The Sunday Times interviews Martin Rees

27 August 2018
by Bryan Appleyard

CSER co-founder Lord Martin Rees was interviewed by the Sunday Times about his new book, On the Future: Prospects for Humanity.

"The key to his thinking is that we are now in a pivotal century, probably the pivotal century in human history. He is not too concerned about the world being destroyed by an asteroid strike — we know the odds and they are very long indeed. The biggest threat is our own ingenuity. Humans are so numerous and so technologically adept that we could make the entire planet lifeless within the lifetimes of today’s young.

“We will have a bumpy ride through this century and we will be lucky if we escape at least some catastrophic setbacks — social disruptions and so on — for two types of reason. The first is there are more of us in this world, we’re all putting greater pressure on the environment and we are running up against what the planet can cope with. The second class of threat stems from the empowerment of new technologies.”

This second class may well be the more dangerous. You couldn’t set off an old-tech apocalypse, such as an atom bomb in your kitchen, but you can conduct cyber-attacks, fiddle with artificial intelligence (AI) or cook up novel viruses.

“These technologies are going to empower small groups or individuals to have an effect globally, and that’s going to be a problem for governments, a tension between security and liberty. The global village will have its village idiots.”"

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