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Archive for the ‘existential risks’ category: Page 2

Mar 20, 2019

Local extinction of Southern California mountain lions possible within 50 years

Posted by in categories: existential risks, genetics

Two isolated mountain lion populations in southern California’s Santa Ana and Santa Monica Mountains are at risk of local extinction, perhaps as soon as within 50 years, according to a study published in the journal Ecological Applications.

The study showed the extinction risk is due to low genetic diversity and mortality that affects the stability of the population. Mountain mortality is often caused by humans, but can also result from changes in the environment, such as wildfire and fluctuations in prey density.

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Mar 19, 2019

The implausibility of intelligence explosion

Posted by in categories: business, climatology, existential risks, robotics/AI, sustainability

In 1965, I. J. Good described for the first time the notion of “intelligence explosion”, as it relates to artificial intelligence (AI):

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.

Decades later, the concept of an “intelligence explosion” — leading to the sudden rise of “superintelligence” and the accidental end of the human race — has taken hold in the AI community. Famous business leaders are casting it as a major risk, greater than nuclear war or climate change. Average graduate students in machine learning are endorsing it. In a 2015 email survey targeting AI researchers, 29% of respondents answered that intelligence explosion was “likely” or “highly likely”. A further 21% considered it a serious possibility.

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Mar 19, 2019

5 Killer Events From Space That Could Wipe Out Human Life On Earth

Posted by in categories: alien life, existential risks

Wiping out all life on Earth is hard, but causing mass extinctions is easy. Five major extinction events have occurred since the Cambrian explosion, each eradicating over 60% of terrestrial species. At least five extraterrestrial scenarios are capable of wiping humanity out.


Even if we don’t destroy ourselves, we always have the Universe to contend with.

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Mar 17, 2019

NASA Asteroid WARNING: Giant Asteroid Headed For Earth This Weekend At 29,000MPH

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

The asteroid, dubbed by NASA Asteroid 2019 CB2, is barreling towards a so-called “Earth Close Approach”. NASA’s scientists have pinpointed the asteroid’s passage down to 1.20am GMT (UTC) on Sunday, February 10. The incredible flyby comes just five days after NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) first observed the rock on February 2. As it zips by, Asteroid CB2 will breach speeds of nearly 29,125mph or 13.02km per second.

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Mar 17, 2019

Pentagon Wants to Test A Space-Based Weapon in 2023

Posted by in categories: existential risks, military, particle physics, satellites

Defense officials have asked for $304 million to fund research into space-based lasers, particle beams, and other new forms of missile defense next year.

Defense officials want to test a neutral particle-beam in orbit in fiscal 2023 as part of a ramped-up effort to explore various types of space-based weaponry. They’ve asked for $304 million in the 2020 budget to develop such beams, more powerful lasers, and other new tech for next-generation missile defense. Such weapons are needed, they say, to counter new missiles from China, Russia, North Korea and Iran. But just figuring out what might work is a difficult technical challenge.

So the Pentagon is undertaking two studies. The first is a $15 million exploration of whether satellites outfitted with lasers might be able to disable enemy missiles coming off the launch pad. Defense officials have said previously that these lasers would need to be in the megawatt class. They expect to finish the study within six months.

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Mar 6, 2019

Asteroid Research Points to Planetary Defense Issues

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, computing, existential risks

Not as easy as the movies show. Say it isn’t so.


Incoming asteroids may be harder to break than scientists previously thought, finds a Johns Hopkins study that used a new understanding of rock fracture and a new computer modeling method to simulate asteroid collisions.

The findings, to be published in the March 15 print issue of Icarus, can aid in the creation of asteroid impact and deflection strategies, increase understanding of solar system formation, and help design asteroid mining efforts.

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Mar 3, 2019

Bacteria in frog skin may help fight fungal infections in humans

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, evolution, existential risks

In the past few decades, a lethal disease has decimated populations of frogs and other amphibians worldwide, even driving some species to extinction. Yet other amphibians resisted the epidemic. Based on previous research, scientists at the INDICASAT AIP, Smithsonian and collaborating institutions knew that skin bacteria could be protecting the animals by producing fungi-fighting compounds. However, this time they decided to explore these as potential novel antifungal sources for the benefit of humans and amphibians.

“Amphibians inhabit humid places favoring the growth of , coexisting with these and other microorganisms in their environment, some of which can be pathogenic,” said Smithsonian scientist Roberto Ibáñez, one of the authors of the study published in Scientific Reports. “As a result of evolution, amphibians are expected to possess that can inhibit the growth of pathogenic and fungi.”

The team first travelled to the Chiriquí highlands in Panama, where the , responsible for the disease chytridiomycosis, has severely affected populations. They collected samples from seven to find out what kind of skin bacteria they harbored.

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Mar 3, 2019

Doomsday Clock Is Staying at Two Minutes to Midnight This Year

Posted by in categories: climatology, existential risks, military, sustainability

According to the Bulletin, we’ve done nothing in the past year to make the situation any less precarious — humanity still faces not one, but two “existential threats” in the form of nuclear weapons and climate change.

While the clock remains set at 11:58, the potential of either threat to destroy humanity has increased over the past 12 months, according to the Bulletin’s 2019 statement. We must do something to alter our path.

“Though unchanged from 2018, this setting should be taken not as a sign of stability but as a stark warning to leaders and citizens around the world,” the scientists wrote. “The current international security situation — what we call the ‘new abnormal’ — has extended over two years now… Th e longer world leaders and citizens carelessly inhabit this new and abnormal reality, the more likely the world is to experience catastrophe of historic proportions.”

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Feb 22, 2019

Hawaii’s False Missile Alert Shows Americans Have No Idea What to Do in Nuclear Attack

Posted by in categories: existential risks, military

Many people in Hawaii faced that very question on Jan. 13, 2018. That morning, at 8:07 a.m. local time, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency sent out an alert advising residents to seek shelter from an incoming ballistic missile.

Unbeknownst to just about everyone at the time, however, the alert was a false alarm. Even the operator who sent out the alarm, issued over text messages and on TV and radio stations, thought it was real. But it was accidentally sent out during a shift change, and the incoming operator didn’t realize that the alert was part of a preparedness drill.


An erroneous alert about a nuclear attack was sent to Hawaii residents. The ensuing confusion and hysteria revealed that Americans are not prepared.

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Feb 20, 2019

Could Magnonics Spark the Extinction of Electronics?

Posted by in categories: electronics, existential risks

Watch Could Magnonics Spark the Extinction of Electronics?, a Tech video from Seeker.

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