Technology

10 possible disasters of the future

This world ... After these words should begintwo-minute roller with slow blasts, fireballs and burning people. Why not? Whether it is dangers from space, the rampage of natural forces or the results of human arrogance, emotions will be provided - at least for those who are not used to them.

But real disasters are not single events,generated by simple, solvable problems, and they do not end with the last payment of the loan. And it's not a matter of scale. The line that separates an incident from a disaster is determined by the willingness of the community and the ability to cope with the consequences. Vaccines, rapid response teams and early warning systems can shift this line towards recovery, while poverty, corruption and ignorance shift it to disaster.

Good or bad, technology andunprecedented control over life and death is likely to allow the calamities of the future to unfold along lines unique to world history. Before you are possible disasters of the future, which few will leave indifferent.

If genetic manipulations go wrong

Let's dive into destruction with one of the most vivid examples of gin in a bottle from the world of technology: genetic manipulation.

For a long time experts in ethics andScience fiction writers fear that our genetic ambitions will outrun our security guarantees. We could accept the rudeness and cost of modern technology and hope that the reliability and adaptability of life will take care of everything else. But new methods, such as CRISPR-Cas9, have turned genetic manipulation into an accurate and very dangerous tool. What once took years and cost little luck now requires weeks and several thousand dollars.

On the positive side, this technology canletting us change genome parts to resist a fungus or, for example, give a mosquito a genetic defense against malaria. But where the old methods of genetic modification lead to a degeneration of the population, new methods may allow the transfer of genes through generations. Simply put, we can destroy the whole look of everything because of one mistake.

In April 2015, a group of Chinese scientistsdescribed the process of using CRISPR-Cas9 when editing unviable human embryos. Scientists have called for freezing experiments with genes at such an early stage, and many journals refuse to publish such studies for ethical reasons. But bioethical standards tend to lag behind technology and who knows what the less ethical side could take?

Global pandemic

When it comes to biological factors,that affect the whole species, people often can't do anything. The outbreak of the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa in April 2014 raised concerns about how far and fast a dangerous disease can spread and how poorly prepared we can be for it. And we can, because a few days after the World Health Organization declared this region free from Ebola in 2016, another case appeared.

History has shown that a pandemic at all timescould be useful, at least for survivors. In addition to the traumatic emotional impact, the pandemic creates certain prospects for poor countries and helps to restore the environment, unless it kills too much of the population. In addition, the pandemic changes the principles of the functioning of society, helps to organize infrastructure and forces people to spend their non-working hours caring for relatives.

A disease that kills 80-90% of all people onThe earth can bend this balance to a hopeless social and technological catastrophe. The more we travel, we change the image outside the window and closely communicate with animals of different species, the more we increase our risks.

How likely is one of these events? It is hard to say. Over the past few centuries, a pandemic has occurred every 10-50 years, with the most recent of them being the global pandemic of the H1N1 flu in 2009 and 2010. From this it follows that during your life another pandemic may well occur.

Coronal mass ejection

Coronal mass emissions (CME), or emissionsThe plasma and magnetic fields of the corona of the sun have much in common with pandemics. They follow the cycle, although much more regularly (conditions are formed every 11 years or so). They also cause always different, but potentially destructive damage, and their scale of destruction depends, in particular, on how strongly people are tied up in technology.

In 1859, amateur astronomer Richard Carringtonobserved a solar flare that heralded a geomagnetic storm. The release of magnetized plasma that hit the Earth created a sufficiently strong electric charge to power the telegraph transmission for several days. Since then, astronomers have watched Carrington's events (powerful solar storms) and associated CMEs with growing concern.

So far we have been lucky. The alignment of the magnetic field mitigated the impact of a powerful surge in October 2003. Nevertheless, it led to losses of hundreds of millions of dollars, disrupting flights, the operation of satellites and energy networks. In July 2012, another emission bypassed us.

In the worst case, such an outburst can lead topower outages and loss of GPS satellites. This means that there will be no trade, no cooling, no supply of fuel or water - and these are trillions of dollars of losses and irrecoverable losses. Some experts are happy to predict that disruptions will last only a few weeks. But a quick recovery will not be possible if the release of the coronal mass melts all the transformers. In this case, the risks of social disruption and mass starvation will be very real.

Peak phosphorus

Speaking of mass hunger, did you know thatIs there a theoretical limit to how many people a planet can support? Basically, it is due to the available solar radiation, but there are other limitations that we could achieve long before it.

In the 18th century, economist Thomas Malthus stronglyworried that the population is growing much faster than food. Today, many scientists brush off its prevention, but at the beginning of the 20th century there was a food crisis due to a shortage of nitrates and ammonia. German chemists Fritz Haber and Karsh Bosch have won us some time by inventing the nitrogen fixation process, which removes gas from the air and turns it into fertilizer.

Today there is a shortage of another nutrient.substances - phosphorus. Our bodies need phosphorus to redistribute energy and build cells and DNA. But our demand is likely to exceed supply in 30-40 years. And moving toward biofuel options only deepens the crisis.

Currently a large amount of phosphoruslost in the waste of people and animals. Most of what remains remains in the trash can or is washed off into drains. Replenishing these sources and finding new ones could gain us a little time, but everything has its limits — even the bounty of the land.

Decreased thermohaline circulation

Like most natural mechanisms, the systemglobal climate has a certain amount of built-in tools. But overcome a certain limit and the factors of coercion, or environmental processes that affect the climate, will prevail. Feedback may emerge that will change the climate for decades or centuries ahead.

