would be the minimum requirement.
When it comes to the question of human survival, there is no room for error, so this precautionary period should be as adequate and sufficient as possible. Although it will take five billion years for the sun to evolve into a red giant, it will begin to destabilize long before that. During this period of destabilization, the sun will undergo many “adjustments,” and even a minor adjustment would have a huge impact on Earth. Humans absolutely cannot wait until the last minute to move away from the sun. Additionally, our calculation of the sun’s evolution into a red giant in five billion years may not be 100 percent accurate, so some room for miscalculation is also necessary.
In comparison, other external threats would need a shorter precautionary period. Take asteroid or comet collision, for example—since we are closely monitoring the trajectory of such bodies, a few decades would be enough to resolve the situation adequately. The use of a spacecraft to launch an atomic bomb at the celestial body and change its trajectory is one reasonable solution. This plan would only take a few, or even one, decade to implement.
The precautionary period for human devolution should start after humans begin showing definite signs of devolving. Devolution does not occur simultaneously in an entire group; it would have to start with individuals or individual groups. At the same time, devolution would be a gradual process, so that would leave us enough time to prepare for the threat.
Currently, we already have a great understanding of gene re-engineering; only some further development would be required to perfect the technology. Current “cloning” technology, artificial insemination technology, gene freezing, and preservation technology can all serve as a basis for further research. Initiating precautionary methods when signs of definite devolution occur is a completely reasonable strategy.
Coping with geomagnetism disappearance may require a longer precautionary period, since we cannot predict the accurate timing of this event.
Of course, geomagnetism disappearance poses a smaller threat to humanity than the former three threats. The impact from geomagnetism disappearance would also be less direct, so there might be less investment required. The only surplus necessary would be in preparation time.
The determination of reasonable and secure precautionary periods is essential to the survival and happiness of humanity. Too long or too short of a precautionary period would both be detrimental to humanity.
Three: Reflecting on the Far-Reaching Principle
In Chapter Two, we determined the two principles of this book: the maximum value principle and the far-reaching principle, indicating that our research field and view should be as broad and as long-term as possible. We have set our research field to be the entirety of the universe and our time frame to be billions of years.
Conclusions drawn from previous study tell us that there are no unavoidable external threats within a five-billion-year period; therefore, mankind can face the billions of years to come with a calm and peaceful attitude and focus more time and energy on immediate interests. At the same time, this conclusion informs us that our external conditions are enough to provide for a few billions of years of tranquil, stable life, and that we should focus on internal threats to humanity instead.
Based on the above reasoning, we can see that our far-reaching research frame is not laid out to study what we should do far into the future in the depths of the universe. Instead, it uses the breadth of space and billion-year length of time as a reference to eliminate hubris and focus on a more realistic level. What real actions should humans take in our immediate surroundings? How should we deal prudently with possible, realistic threats?
SECTION TWO: THE WEAKNESS OF HUMAN NATURE
One: Human Evolution Remains to Be Perfected
Humans today are a result of evolution. On the path of evolution, humans became distinguished from animals due to our reliance on the brain. It is human intelligence that enabled mankind to adapt to nature and ultimately rule the earth.
Upon further analysis of the differential evolution of animals and humans, we refer to evolution of animals as “ordinary evolution.” It is manifested in two aspects: body and instinct.
First of all, animals must adapt their bodies to suit the environment. The body discussed here refers to all organs apart from the brain. In order to resist the cold, animals evolved skin and fur; the higher the latitude, the thicker the skin and fur of animals. When angiosperms prospered, many gymnosperm plants became extinct, and some animals that fed on them slowly died out because their digestive systems could not adapt to the new food environment. Mice and insects faced many threats, so they chose to adapt their reproductive organs to better survive. These animals reach sexual maturity very early and reproduce quickly and in large numbers, ensuring their continued survival even in the most critical conditions.
Bodily evolution alone is not enough. Even if an animal’s body adapted to the environment, slow reaction speeds would still lead to its extinction. This is why animals must also evolve their instincts in addition to evolving their bodies. All animals have instincts; they are a response to the need for survival, reproduction, and food. As the environment evolves, animals must be equipped with suitable instincts and corresponding bodies to ensure successful survival.
Humans differ most from animals in our initiative to adapt to the environment. Humans have the desire to create and change the environment and will proactively enhance this ability. That is why humans have an exclusive evolution in addition to the ordinary evolution of animals (including both body and instinct evolution); this is “intelligence evolution.”
The intelligence evolution that separates humans from animals can also be divided into two aspects: the first is “creativity,” and the second is “rationality.” Creativity refers to the ability to understand and transform nature, as well as proactive adaption to the environment. Creativity is mainly concentrated in man’s mastering of science and technology.
