Archive for the ‘existential risks’ category

Jul 18, 2024

The Fermi Paradox: Fine Tuned Universe

Posted by in categories: existential risks, media & arts

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Our universe is a strange place, with underlying rules we’re only just beginning to understand, but could the strangest thing of all about our Universe be that we are able to live here to observe it in the first place?

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Jul 17, 2024

Introducing Ramses, ESA’s mission to asteroid Apophis

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

30 years ago, on 16 July 1994, astronomers watched in awe as the first of many pieces of the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet slammed into Jupiter with incredible force. The event sparked intense interest in the field of planetary defence as people asked: “Could we do anything to prevent this happening to Earth?”

Today, ESA’s Space Safety programme takes another step towards answering this question. The programme has received permission to begin preparatory work for its next planetary defence mission – the Rapid Apophis Mission for Space Safety (Ramses).

Ramses will rendezvous with the asteroid 99,942 Apophis and accompany it through its safe but exceptionally close flyby of Earth in 2029. Researchers will study the asteroid as Earth’s gravity alters its physical characteristics. Their findings will improve our ability to defend our planet from any similar object found to be on a collision course in the future.

Jul 13, 2024

Hanwha Aerospace Starts Production of Laser Based Anti-Aircraft Weapon Block-I

Posted by in categories: existential risks, military, robotics/AI

South Korea is poised to enhance its defense capabilities with the launch of a revolutionary laser-based anti-aircraft weapon. Hanwha Aerospace, a leading South Korean defense firm, has begun production following a contract signed in late June with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). The contract, worth KRW100 billion (USD72.5 million), mandates the delivery of the ‘Laser Based Anti-Aircraft Weapon Block-I’ systems to the Republic of Korea (RoK) Armed Forces starting later in 2024. This advanced weapon system, developed since 2019 with an investment of KRW87.1 billion (approximately USD63 million), is set to bolster South Korea’s defense against emerging threats, particularly from North Korea.

DAPA has described the Block-I system as a new-concept future weapon system that employs a laser generated from an optical fiber to neutralize targets. The weapon is engineered to accurately strike small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and multicopters at close range. This innovative technology is silent, ammunition-free, and operates solely on electricity, making it a cost-effective solution, with each firing costing about KRW2,000. The laser anti-aircraft weapon (Block-I) represents a significant advancement in our defense capabilities. If the output is improved in the future, it could become a game-changing asset on the battlefield, capable of responding to aircraft and ballistic missiles.

Dubbed the “StarWars Project,” the weapon’s development is a crucial element of South Korea’s strategy to modernize its defense systems amidst North Korea’s increasing weapons advancements. The laser beam emitted by the weapon is invisible to the human eye and produces no sound, adding to its tactical advantages. Upon deployment, South Korea will be the first country to operate this type of advanced laser weapon system, marking a significant milestone in military technology. This strategic development underscores South Korea’s commitment to maintaining a robust and modern defense posture in an increasingly complex security environment.

Jul 10, 2024

The Promise and Peril of AI

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, drones, ethics, existential risks, law, military, robotics/AI

In early 2023, following an international conference that included dialogue with China, the United States released a “Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy,” urging states to adopt sensible policies that include ensuring ultimate human control over nuclear weapons. Yet the notion of “human control” itself is hazier than it might seem. If humans authorized a future AI system to “stop an incoming nuclear attack,” how much discretion should it have over how to do so? The challenge is that an AI general enough to successfully thwart such an attack could also be used for offensive purposes.

We need to recognize the fact that AI technologies are inherently dual-use. This is true even of systems already deployed. For instance, the very same drone that delivers medication to a hospital that is inaccessible by road during a rainy season could later carry an explosive to that same hospital. Keep in mind that military operations have for more than a decade been using drones so precise that they can send a missile through a particular window that is literally on the other side of the earth from its operators.

We also have to think through whether we would really want our side to observe a lethal autonomous weapons (LAW) ban if hostile military forces are not doing so. What if an enemy nation sent an AI-controlled contingent of advanced war machines to threaten your security? Wouldn’t you want your side to have an even more intelligent capability to defeat them and keep you safe? This is the primary reason that the “Campaign to Stop Killer Robots” has failed to gain major traction. As of 2024, all major military powers have declined to endorse the campaign, with the notable exception of China, which did so in 2018 but later clarified that it supported a ban on only use, not development—although even this is likely more for strategic and political reasons than moral ones, as autonomous weapons used by the United States and its allies could disadvantage Beijing militarily.

