– Oxford Scientists Cite “Global System Catastrophe” Among 12 Plausible Threats To Civilization
- “Global System Catastrophe” More Of A Possibility Than Most Western People Suspect
- Study Described As A “Scientific Assessment About The Possibility Of Oblivion”
- Other Threats Include Nuclear War, Environmental Degradation, Geological Events and Out of Control Technology
Recent research undertaken by scientists in Oxford University to identify possible threats to human civilisation has identified “system-wide failures caused by the structure of the network” as one of twelve major threats.
Global economic collapse, artificial intelligence and nanotechnology have been named alongside nuclear war, ecological catastrophe and super-volcano eruptions as “risks that threaten human civilization” in a report by the Global Challenges Foundation.
The world’s economic and political systems face systematic risks because of their intricate and interconnected natures. The researchers say more work needs to be done to clarify what parts of the system could collapse and destroy western civilization.
The authors of the study say it is about “how better understanding of the magnitude of the challenges can help the world to address the risks it faces, and can help to create a path towards more sustainable development.”
The foundation was set up in 2011 with the aim of funding research into risks that threaten humanity, and encouraging more collaboration between governments, scientists and companies to combat them.
Apart from failure of the systems of civilization the report also looks at the threats posed by the following:
- extreme climate change
- nuclear war
- global pandemic
- major asteroid impact
- super volcano
- ecological catastrophe
- synthetic biology
- artificial intelligence
- future bad global governance
- unknown unknowns
The impact of human activities on our environment is the most pressing problem according to the study.
The report warns that ‘extreme climate change’ could lead to a nightmare scenario of famines, mass deaths, social collapse and mass migration igniting global conflict as civilization crumbles.
Cheery stuff !
We are not of the Armageddon persuasion and do not think the end of the world is nigh. However, we are of the view that economic collapse is possible given the unstable and unsustainable nature of our modern global financial, monetary and economic system.
Any of the risks outlined in the report could be the ‘Black Swan’ that leads to a new economic depression and a collapse of the ‘House of cards’ financial system and economy.
There are many environmental risks challenging us today. These include soil erosion and degradation, depletion and destruction of marine life, the collapse of the bee population – the pollinators of our food supply.
With all the focus on and with politicians and talking heads touting their “green” credentials by continuously talking man made global warming – a movement which has taken on a religious zeal as proponents aggressively defend a scientific model most do not understand – other, more pressing, environmental risks loom unappreciated.
Fukushima is still spewing radioactive material into the Pacific. Fish stocks are being drastically depleted through over-fishing. Creatures upon which we do not directly rely are going extinct at a rate of up to 200 species every day as we annihilate anything that stands in the way of our pursuit of blind economic growth.
Processes that took millions of years of natural selection to hone are being tampered with as genetically modified organisms are forced into the biosphere with no understanding of the long term consequences.
The report discusses the possibility of somebody intentionally creating an “engineered pathogen” to wipe out humanity.
The risks posed by potential geological events such as an asteroidal impact or a mega-volcano are not understood by most people living today. Because our planet is covered with water and dense vegetation the scars of asteroid collisions are not immediately visible.
However, one look at our pock-marked moon through a telescope shows us that – in terms of the vast span of time in which our solar system has existed – such events are quite frequent.
Indeed, geological evidence has been emerging in recent years suggesting that the earth experienced such an event only 13,000 years ago, causing tsunamis and a 300-ft rise in sea-levels due to melting ice caps. This may be the origin of the flood stories that crop up in mythologies all over the world.
A similar event today, with a comparable rise of sea-levels, would destroy most of our cities which are located on the coast. It would have a devastating effect on our interconnected civilization.
The dust cloud that would enmesh the atmosphere as a result of an asteroidal impact or a mega volcano would contribute to global cooling and this, in time, would cause food shortages, famine, pestilence and instability.