Animals can only obtain food in the most basic and simple ways. They chase after their food and chew it to digest. Due to creativity, primitive humans learned that fire could produce tastier meat and also render many inedible things edible. Humans also learned to breed and domesticate animals and plants early on. Today we can use high-tech means to increase the yield and variety of crops and accelerate the growth and breeding speeds of livestock.
Animals rely entirely on their bodies to adapt to seasonal changes in weather. Humans learned to use fire to combat cold weather long ago; primitive humans also learned to use animal skins to sew clothing for warmth, enabling them to hunt in all weather. Today the different types of clothing are not only practical and decorative but also a form of art expression.
Animals have lairs, but they are simple structures built instinctively. Humans construct houses based on creativity. Humans utilized thatch and bricks made of soil to build houses long ago, and building materials today have expanded exponentially. People smelt iron ore into steel, burn limestone into cement, melt quartz into glass, saw rocks into stone, and use chemical means to synthesize paints and wallpapers. Beautifully dynamic high-rise buildings cover the globe, and air conditioning and heating ensure that the weather indoors is always pleasant.
Sadly, human creativity is always first and foremost applied to war and abundantly expressed in the unconstrained excavation of nature. Humans stubbornly persist in quarrying nature, but rarely stop to consider the fatal retaliations science and technology may bring. This is because humans have not reached sufficient levels of evolution in terms of rationality. Animals have no rationality. They nurture their cubs and refrain from feeding on their own due to instinct. Rationality is a wisdom unique to mankind; it is a fundamental aspect that separates us from animals.
Once humans realized greenhouse gas emissions led to global warming and other catastrophic consequences, countries convened to sign a multilateral agreement to limit greenhouse gas emissions. This is rationality. When people realized the threat of nuclear developments, nuclear disarmament negotiations were initiated. This is also rationality. However, human rationality shows a major imbalance; we will call this the intelligence evolutionary imbalance phenomenon, or evolutionary imbalance for short.
Evolutionary imbalance is first manifested as an imbalance within the human population. A small number of people have higher degrees of rationality, but the majority are less rational; this imbalance is also manifested in the fluctuation and instability of individual rationality.
The second imbalance is demonstrated in the lagging speed of rational evolution in comparison with creative evolution. The evolution of human creativity has moved in leaps and bounds. The use of tools, the mastery of fire, the Agricultural Revolution, and the invention of the steam engine are four major leaps. In particular, the advent of steam engines liberated productivity and demonstrated the importance of science and technology. Humans began to explore all available uses of science and technology, resulting in an even higher leap of creativity: the Industrial Revolution.
The Industrial Revolution changed the world completely. In the two hundred years since then, we have created more wealth than ever before; achieved countless triumphs in literature, art, philosophy, and other social sciences; and had especially noteworthy breakthroughs in natural sciences and technology. The world has undergone great change as a result.
Our knowledge of space ranges from nuclei as small as 10-10 meters to the edges of the universe thirteen billion light-years away. Scientists discovered a “strong force” within nuclei that can release the greatest energy in nature, giving rise to nuclear weapons capable of enormous destruction. The phenomenon of electromagnetic induction was used to transform invisible, intangible electromagnetic waves to “messengers” for communication that could travel tens of thousands of miles. Biologists discovered the double helix molecules called DNA to be the carriers of biological genes, allowing them to manipulate animals and flowers to grow as they pleased.
The first leap in human creativity took millions of years, the second took ten thousand years, and the third took only two hundred years. In this short period of time, the world changed more than it did in all of history. Every leap of creativity shortened the evolutionary interval and generated more energy than the last. This is consistent with traditional evolutionary theory—the higher-functioning an organism is, the faster its biological evolution. Sadly, the evolution of human rationality contrasts sharply with humans’ creativity evolution. It moves at a very slow pace.
In terms of creativity, animals cannot begin to compare with humans. In terms of rationality, however, humans have retained many animal characteristics and can even be inferior to animals at times. The simplest example is that humans, like animals, retain typical intraspecific competition. This is the most irrational side of man. Before the formation of human society, people were already accustomed to applying the most advanced technologies to weapons. These weapons were not only aimed at wild animals but also at each other. After creativity brought humanity into civilized society, hunting was no longer an essential part of food gathering, and beast attacks no longer constituted a major threat. The main threat between humans became the massacre of each other, and all the most advanced techniques of humanity were devoted to this cause.
