Applications of Biotechnology and Artificial Intelligence According to Martin Rees

Topics: Bioterrorism

The Earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years, but due to the many long-term influences outside of our control, it is inevitable that our planet will no longer exist billions of years from now. There are many factors contributing to the eventual destruction of the Earth, some of which are natural causes like asteroid collisions that wiped out all living species, cataclysmic disasters such as massive volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, and various plagues throughout history that nearly killed off the human population.

However, other factors that have made the future of Earth more uncertain are the ones caused by humans, particularly the ongoing influence of technology and the impending changes it has had on the planet. Throughout the decades, we have witnessed many disasters caused by humans including oil spills that have created a negative impact on aquatic ecosystems, chemical explosions resulting in harmful radiation, and the creation of landfills. [1] We as a society need to be concerned with how we are negatively impacting our planet and the potential dangers that come if we choose to continue down this destructive path.

As mentioned in the TED talk featuring Lord Martin Rees, some of the potential disasters that humanity may be responsible for include the misuse of biotechnology and the unrestricted advancement of artificial intelligence.

During the TED talk featuring Lord Martin Rees, he presented many valid arguments and scenarios suggesting the inevitable destruction of the planet. One of the scenarios he proposed that would lead to destruction around the world was the use of bio-technology.

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Here he makes note of several benefits that bio-technology can have on our everyday lives, for example the food we consume is derived from modified plants through artificial selection, and certain products we use like cosmetics, clothing and detergents. It is clear that the use of bio-technology can have a variety of benefits, however if abused they can also be disastrous. The disadvantages of bio-technology can have a harmful impact on the environment and ecosystems. This can bee seen in the introduction of a new species or organism into an existing ecosystem, for example the brown tree snake was introduced to Guam and caused the extinction of a variety of birds, as well as damage to countless plant species. Another potential outcome of this can come in the form of bioterrorism, where terrorists who have access to biotechnology can create deadly diseases through the misuse of bio-technology. Without any possible cure, these man-made diseases could kill millions of human lives. Another point Martin Rees highlighted in his TED talk was that artificial intelligence can also have a negative impact on society. Artificial intelligence is rapidly becoming advanced in ways that are unforeseeable, making it increasingly difficult to control or limit. Artificial intelligence has greatly improved productivity by shortening tedious tasks and the reducing the probability of human error. It is also able to carry out tasks that are deemed too dangerous to perform safely, and therefore not jeopardizing their human lives. Artificial intelligence will continue to advance exponentially, further benefitting our quality of life. There are also disadvantages that come with such advancements, one drawback being that it will require frequent updates and repairs in order to perform tasks efficiently. Artificial intelligence can additionally be used as weapons if they are programmed to kill and it is precisely what it will do as they do not have the capacity for human emotion. Furthermore, it is believed that artificial intelligence could possibly develop their own government system which may eradicate human life.

In the video Lord Martin Rees had several valid points about how the world can be in potential dangers. However, in order to prevent these catastrophes from occurring there are many different procedures we can use as preventative methods. In the video it was mentioned that one of the plausible reasons the world may be in danger is the advancement of bio-technology. There are many precautionary steps we can take in order to avoid any dangers caused by biotechnology for example enforcing biosecurity. Biosecurity is used in order to prevent “human health, protecting agriculture and the ecosystems through the use of prevention control and management”.[1]. Biosecurity is also used in order to prevent terroristic groups from obtaining materials which can be used to cause “biological attacks”.[2] In order to avoid terrorists from acquiring these materials we could limit the publication of scientific information which can be used for unlawful purposes.

In this century, science has not only changed the world faster than ever before, but in new and different ways as well. Genetic modification, artificial intelligence, even biological enhancements, may eventually change what it means to be human. The physiology and character of human beings has gone relatively unchanged for thousands of years, but it could sometime this century. The human impact on our planet such as global warming and mass extinctions is unprecedented too. Bio and cyber technologies can be seen as benefits towards the environment in that they can offer better quality of life while also reducing pressure on energy and resources. But there is the potential, in our interconnected world, for this technology to get into the hands of those who would choose to abuse it. Some would have us believe that there is a simple solution to humanity losing control of technology and having it take over. All we have to do is simply give up the parts of science that can lead to disaster and keep the parts that benefit society as a whole. The problem with this however, is that with any scientific discovery there will always be unpredictable consequences. What this ultimately means is that we have to accept the risks if we are to enjoy the benefits of science.


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Applications of Biotechnology and Artificial Intelligence According to Martin Rees. (2022, Aug 11). Retrieved from

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