End Times

We Need Tech — and Even More So Wisdom — to Solve the Extinction Crisis

For too long, human beings have used technology to pillage the planet. With limits approaching, we must find a better way.

Britt Wray
OneZero
Published in
6 min readAug 13, 2019

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Credit: imacoconut/Getty Images

Asteroids, supervolcanoes, nuclear war, climate change, engineered viruses, artificial intelligence, and even aliens — the end may be closer than you think. For the next two weeks, OneZero will be featuring essays drawn from editor Bryan Walsh’s forthcoming book End Times: A Brief Guide to the End of the World, which hits shelves on August 27 and is available for pre-order now, as well as pieces by other experts in the burgeoning field of existential risk. But we’re not helpless. It’s up to us to postpone the apocalypse.

DDwindling biodiversity and escalating climate change are powerful disturbances to life on Earth that shake the human soul. There are lots of reasons to be hopeful that technology will be a force for good in this crisis. But we need to reorient our identities toward protecting the planet with our full humanity if we’re going to stand a chance.

Having studied conservation biology, philosophy of science, written a book on de-extinction, and interviewed hundreds of scientists, ethicists, and ecological thinkers, I can offer an introductory guide to how we might unleash a radical reset in our technological culture.

Expecting surprises

We need to acknowledge the severity of the ecological crisis, the enormous amount of both human and nonhuman life at stake, and the deeply inequitable impacts that are already being felt around the globe. The World Bank predicts that by 2050, there will be 140 million climate refugees within Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and South Asia while other estimates put the number at over one billion. Mass migrations and resource scarcity increase the risk for violence and war. Meanwhile, the UN-backed Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services reports that humans are driving up to one million species to extinction.

The seeds of our ecological destruction were sown by a false sense of division between humans and nature. The development of a suite…

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Britt Wray
OneZero

PhD, Author of Rise of the Necrofauna: The Science, Ethics and Risks of De-Extinction, co-host BBC Tomorrow’s World podcast.