Since the Industrial Revolution, humans have had an outpouring of creativity while our rationality has not kept pace. The achievements of human creativity are becoming more and more powerful, yet human rationality is still stuck hundreds and thousands of years in the past. All the most advance scientific and technological achievements are still first applied to weapons; these advancements continue to bring us just as much damage and pain as they do wealth.
The imbalanced nature of human evolution shows that our development is still far from perfect. The weakness of human nature is the concrete manifestations of such imperfect evolution.
Two: The Weakness of Human Nature
The weakness of human nature is inherent to the species itself. Unless significant evolution takes place, this weakness will persist alongside humanity. The external display of human weakness is not fixed but will fluctuate as times, regions, groups, and social environments change. However, while the external behaviors may change in a myriad of ways, the nature of human weakness remains the same.
So what is the weakness of human nature? Here we will identify all those characteristics not conducive to the overall values of humanity as being weak-nesses of human nature. These characteristics are numerous in number and too complex to elaborate one by one. In this section, we will focus on the elements that may fundamentally affect the realization of human values and therefore threaten the overall survival and happiness of humanity. These are the weaknesses that we cannot evade.
1. Visible Interests
Mankind often faces three major conflicts of interest: the conflict between immediate and long-term interests, the conflict between surface and fundamental interests, and the conflict between fractional and overall interests. Long-term interests, fundamental interests, and overall interests are usually not reflected directly and cannot bring immediate benefits. They require in-depth consideration to become clear. In comparison, immediate interests, surface interests, and fractional interests are direct and yield clearly visible results. That is why we call them visible interests.
It stands to reason that immediate interests, surface interests, and fractional interests are included under the umbrella of long-term interests, fundamental interests, and overall interests. If the latter three were impaired, the former three would ultimately be damaged as well; thus, the former are contingent upon the latter. In the case of conflict, the former three should obey the latter—that is a matter of common sense. However, the situation is often reversed. The direct and immediate nature of visible interests often induces people to choose them instead of long-term, fundamental, and overall interests. This is the visible interest urge inherent in human nature.
Most people fall into the habit of thinking that the troubles they face are more essential, the issues they are dealing with are more critical, and the problems they have must be solved before all else. This mentality means that people are easily tempted by visible interests.
2. Extreme Selfishness
When we say that someone tramples other people underfoot for their own gain or only thinks of themselves, we are referring to the selfishness that is inherent in human nature. Such behavior often harms others to no gain, or even harms oneself, yet it is still a widespread phenomenon among humans. We will call this weakness the extreme selfishness of human nature.
War has always been a key component of human history. War itself is a detrimental behavior that causes harm to all parties involved. The perpetrators of war may be victorious in the massacre of their enemies, but they pay a steep price of blood and death as well.
In a hypothetical scenario where one person is journeying through a desert with a small amount of food and water, we can be sure that this person will reasonably arrange their supply to last as long as possible. However, if this scenario is changed to include a group of people, selfishness will propel some people to eat more, regardless of the group’s survival. In reality, once the food and water are prematurely consumed, the entire group will die. This is not a concern of the selfish hoarder; for as long as he lives within a group, he will act irrationally due to the extreme selfishness of human nature.
In order to excuse their irrational behavior and maintain peace of mind, humans will often come up with acceptable reasons that not only deceive others but also themselves. This behavior can also be seen in humanity’s belief of absurdities in the face of hardships and dangers. This urge to placate and deceive oneself is the self-deceptive nature of man. The self-deception of humanity is completely irrational; it not only seeks to comfort the self but also hopes to deceive and becloud others.
The self-deception of humans generally manifests in these situations: First, when difficult problems or dangers arise and no one wants to work to solve them but instead wishes to seek comfort; second, when visible interests conflict with long-term, fundamental, and overall interests and one wishes for a good reason to choose the former; third, when mistakes happen and one wishes to explain away the responsibility and guilt to others and themselves. Whenever one of the above situations occur, people will come up with a number of seemingly reasonable but actually absurd reasons to deceive and comfort both themselves and those around them.
Self-deception’s greatest harm is that it allows human irrationality to strengthen continuously. As long as any major irrational behavior can be explained away with seemingly reasonable excuses, humanity will continue to deviate from overall values and inch closer to the brink of extinction.
4. Eternal Competitiveness
Human turmoil stems from the competitiveness of human nature; it is the cause of jealousy, vanity, and murder. The competitiveness of human nature manifests in infancy and accompanies us throughout our lives. Such competitiveness also accompanies human society from start to finish, which is why we call this the eternal competitiveness of human nature.
