Concerns and challenges use of science and technology
Digital technology and problems
Social Media is an entirely different issue, especially with the upcoming generations. Without Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram and more, where would tweens and teenagers find themselves today. They physically cannot function without staying updated with the newest social media craze. News flash: people don’t actually care about your lives that much. What happened to the times of just having Facebook and people would post life goals, college acceptances, and pictures of their vacations? Now, social media is flooded with what people do all day every day and it needs to stop.
Recent developments in technology such as the internet also led to a decline in “normal” social behaviors. “The old-fashioned café provided a way to both share and abandon solitude, but sitting in your screen world is a whole other story.
In ages past, you could walk around town for a whole day without seeing all the people you know. Now, everyone you know is within arm’s reach, taking that certain psychological feeling out of seeing people. You see them every second of every day, and hear nearly every single thought of theirs as soon as they think them.
Years ago, it was predicted by many that the future would be an amazing and surreal place, yet, no one really seems very shocked about the advances. You can see evidence everywhere. The news is a great example- you see or read an interesting story, think about it for a second, and then you brush it over your shoulder, without any critical thinking, or wondering how it will affect your life.
Secure operations in cyberspace, the global web of information streams tied to the internet, has become essential for the continued functioning of the international economy and much else besides. An extraordinary tool for many purposes, the internet is also vulnerable to attack by hostile intruders, whether to spread misinformation, disrupt vital infrastructure, or steal valuable data. Most of those malicious activities are conducted by individuals or groups of individuals seeking to enrich themselves or sway public opinion. It is increasingly evident, however, that governmental bodies, often working in conjunction with some of those individuals, are employing cyberweapons to weaken their enemies by sowing distrust or sabotaging key institutions or to bolster their own defenses by stealing militarily relevant technological know-how.
Dangers of the proliferation of artificial intelligence
Most researchers agree that a superintelligent AI is unlikely to exhibit human emotions like love or hate, and that there is no reason to expect AI to become intentionally benevolent or malevolent. Instead, when considering how AI might become a risk, experts think two scenarios most likely:
The AI is programmed to do something devastating
Autonomous weapons are artificial intelligence systems that are programmed to kill. In the hands of the wrong person, these weapons could easily cause mass casualties. Moreover, an AI arms race could inadvertently lead to an AI war that also results in mass casualties. To avoid being thwarted by the enemy, these weapons would be designed to be extremely difficult to simply “turn off,” so humans could plausibly lose control of such a situation. This risk is one that’s present even with narrow AI, but grows as levels of AI intelligence and autonomy increase.
The AI is programmed to do something beneficial, but it develops a destructive method for achieving its goal
This can happen whenever we fail to fully align the AI’s goals with ours, which is strikingly difficult. If you ask an obedient intelligent car to take you to the airport as fast as possible, it might get you there chased by helicopters and covered in vomit, doing not what you wanted but literally what you asked for. If a superintelligent system is tasked with a ambitious geoengineering project, it might wreak havoc with our ecosystem as a side effect, and view human attempts to stop it as a threat to be met.
Risk of weapons technology
The development of hypersonic munitions also introduces added problems of proliferation. Although the bulk of research on such weapons is now being conducted by China, Russia, and the United States, other nations are exploring the technologies involved and eventually could produce such munitions on their own eventually. In a world of widely disseminated hypersonic weapons, vulnerable states would fear being attacked with little or no warning time, possibly impelling them to conduct pre-emptive strikes on enemy capabilities or to commence hostilities at the earliest indication of an incoming missile. Accordingly, the adoption of fresh nonproliferation measures also belongs on the agenda of major world leaders.
Risk of nuclear proliferation
During the past decade, the United States and Russia have joined in a number of efforts to reduce the danger posed by the enormous quantity of weapons-usable material withdrawn from nuclear weapons. Other countries and various private groups have assisted in this task. But many impediments have prevented effective results, and most of the dangers still remain. Even more troubling, this threat is only one of several risks imposed on humanity by the existence of nuclear weapons.
These risks fall into three classes: the risk that some fraction, be it large or small, of the inventories of nuclear weapons held by eight countries will be detonated either by accident or deliberately; the risk that nuclear weapons technology will diffuse to additional nations; and the risk that nuclear weapons will reach the hands of terrorist individuals or groups.
Indeed, success in containing these risks would fly in the face of historical precedent. All new technologies have become dual-use, in that they have been used both to improve the human condition and as tools in military conflict. Moreover, all new technologies have, in time, spread around the globe. But this precedent must be broken with respect to the release of nuclear technology.
Risk is the product of the likelihood of an adverse event multiplied by the consequences of that event. Since the end of the Cold War, the likelihood that one or another country would deliberately use nuclear weapons has indeed lessened, although the consequences of such use would be enormous. Therefore, this risk has by no means disappeared. In particular, nuclear weapons might be used in a regional conflict, such as between India and Pakistan.
The risk of proliferation of nuclear weapons among countries has been limited in the past by the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), signed in 1968. The treaty recognizes five countries as “Nuclear Weapons States,” and three other countries not party to the treaty are de facto possessors of nuclear weapons. All other nations of the world have joined the treaty as “Non-Nuclear Weapons States,” but one country (North Korea) has withdrawn. Some countries–presumed to include Iran and, until the ouster of Saddam Hussein, Iraq–maintain ambitions to gain nuclear weapons. A much larger number of countries have pursued nuclear weapons programs in the past but have been persuaded to abandon them.
The NPT is a complex bargain that discriminates between have and have-not countries. The have-not nations have agreed not to receive nuclear weapons, their components, or relevant information, whereas the Nuclear Weapons States have agreed not to furnish these items. In order to decrease the discriminatory nature of the agreement, the nations possessing nuclear weapons are obligated to assist other nations in the peaceful applications of nuclear energy. And, most important of all, the Nuclear Weapons States have agreed to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in international relations and to work in good faith toward their elimination. It is in respect to this latter obligation that the United States has been most deficient. In fact, the current Bush administration’s recent Nuclear Posture Review projects an indefinite need for many thousands of nuclear weapons, and even searches for new missions for them.
The risk posed by the possible acquisition of nuclear weapons by terrorists is growing rapidly. Deterrence prevented direct military conflict between the United States and the former Soviet Union for many years, and deterrence retains its leverage even over the so-called “states of concern,” such as North Korea. But deterrence will not restrain terrorists driven by fanatical beliefs. Therefore, the prevention of nuclear catastrophe caused by terrorists has to rely either on interdicting the explosive materials that are essential to making nuclear weapons (highly enriched uranium and plutonium, in particular) or on preventing the hostile delivery of such weapons.
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