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Top 10 Threats to the Survival of Civilization

civilization threat
In today’s world, civilization is much more complex than ever and there are several critical threats that can lead us to extinction. Credit: Stefans02 / Flickr / CC BY-2.0

In today’s world, civilization is much more complex than in the past. It now involves a global network of advanced technology and complex social organization that goes beyond what Webster, a famous dictionary writer, could have imagined.

Civilization today is characterized by large cities, advanced techniques in agriculture and industry, a big population, and intricate social systems.

The current stability of civilization depends on many things working together. For example, food, fuel, and materials for manufacturing all require people, companies, and countries to cooperate.

Transportation, communication, and economic activity in one place can impact everything else in the world, all at the same time. For now, our economic and social systems, government agencies, and policies have kept things under control, following Webster’s recent definition. However, all of this is now under threat.

Civilization is in danger of falling apart, and our modern way of life is not guaranteed to continue. We should all be aware of many serious threats to our existence. However, we will focus on the Top 10 Threats to Civilization.

Number 10: Alien Invasion

Credit: MjolnirPants / Wikimedia Commons CC BY 4.0

It’s unlikely that aliens will attack Earth. Even if there are hostile aliens, they would have to travel a long distance to cause trouble for no reason. They’ve probably been listening to Earth’s TV and radio broadcasts and decided to look for intelligent life elsewhere.

But if space aliens did attack, they could easily destroy civilization on Earth. Even if they seem friendly at first, be careful of their intentions. Don’t fall for their gift books, such as one titled “To Serve Man.” Don’t count on Earth’s microbes to save us, like in the movie “The War of the Worlds.”

Number 9: Asteroid Impact

The impact of asteroid hitting the Earth.
The impact of asteroid hitting the Earth. Credit: Fredrik / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

An asteroid impact isn’t an immediate concern but is more likely than an alien invasion. After all, an asteroid has already destroyed life on Earth before, wiping out the dinosaurs.

Although they didn’t have the same kind of technology that we do today, a big enough asteroid could still cause significant damage to modern technology. Fires and global cooling could also occur, leading to a chaotic aftermath.

Number 8: Bees all die

Bee above a flower
Public Domain

There’s a popular saying on social media that if bees all die, humans will only have four years left to live, attributed to Albert Einstein. However, there’s no evidence that Einstein ever said this. Still, if bees die out, it will be a disaster.

Bees pollinate important crops, such as coffee beans, that we rely on for food. Although other animals can also pollinate, if pesticides and other threats wiped out bees and other pollinating animals, it would have dire consequences for our food supply.

A study in 2007 found that animal pollination is important for most of the world’s food crops. Even if the human race didn’t die out completely without pollinators, civilization would likely collapse as the food chain fell apart.

Number 7: Artificial Intelligence

Robots Can Help Improve Mental Wellbeing at Work
Credit: Steve Jurvetson / Flickr / CC BY-SA 4.0

Researchers warn that as AI systems become more sophisticated and prevalent, their destructive potential will pose an ever-increasing threat.

A virus with AI capability could become a powerful weapon in a cyberattack on a large scale, causing human extinction if it infects billions of sophisticated robots that run our world. Even the military uses AI technologies and might rapidly deploy AI-powered drones and robotic weapons, leading to disastrous consequences.

Number 6: Quantum Computing

Quantum System computer
Quantum System One . Credit: IBM Research/ Flickr CC BY 2.0

Quantum computing, on the other hand, is a much more powerful technology in its infancy that poses even more serious dangers. Quantum simulation, for example, could lead to faster development of new drugs and other chemicals.

However, in the wrong hands, quantum computing could be used to engineer pandemic agents and other dangerous substances, causing an existential threat to humanity.

Number 5: Unstable Complex Systems

The instability of complex systems is another risk that could cause an apocalypse. The collapse of a complex system can be triggered by a seemingly insignificant event. Such systems appear stable because their complexity conceals underlying vulnerability.

However, math can help analyze these systems and predict their collapse. Researchers warn that the collapse of human population growth and the mother of all economic crashes could occur in the 2050s, pointing to the end of the present era and the failure of existing institutions.

The world as we know it might end in a blood-red abyss if we don’t pay attention to the warning signs.

Number 4: Social Media

Young people texting on smartphones using thumbs
Credit: Tomwsulcer/ Wikimedia Commons CC0 1.0

The proliferation of social media has had detrimental effects on society, providing a platform for spreading misinformation about important issues such as vaccination and climate change. This has led to manipulating public opinion and governments, hindering efforts to address these problems.

While social media alone may not cause the downfall of civilization, when combined with other potential threats, it could contribute to the acceleration of its destruction.

Number 3: Pandemic

COVID-19 cremation
Credit: Anis Mujahid Akbar, via Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 4.0

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of global public health systems, yet little has been done to prevent future pandemics.

Instead, individuals are left to make their own decisions about pandemic mitigation measures without the necessary information or expertise to do so.

This lack of unified action and coordination could result in a future pandemic with a higher fatality rate that could seriously damage society.

Number 2: Nuclear War

Nuclear war explosion. Operation Castle - Yankee
Nuclear explosion.Credit: Federal Government of the United States. CC-PD-Mark. PD US Government/Wikimedia. US Stocks Up on Anti-Radiation Drug

The possibility of nuclear war has been a popular theme for fictional accounts of civilization’s end since World War II.

Even though the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 allayed some of the people’s fears, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists recently moved the hands of its well-known doomsday clock to just 90 seconds before midnight, marking the point at which the world is the closest it has ever been to a catastrophic event.

The reason? The threat of Russia’s thinly veiled nuclear weapon use in the conflict with Ukraine. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also warned that humanity is in as much danger of nuclear destruction as during the Cold War. And if not Russia, then North Korea, China, Iran, and others pose the same danger.

Number 1: Climate Change

poles earth heatwave climate change
Credit: Hannes Grobe/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 4.0

Climate change has warned us of its dangers for over a century. With higher average temperatures, hotter summers, melting sea ice, severe droughts, more wildfires, and more powerful hurricanes, it is evident that climate change is not a myth.

International efforts to limit carbon dioxide emissions have stumbled. Catastrophic climate change could instigate wars, famine, and revolution, warns Luke Kemp and coauthors.

Furthermore, climate change could trigger wars and contribute to the spread of infectious diseases. The United Nations warns that without ambitious policy, near-global adoption, and successful implementation, total societal collapse is possible.

While these warnings are not predictions, they are calls to action. The threat is real, but there are ways to effectively reverse the danger.

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