The irrationality of man stems largely from human competitiveness; individuals tend to act rationally while competing groups engage in irrational behavior. As a result, wars are usually caused by human competitiveness as well; such competitiveness may include the competition and jealousy between nations, ethnicities, and religions as well as the vanity of leaders. If only one country existed in the world, the problem of greenhouse gas emissions may have been solved long ago. In the negotiations between countries, the desire to gain an advantage will always be an insurmountable obstacle.
When the eternal competitiveness of humanity is expressed in individuals, it leads to lifelong burden and struggle. Without the need for comparison, a person would only need basic necessities to be satisfied with life. But when competition is introduced among a group of people, every individual worries about lagging behind and exhausts themselves physically and mentally for the rest of their life.
5. Endless Desires
Human desire has no end. The more we acquire, the more we want. This is the endless desire inherent in human nature. Some people think that in an environment of abundance where everyone can have what they want, human desires will be satisfied. This is merely a fantasy; the world may one day meet all the needs of humanity, but it would never be able to satisfy human greed. Unless human nature goes through significant development, humans will never be fully satisfied.
The endless desires of mankind have propelled the increase of material wealth and the development of science and technology; however, it has also brought by-products like war, crime, psychological torment, social turmoil, and environmental damage.
SECTION THREE: RE-ANALYZING INTERNAL THREATS
The internal threats to humanity all derive from the weaknesses of human nature. As long as these weaknesses do not change, new internal threats will arise endlessly from new environments and new eras. The weaknesses of human nature are inherent characteristics unique to mankind; they cannot change without significant human evolution. Such evolution cannot happen overnight, so when we look to our future, we can expect no fundamental change in these weaknesses.
One: The Decisive Effect of Science and Technology on Internal Threats
The previous chapter discussed the generally recognized internal threats to humanity. The following analysis will show how closely related these internal threats are to science and technology. The relationship between the two may be indirect or direct, depending on the situation, but the decisive role science and technology plays is for certain.
1. The Strengthening Effect of Science and Technology
Past analysis shows that some internal threats have been fixtures of human society since ancient times, such as war, terrorism, and wealth inequality. However, the threat of these problems has become more severe as human history develops, and it is largely aggravated by breakthroughs in science and technology. Science and technology serve to strengthen the effect of these inherent crises; we will call this the strengthening effect of science and technology.
The strengthening effect of science and technology can be seen clearly in the development of warfare. When mankind first began to disengage from animals, they relied on their bodies to fight with each other. As society developed, wars became larger in scale and more brutal, and weapons became more advanced and destructive. Such escalation will only continue for the foreseeable future.
Terrorism also ensued shortly after the formation of human society. It differs from wars in its secretive, individualized, and brief nature. Most terrorist attacks are short, one-off strikes. During the cold weapons era, the limitations of weapons meant that most terrorist attacks only killed one or a few people. Today, developments in science and technology allow for much more massive terrorism casualties.
Wealth inequality emerged due to the advancement of technology and the ensuing development of society. In the primitive gathering era, there was no surplus of food and materials; all groups divided wealth equally. The technological revolution led to the Agricultural Era. Migratory lifestyle ended, and surplus products appeared; wealth inequality emerged for the first time. The Industrial Era furthered this inequality. As science and technology continues to improve productivity, nations and enterprises become increasingly dependent on technological advancements. The developments brought on by these advancements have changed the social state and vastly increased the inequality of wealth.
2. The Direct Threats of Science and Technology
Science and technology not only strengthens internal threats, but they also bring about direct threats of their own. The successful development of bio-chemical and nuclear weapons is a direct result of scientific and technological achievements.
The Industrial Revolution promoted the progress of science and technology, but it also promoted a revolution in destructive weaponry. Every improvement in killing methods is permeated by scientific and technological advancements; that is an intuitive conclusion.
Cybercrime is closely related to technological improvements as well; the emergence of computers was itself a product of technology, and the internet was built based off of computers. The culprit of ozone layer damage, Freon, is a product of the chemical industry.
Global warming, acid rain, and air pollution are all directly related to scientific and technological developments. It was these developments that led to industrialization and the extensive use of automobiles, aircrafts, and ships, resulting in the production of greenhouse gas emissions, acid gases, and dust discharges.
The unconstrained use of non-renewable resources was also caused by industrialization. Large-scale resource demands were instigated entirely by large-scale industrial production. Industrialization was an inevitable outcome of scientific and technological development.
Water shortage is mainly caused by water pollution, which can be divided into industrial pollution, agricultural pollution, and domestic pollution, all of which are closely related to science and technology.