Jul 9, 2024

Putting Black Holes Inside Stuff | Dead Planets Society Podcast

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, cosmology, existential risks, physics

Primordial black holes are tiny versions of the big beasts you typically think of. They’re so small, they could easily fit inside stuff, like a planet, or a star… or a person. So, needless to say, this has piqued the curiosity of our Dead Planeteers.

Leah and Chelsea want to know, can you put primordial black holes inside things and what happens if you do?

Continue reading “Putting Black Holes Inside Stuff | Dead Planets Society Podcast” »

Jul 7, 2024

Webb Telescope reveals Asteroid Collision in Neighboring Star System

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Astronomers have captured what appears to be a snapshot of a massive collision of giant asteroids in Beta Pictoris, a neighboring star system known for its early age and tumultuous planet-forming activity.

The observations spotlight the volatile processes that shape star systems like our own, offering a unique glimpse into the primordial stages of planetary formation.

“Beta Pictoris is at an age when planet formation in the terrestrial planet zone is still ongoing through giant asteroid collisions, so what we could be seeing here is basically how rocky planets and other bodies are forming in real time,” said Christine Chen, a Johns Hopkins University astronomer who led the research.

Jul 5, 2024

Frontiers: Ambitious biodiversity goals to protect 30% or more of the Earth’s surface by 2030 (30×30) require strategic near-term targets

Posted by in categories: existential risks, sustainability

To define areas that must be protected to prevent the most likely and imminent extinctions, we propose Conservation Imperatives—16,825 unprotected sites spanning ~164 Mha of the terrestrial realm that harbor rare and threatened species. We estimate that protecting the Conservation Imperatives would cost approximately US$169 billion (90% probability: US$146—US$228 billion). Globally, 38% of the 16,825 sites are either adjacent to or within 2.5 km of an existing protected area, potentially reducing land acquisition and management costs. These sites should be prioritized for conservation action over the next 5 years as part of a broader strategy to expand the global protected area network.

Jul 4, 2024

Permaculture found to be a sustainable alternative to conventional agriculture

Posted by in categories: climatology, existential risks, sustainability

RPTU University of Kaiserslautern-Landau has shown for the first time, in a joint study with BOKU University, that permaculture brings about a significant improvement in biodiversity, soil quality and carbon storage.

In view of the challenges of climate change and species extinction, this type of proved to be a real alternative to conventional cultivation—and reconcile and .

Permaculture uses natural cycles and ecosystems as blueprint. Food is produced in an agricultural ecosystem that is as self-regulating, natural and diverse as possible. For example, is integrated into the cultivation of crops or the diversity of beneficial organisms is promoted in order to avoid the use of mineral fertilizers or pesticides.

Jun 30, 2024

The 5th Industrial Revolution

Posted by in categories: biological, existential risks, space travel, sustainability

In this episode of the 5th Industrial Revolution VODcast we sit down with Dr. Jordan Okie of Arizona State University School of Earth and Space Exploration to discuss a key relevancy to the next industrial revolution, sustainability, through the lens of Dr. Okie’s area of expertise: Ecology and Biology. Our key takeaways: We are in a race against time and extinction. We will need to find a way to evolve through technology to survive, be it here on Earth or in our exploration of Space.

Jun 27, 2024

Close Encounter: Two Large Asteroids Will Skim Past Earth Just 42 Hours Apart

Posted by in categories: asteroid/comet impacts, existential risks

Two asteroids, including the newly detected 2024 MK, will pass Earth safely this week, coinciding with Asteroid Day. The event highlights efforts such as ESA’s asteroid deflection mission and their new Flyeye telescope system aimed at improving our detection and response to these celestial threats.

Two large asteroids will safely pass Earth this week, a rare occurrence perfectly timed to commemorate this year’s Asteroid Day. Neither poses any risk to our planet, but one of them was only discovered a week ago, highlighting the need to continue improving our ability to detect potentially hazardous objects in our cosmic neighborhood.

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