Biotechnology could pose “extinction-level” risk to humanity, says research institute

extinction human biotechnology (andres rueda)

What threats pose an "existential risk" to humankind? Pandemic? Nuclear war? Super-volcanic eruptions?

Apparently, none of the above. Instead, a research paper recently released by the University of Oxford's Future of Humanity Institute argues that advances in biotechnology, molecular nanotechnology and artificial intelligence pose the greatest species-obliterating risk. The paper, titled Existential Risk Prevention as Global Priority and published in Global Policy, seeks to highlight the importance of giving serious consideration to the concept of existential risk.

An international team of scientists, mathematicians and philosophers at the institute have been investigating the biggest threats to our species. Synthetic biology and genetic engineering could have unintended destructive consequences, reports an article on the BBC website. Dr Seán O’Heigeartaigh, a geneticist at the institute, said “We are developing things that could go wrong in a profound way. With any new powerful technology we should think very carefully about what we know – but it might be more important to know what we don’t have certainty about.”

The Cambridge Project for Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge also highlights developments in biotechnology as an extinction-level risk to our species – citing that because the seriousness of these risks is difficult to assess, that in itself seems a cause for concern.

What do you think? Do you think advances in biotechnology actually pose a serious risk, or do you think the concerns raised by the researchers are unfounded? You can join our discussion on LinkedIn, or leave a comment below. Want more from Total BioPharma? Sign up to our free newsletter.

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