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.
These days, projects and agreements that were once flagships of US-Russia cooperation can suddenly give rise to bitter dispute. The most recent controversy involves a cooperative program that commits Russia and the United States to eliminating a significant part of their weapon-grade plutonium stocks. Experts knew there was potential for tension, but it still came as a surprise when Russian President Vladimir Putin, speaking at a meeting with journalists in April, launched a broadside against the United States, accusing it of not living up to its side of the deal.
If the creators of the performance piece The Bomb sought to make an impact on their audience at their Broadway debut last weekend, they succeeded: At least three people fainted at the first show. (No one was permanently injured, and all recovered, the organizers said.)
Two recent polls, one conducted by Gallup and the other by the University of Texas at Austin, seem to show public opinion about nuclear energy headed in different directions. A third survey, the spring 2016 nuclear energy survey by Bisconti Research for the Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), found favorability numbers about the same as last year. Moreover, the percentages favoring nuclear energy in the three surveys diverged widely. In looking for the reasons for the vast differences in the poll results, one finds useful lessons about public opinion.
Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper sent shock waves through the national security and biotechnology communities with his assertion, in his Worldwide Threat Assessment testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in February, that genome editing had become a global danger.
A record number of Americans now view global warming as a serious threat and blame human activities as the cause. But there is apparently a generation gap out there when it comes to accepting the scientific evidence. And an ethnic gap, a gender gap, and a gap in political leaning—along with whether one can be considered one of society’s “haves” or “have nots.” So, who are these climate deniers? What is their profile?