Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies is an astonishing book with an alarming thesis: Intelligent machines are “quite possibly the most important and most daunting challenge humanity has ever faced.” In it, Oxford University philosopher Nick Bostrom, who has built his reputation on the study of “existential risk,” argues forcefully that artificial intelligence might be the most apocalyptic technology of all.
In its Voices of Tomorrow feature, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists invites graduate students, undergraduates, and high school scholars to submit essays, opinion pieces, and multimedia presentations addressing at least one of the Bulletin's core issues: nuclear weapons, nuclear energy, climate change, biosecurity, and threats from emerging technologies.
On July 16, 1973, 28 years to the day after the first nuclear weapon was exploded at Alamogordo, New Mexico, a line of dump trucks containing the detritus from the uranium used to make plutonium for the test bomb showed up at the West Lake landfill in Bridgeton, Missouri. Assuming the trucks were loaded with clean fill, the landfill superintendent waved them through without charging a dumping fee. A truck driver said later that he and others used the black stuff in their home gardens. By October several thousand shipments were illegally dumped at the landfill in north St.
I was an outsider to the climate negotiations in Paris, and I was astonished and delighted to hear of the 1.5 degrees Celsius target for peak warming that was agreed to in the last days of the negotiations, rather than the 2 C standing target for the last decade. It doesn’t sound like a huge difference, but we are already essentially at about 1 C, so 1.5 C represents half as much further warming.
With the Iranian nuclear deal complete, attention has shifted from Iran’s nuclear program to its ballistic missile program. Despite the deal, Iran has actively maintained its long-range ballistic missile program, and its leaders clearly recognize the program’s strategic value.
The story has been covered extensively in Germany and even in Israel, but it seems to have largely escaped notice in the United States: Israel has acquired a fleet of advanced German submarines that—Prime Minister Netanyahu has signaled—carry nuclear weapons pointed at Iran. The Obama administration’s pretense that it knows nothing about any nuclear weapons in Israel makes intelligent discussion about the dangers of nuclear weapons in the Middle East all but impossible. It has also vastly diminished respect for America’s broader worldwide effort to control the spread of nuclear weapons.