One nightmare scenario will be implemented whenglobal climate change will melt arctic ice too fast. The freshwater that results will spread throughout the North Atlantic Ocean will close the cycle of global currents vital for maintaining the global climate. This cycle is called thermohaline circulation. The thermohaline circulation controls the heat and density of the currents, and its movement helps to distribute heat throughout the world. For example, Atlantic surface waters are warming near Florida and heading northeast to Europe, which partly explains the temperate maritime climate in London, although it is at the same latitude as Calgary in Canada and Kiev in Ukraine.

Studies show that in the pastThe thermohaline circulation has already stopped, apparently due to the massive discharges of fresh water, which occur during the descending of glacial periods. Whether such a cancellation will take place due to climate change is not yet clear, but the bulk of the data says that the thermohaline circulation should slow down.

In the worst case, the effects of a miniature ice age, combined with other effects of climate change, will be seismic.

Cascadia Super Earthquake

Western states of America and Canada are threatened by powerfulevent: earthquake of magnitude 8.0 or higher. The Cascadia subduction zone — a 1,000-kilometer zone where the Juan de Fuca slab slides under another North American slab — is now at rest, which lasts long enough for inexperienced residents to set up everywhere in the cities.

To present the scale of the super earthquake,which can erupt, it is enough to recall how a similar event affected the opposite side of the Ring of Fire in Japan. In 2011, the Tohoku earthquake of 9.0 points and the subsequent tsunami claimed the lives of 18,000 people, caused an accident at Fukushima and resulted in damage of 200 billion dollars. It all happened in an area ready for earthquakes, just not so big.

A similar earthquake and tsunami has a chance for 1 to10, to hit the Pacific Northwest in the second half of this century. With current readiness and awareness, such an event will destroy the corridor Interstate 5, which runs along the West Coast, will kill thousands of people and leave millions homeless and hungry. And with a probability of 30%, a smaller earthquake will occur approximately in the same time frame. In short, there was only a matter of time.

Asteroid killer

For those who love to indulge in disasters, nature offers many possibilities. Just ask the dinosaurs.

February 15, 2013 over Chelyabinsk in Russiathe fireball burst, knocked out the windows, but did not harm anyone to death. Had he fallen to the ground, tens of thousands of people would have died. In spite of everything, this event showed that the Russian roulette with the participation of the Earth and the asteroid was not over yet.

A few hours after the incident,The cosmic pebble three times the size of Chelyabinsk has whistled between the Earth and its artificial satellites. If this killer of cities fell on a densely populated place like Moscow, there is a high probability that there would no longer be life within the Moscow Ring Road. Millions of people would die.

Of course, 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered by water andmany large land regions remain sparsely populated. In the rare case when a massive stone really falls on the Earth, it has a very small chance of striking a settlement. But the destroyer of states or even planets will definitely arrive, the only question is when. Perhaps earlier than we think.

For example, Apophis is an asteroid the size of a goodlittle house - can kiss our atmosphere in 2029 and possibly crash right into us in 2036 on the way back. Astronomers are optimistic, thinking that this will not happen, but if it does, we will need to greet a piece of the atomic bomb at 300 megatons, as well as subsequent fires, hunger and interruptions in energy supplies.

Global economic collapse

While experts and politicians like to pissabout the global economic collapse, to increase their electorate, economists are not sure of the chances of such a collapse. This is a tricky problem, partly because forecasts can distort the system that they seek to describe, and partly because a collapse can come from disparate sources, from deep and prolonged depression to rampant inflation. Economists are still trying to unravel the collapse that has already occurred.

While China is trying to raise its stock market,while the European Union is struggling to determine economic policies that are suitable for the diverse needs of its member states, the indicators are a little less obvious. Against the background of the deterioration of the global climate and the struggle for energy, we can expect a deterioration.

Or not. After all, this is the nature of this dismal science: risk and uncertainty.

Singularity

Some say that the world will end in fire, others in the ice, and still others in artificial intelligence. One, second, third ...

On the one hand, it’s hard to imagine that we canbe so stupid that we create the monstrous Frankenstein without the "off" button. But do not forget that some garage hackers or industrialists, obsessed with a thirst for profit, could set a firm goal - to create artificial intelligence by all means.

Our further fate can be determined at allnot a robot squeezing us by the throat. A society unprepared for massive job cuts may face no less serious a problem than the notorious Hollywood robot. If robots start destroying millions of jobs, people will not be in a better situation.

Optimists insist that these issues are resolvedby themselves, and economists - that technology creates more jobs than destroy. But even ignoring the risk that super-intelligence machines create that can self-improve and destroy humanity in a split second, we will still face one of the most transformative moments in social and psychological history. Even our unreadiness can be catastrophic.

Third World

It’s probably difficult to imagine a disaster more seriousthan the world facing the threat of widespread tactical nuclear strikes, cyber attacks and biological weapons. We have not seriously considered this idea since the days of the Cold War. But when experts from different areas were interviewed at the World Economic Forum, which event will be the most likely and worst in the next 10 years, guess what they said?

Causes of a possible Third World War closelyintertwined: lack of food and water security, financial crises, climate change, infectious diseases and profound social instability. Add to this the rise of nationalism, dubious territorial claims on the part of large states, Japanese militarization and terrorist pseudo-states, and the picture will begin to inspire fear.

Of course, it can be argued that our globalconnectedness prevents any large-scale conflict; we just lose more than we got. The United States is the largest consumer of Chinese products, and China is American banks, and their economies are so closely related that any conflict will result in mutual guaranteed destruction of the economy. But even during World War I, few believed that it would happen. At the same time, the prospect of nuclear extinction did not threaten people. They also did not have access to satellite intelligence and instant communications. A third world war would be irrational, but not impossible.