Desertification and loss of biodiversity seem to be unrelated to science and technology on the surface, but that is not the case. Desertification and biodiversity loss have a common origin—namely, the destruction of forests, grasslands, and wetlands. This destruction usually happens because developing countries are trying to bridge the wealth inequality gap and sustain their growing population. Both wealth inequality and population expansion are closely associated with technological developments.
Two: The Uncertainties of Internal Threats
1. The First Uncertainty: The Ultimate Destructive Power of Science and Technology
The most important human value is the overall survival of the species; thus, the study of internal threats should focus mainly on the extreme case of self-destruction. As a factor that plays a decisive role in the determination of internal threats, could science and technology ultimately endanger the overall survival of mankind? To find the answer to that question, we must first understand the ultimate destructive power of science and technology. Without profound understanding on this level, we cannot make a clear judgment of the ultimate danger of internal threats.
The ultimate destructive power of science and technology is uncertain because human society today is still in its infancy; we only completed our evolution ten thousand years ago. The effect of science and technology only began to emerge two hundred years ago with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. The future of mankind will be much longer than that. If we are willing to accept natural fate, we still have billions of years to come, and there is always the hope that humanity will never be extinguished.
It is certain that the science and technology we currently possess may endanger a portion of humanity but will not destroy the species entirely. It is often said that the nuclear warheads in the world could destroy humanity many times over, and if evenly distributed to every individual that would be the case. However, such even distribution is not realistic. Nuclear weapons are more likely to achieve great damage in a localized area. With such reasoning, all the nuclear weapons and biochemical weapons in the world would not lead to total human destruction. Moreover, these weapons are in the hands of many people, so it is highly unlikely that they would be launched all at once. Once some weapons are launched, people will have many ways to avoid the attacks and will find ways to prevent repeated assaults. Stating that the world’s nuclear arsenal could destroy humanity is more of a warning and appeal than a reflection of the actual situation.
Even so, we can make one clear judgment: future science and technology levels will be much more advanced and produce much more destructive weapons. Therefore, whether or not the ultimate destructive power of science and technology can destroy humanity is a priority issue in the research of extreme self-destruction.
2. The Second Uncertainty: Whether Humans can use Scientific and Technological Achievements Rationally
Whether or not humans can apply scientific and technological achievements rationally is another big uncertainty. Would it be possible to one day fully apply technological achievements to all aspects of human pursuits, instead of always using them in war or in negative ways like we do today?
Throughout history, humans have rarely applied any technological achievements in noble or just ways. Regardless of the time period, almost all of our most advanced inventions and breakthroughs have been first applied to war. This rule holds true to this day. No matter how many appeals for peace we make, technological achievements always seem to go the other way.
In the two hundred years since the Industrial Revolution, technological advancements have greatly improved humanity’s ability to transform the world, yet our rational restraint of self has not improved accordingly. Although we have not had the best track record in the past, could we eventually use scientific and technological developments rationally in the future? This is another important factor that may decide the ultimate destructive power of science and technology.
3. The Third Uncertainty: Whether Humans Can Accurately Judge the Performance of Science and Technology
The unexpected harm brought on by the use of science and technology can be clearly seen. The widespread use of Freon seriously damaged the ozone layer; the “miraculous discovery” of DDT caused unforeseen injuries to bird eggs, and its ability to dissolve in oil made it increasingly toxic with the passage of time.
We often wander into the restricted areas of science and technology completely unaware. Just as many of the technological achievements we use today were inadvertently discovered, the destructiveness of such inventions can be unpredictable as well. Whether or not science and technology will destroy humanity is largely dependent on our accurate determination of its performance.
4. The Fourth Uncertainty: Whether Humans Can Control the Development of Science and Technology
Another factor that affects our final conclusion is whether humans have the ability to control the progression of science and technology. It stands to reason that no matter how destructive technological advancements are, as long as humans realize the danger and act rationally to curb their impact, they cannot threaten our overall survival; thus, the future of mankind is still bright, and we can plan for future technology accordingly.
Unfortunately, the past does not offer a positive view in this regard. The use of science and technology can be clearly divided into two stages: before the Industrial Revolution and after the Industrial Revolution. Before the Industrial Revolution, humans only experienced limited benefits from technology. Back then, technological advancements were simple, and science was not yet playing a guiding role in technology. Though science and technology progressed constantly, its progression was very gradual.
The situation changed dramatically after the Industrial Revolution. The achievements of science and technology accumulated to great heights, and the combination of the two brought explosive improvements in productivity. People’s pursuit of new advancements increased fanatically, and few stopped to consider the negative effects. These basic historical facts make us seriously question humanity’s ability to control scientific and technological developments in the future.