Threats to civilization

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This page is for identifying and discussing issues which threaten to destroy civilization if not countered, where the working definition of "destruction of civilization" entails anything from (on the "light" end of the spectrum) a global abandonment of democratic-style government and return to some form of feudalism to (on the "heavy" end) destruction of most or all known life.

Future Usage

Identification of the top threats to civilization should probably be via voting through InstaGov, when that is ready for use; that way, the list can be kept more current, and the change of priorities over time can also be recorded.

Imminent Threats

global issues

  • religious extremism, primarily Islamic extremism
  • intellectual property law is not keeping up with rapid developments in information technology, and threatens to "hand the keys to the 21st century" to organizations more interested in using it for their own ends than for the good of civilization
  • global warming
  • not a likely immediate threat, but representing a catastrophic risk:
  • unlikely near-term, likely/inevitable long-term threats:
    • asteroid impact: extremely catastrophic were it to happen, and we are woefully unprepared to deal with the possibility; this highlights the need for space exploration and space colonization. "The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in." – Robert A. Heinlein
    • nearby supernova: also not likely in the near-term but possible; effects could be blocked with technology currently within our grasp but not yet tried:
      • 2008-03-04 Binary 'deathstar' has Earth in its sights: "A spectacular, rotating binary star system is a ticking time bomb, ready to throw out a searing beam of high-energy gamma rays – and Earth may be right in the line of fire. ... One member of the pair is a highly unstable star known as a Wolf-Rayet, thought to be the final stage of stellar evolution to precede a cataclysmic supernova explosion. ... "Viewed from Earth, the rotating tail appears to be laid out on the sky in an almost perfect spiral. It could only appear like that if we are looking nearly exactly down on the axis of the binary system," said Tuthill. .. This means we are peering down the barrel of the gun, as when binary supernovae go off, all their energy is focussed into a narrow beam of wildly destructive gamma ray radiation that emanates (both up and down) from the poles of the system. .. "If such a gamma-ray burst happens, we really do not want Earth to be in the way"."

United States

To the extent that civilization within the United States is itself threatened, that represents a threat to the world at large for the following reasons:

  • Any force powerful enough to overcome the US, arguably "the world's only remaining superpower", is powerful enough to overcome any other country or alliance on Earth
  • If the United States is taken over from within by forces inimical to the idea of civilization, then the US itself could become a threat.

Current threats to civilization within the US include:

Tools of Destruction

Some of the tools via which the various threats are being propagated:

  • terrorism provides a distraction by which democratic citizens can be fooled into unnecessarily trading their freedoms for apparent safety
  • religion is often used as a tool for spreading attitudes harmful to a free civilization:
    • discourages individual initiative
    • squelches scientific investigation, especially in the biological and environmental sciences
    • centralizes authority outside of the rule of law and beyond the reach of rational discussion
    • encourages dogmatic thinking at the expense of rationality
  • gerrymandering is a tool (primarily in the United States) whereby the established parties negotiate political control amongst themselves, thus negating much of the democratic process
  • weapons of mass destruction wield unusually high amounts of destruction in proportion to their cost. These include:

Solutions in Progress