A historian argues that the leveling of inequality has always entailed war or disaster. A top scientist looks at how robots and biotech will shape the future.
Rees explores the opportunities and risks that cutting-edge science presents.
We fret unduly about small risks -- air crashes, carcinogens in food, low radiation doses, etc. But we're in denial about some newly emergent threats, which may seem improbable but whose consequences could be globally devastating. Some of these are environmental, others are the potential downsides of novel technologies. We mustn't forget an important maxim: the unfamiliar is not the same as the improbable.
Our world increasingly depends on elaborate networks like electric power grids and globally dispersed manufacturing. Unless these networks are highly resilient, their benefits could be outweighed by catastrophic breakdowns.
We know that the world is warming, but how much and where and why is still uncertain. Nevertheless, if you care about those who will live into the 22nd century and beyond, then it's necessary to pay an insurance premium now to protect future generations against worst-case climate scenarios.
The world has entered a new geological era, the Anthropocene, and over the last few generations humanity has witnessed revolutionary changes in our biosphere. But what about the next few generations? What will happen for human life on Earth?
Sizes in our universe are primarily determined by the weakness of gravity in the atomic microworld. As a result, all the structures that are dominated by gravitational effects (such as stars, galaxies, and the cosmos as a whole) have to be extremely massive.
Assume further that, even if authorities acted intelligently, with foresight and courage, it's too late to save the species: How then should we live?