The global pandemics of history – bubonic plague, small pox and “Spanish” flu – all thrived in scenarios of food scarcity. The major waves of plague in the “dark” ages were proceeded by periods where crops failed due to lack of sunlight. These periods of dullness are believed to correspond to volcanic activity.
Smallpox festered in the squalid western slums during the industrial revolution. Bernard Shaw, who wrote about that plague contemporaneously, was of the opinion that social programs which improved nutrition and sanitation, rather than vaccines, led to the eradication of the disease.
The “Spanish” flu broke out in 1918 helped along by the malnutrition and deprivation of the first world war. It infected 500 million people all over the world killing up to 100 million – 5% of the global population.
Today, we see pandemics occurring still in Africa, the poorest region in the world. As author Terence McKenna suggested – in many parts of the world – the Apocalypse that western Christians anticipate is actually occurring right now.
While in the West we have access to good sanitation, our nutrition is lacking. We have more food but much of it is of low quality. We have epidemics of our own – diabetes, obesity, cancer. Our capacity to withstand a new plague is debatable.
The report also deals with artificial intelligence exterminating humanity in much the same way as we treat species less intelligent than ourselves. It touches on nanotechnology and how theoretically it could be used to make pocket-sized nukes.
With regard to a system failure the report says:
“The world economic and political system is made up of many actors with many objectives and many links between them. Such intricate, interconnected systems are subject to unexpected system-wide failures caused by the structure of the network”.
The risks to our existing system for acquiring the things we need and the means to conduct such transactions has been well documented on this blog. Cyber-terrorism and cyber-warfare have the the potential to collapse our monetary system and our supply chain causing panic and shortages of the necessity of life.
The currencies of overly-indebted nations are also at risk. Given that, for the most part, currencies have no intrinsic value and are backed only by confidence – what happens when people lose faith in their governments, central banks and those currencies?
Will the farmer in the Philippines accept a hyper-inflating currency in exchange for his rice or will he demand something more tangible? What happens to our access to energy in such a scenario?
We would be more reliant on indigenous agriculture and industries as imports would fall dramatically. The cost of fuel to run these industries would likely make such industries unsustainable as the income and savings of the target customer is greatly reduced.
These would be short-term consequences but the political ramifications of such an event could lead to all kinds of chaos, authoritarianism and war.
These are interesting topics to contemplate. There is nothing on the list that human ingenuity is not capable of dealing with. What is lacking is the will.
For now, we have a short-sighted unsustainable economic system run by short-sighted, opportunistic corporations and governments.
All very cheery stuff !
Happy Monday !
Breaking News and Updates Here
Today’s AM fix was USD 1,193.50, EUR 1,055.17 and GBP 777.12 per ounce.
Friday’s AM fix was USD 1,203.50, EUR 1,061.38 and GBP 782.51 per ounce.
Gold and silver were lower last week, with gold down 2.2% and silver a large 6.1%.
Gold fell 0.53% percent or $6.40 and closed at $1,201.00 an ounce on Friday, while silver slipped 0.98% percent or $0.16 closing at $16.23 an ounce.
Gold in US Dollars – 5 Days (GoldCore)
Gold reached its lowest price in 6 weeks on today at $1,192.00. In Singapore, gold was marginally higher on demand from India and South East Asia and reached $1,204.50 per ounce prior to aggressive selling in early European trading pushed the price below the important $1,200/oz level.
Some of the Greek related safe haven bid has waned after a conditional loan extension for Greece was reached on Friday.
But the last-minute deal over Greece’s bailout may not be accepted and uncertainty remains high, leaving the euro under pressure against the dollar, the pound and even the yen. Euro gold remains over EUR 1,050 and has begun to tick higher after initial losses in early European trading.
The absence of the world’s largest gold buyer China from the market may also be leading to weakness. Chinese physical demand will reemerge when Chinese markets open after the New Year on Wednesday.
A close below $1,200 today, would make gold vulnerable to a fall to test the low of $1,130 seen in early November.