Some of the most popular sci-fi movies—2001: A Space Odyssey, The Terminator, The Matrix, Transcendence, Ex Machina, and many others—have been based on the notion that artificial intelligence will evolve to a point at which humanity will not be able to control its own creations, leading to the demise of our entire civilization. This fear of rapid technology growth and our increasing dependence on it is certainly warranted, given the capabilities of current machines built for military purposes.
Already, technology has had a significant impact on warfare since the Iraq war began in 2001. Unmanned drones provide sustained surveillance and swift attacks on targets, and small robots are used to disarm improvised explosive devices. The military is currently funding research to produce more autonomous and self-aware robots to diminish the need for human soldiers to risk their lives. Founder of Boston Dynamics, Marc Raiber, released a video showing a terrifying six-foot tall, 320-lb. humanoid robot named Atlas, running freely in the woods. The company, which was bought by Google in 2013 and receives grant money from the Department of Defense, is working on developing an even more agile version.
James Hansen, who was among the first scientists to alert politicians and the public to the risks posed by climate change, told New York Magazine that he doubted the atmosphere would warm by four or five degrees Celsius by the end of this century – the upper end of current projections, which would likely end human civilization as we know it.
However he said the biggest problem would be sea level rise. Hanson was an author of a scientific paper published last year which warned that continued high fossil fuel emissions could increase sea levels by “several meters over a timescale of 50 to 150 years”.
How Area 51 Became the Center of Alien Conspiracy Theories
Area 51 has been the focal point of alien conspiracy theories in America for decades. The remote military base in the Nevada desert has a lot of history, and has been associated with aliens almost since its inception. Here's why.
In the early 1950s, US planes were conducting low-flying recon missions over the USSR. But there were constant worries of them being spotted and shot down. So … in 1954, President Eisenhower authorized the development of a top secret, high-altitude recon aircraft Dubbed Project Aquatone. The program required a remote location that wasn't easily accessible to civilians or spies. Area 51 fit the bill perfectly.
It was in the Nevada desert near a salt flat called Groom Lake. No one knows exactly why it's called Area 51, but one theory suggests it came from its proximity to the Nevada Nuclear Test Sites. The Nevada Test Site was divided into number-designated areas by the Atomic Energy Commission. The location was already familiar territory for the military, as it had served as a World War II aerial gunnery range.
In the summer of 1955, sightings of "unidentified flying objects" were reported around Area 51. That's because the Air Force had begun its testing of the U-2 aircraft. The U-2 can fly higher than 60,000 feet. At the time, normal airliners were flying in the 10,000 to 20,000 feet range. While military aircraft topped out around 40,000 feet. So if a pilot spotted the tiny speck that was the U-2 high above it, they would have no idea what it was. And they would usually let air traffic control know someone was out there. Which is what led to the increase of UFO sightings in the area. While Air Force officials knew the UFO sightings were U-2 tests, they couldn’t really tell the public. So they explained the aircraft sightings by saying they were "natural phenomena" and "high-altitude weather research."
A new report by Bloomberg News about Russia being suspected of recently hacking a dozen U.S. power plants, including a nuclear one, is far more serious than any possible attempt to influence an election. It could be a sign of something even scarier: two military superpowers stepping up a cyberwar in the shadows and without rules of engagement that protect civilians from other kinds of warfare.
Attacks on power grids have a potential for mass destruction. A temporary power outage doesn't appear to be all that threatening compared with the use of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, but blackouts kill people even when they don't last long. During the East Coast blackout of 2003, some power was restored within seven hours, and still dozens of deaths were ascribed to the event. A lasting power grid breakdown could be an apocalyptic scenario, with hospitals and other critical services running out of fuel for reserve generators and unable to obtain it easily; traffic, food and water supplies disrupted; urban life plunged into chaos. And that's before we even think of nuclear power plants getting out of control.
“Russia now appears to be using Ukraine as more than a testing ground for cyberwar — it is demonstrating its ability to disrupt faith in public institutions. While the resulting crises after a cyber-event risk inadvertent escalation, the real danger is the erosion of cyber norms. With each new cyber-disruption, the shock decreases, and we grow to expect disorder. The resulting uncertainty and chaos undermines our trust in the open Internet architecture and risks upsetting stability inherent in cyber-exchanges to date.”
In a new report, a group of experts led by Adam Liska, a biological systems engineer at Nebraska, has determined that a single nuclear warhead could cause devastating climate change resulting in widespread drought and famine that could cost a billion lives.
"We're losing our memory of the Cold War and we're losing our memory of how important it is to get this right," said co-author Tyler White, a political scientist who specializes in international security and nuclear policy. "Even a conflict that doesn't involve the United States can impact us and people around the world."
In December 2001, during testimony before a Senate Armed Services subcommittee, I was asked, “Mr. Jenkins, it has been three months since 9/11 and nothing more has happened. Are we through it yet?” I am certain that the senator was asking whether we were past the immediate danger of another 9/11-scale attack—the nation's biggest fear—but I responded that this was likely to be a long contest lasting many years. Nearly 15 years on, we are not through it yet.
Nor is it clear how much further we have to go, although that is not surprising. Long wars have no signs telling us how many miles remain to the destination. The armies of Central Europe did not know in 1633 that they were halfway through the Thirty Years War. We will not know how close to (or far from) the end we were until the war is over.