How Serious And Urgent Is The Threat to Humankind Survival?

Many experts are alarmed by the threat of superviruses and other super pathogens created by laboratories, especially now with artificial intelligence (A.I.) assisting in analysis, design, and building. Laboratories have already been doing this kind of work for decades, modifying some of the most dangerous viruses for work on vaccines and treatments. The technological capabilities are increasing rapidly, and accelerating further with A.I. now.

Private biotechnology laboratories compete and race to create the next new vaccines and other biotechnology products.

Militaries of governments also spend a lot of money to support research, planning to compete with adversaries, in “what if” situations, imagining their competitors using bioweapons to gain advantage in war. You can be sure that many things they know will be classified at the highest levels of secrecy.

Academic institutions continue to advance technologies, and often publish in public and open source ways whereby anybody could copy and use the technologies. (However, often they are supported by contract to a private corporation and bound by some confidentiality agreement which makes some things secret at the time.)

Individuals are threats, either as employees in a laboratory, or in a home or warehouse or other unconventional location with a relatively small do-it-yourself (DIY) laboratory. "DIY bio" aka “biohacking” is a major trend.

Artificial intelligence (A.I.) is increasing capabilities. A.I. can be used to design viruses and pathogens, as well as build them by new synthetic biology printers. Humans might not understand all they are working on and all the dangers. Also, A.I. can make mistakes in analysis, and human operators may overlook issues.

(Please note that I am not discussing COVID-19 and the “lab leak theory” because it has become too political, and far more threatening biological threats have been created in the USA and other places as discussed below whereby we have just been lucky to date that they haven’t leaked out and spread.)

This short document introduces the basics, the timeline of events up to this time, the current status and outlook, the solution of settlement of the lunar south polar region, and a short summary of the future of humankind and A.I.

The Basics of Biotechnology, Synthetic Biology, and A.I.

Genetics is about DNA and RNA. We can modify genes in DNA and RNA from living organisms in nature, by human technology to create modified organisms which did not exist before. For example, Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are common in foods already, to increase production, resist pests, and for other purposes. However, we can go very far beyond historic GMOs.

A.I., or Artificial Intelligence, is leading to computers having thinking abilities far exceeding the human brain, which helps advance laboratory work very quickly and far beyond human thinking capability. With advanced A.I., we can create far more dangerous pathogens than before advanced A.I.

Nanotechnology is manipulation of matter at the atomic and molecular "nano" scale. Applications of nanotechnology include self-replicating molecular machines which have no origin in the natural world and could overwhelm life. (The word “nanotechnology” has also been used in promoting products in a way which is different than the “nanotechnology” we are discussing here.)

I have combined these into the acronym “G.A.I.N.” – Genetics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology.

Of course, the acronym’s likeness to the word “gain” gives it more meaning, as laboratories which try to achieve research “gains” for money making purposes can also accidentally “gain” human extinction.

The word “gain” is also commonly used to describe what biotechnology laboratories try to achieve: so-called “gain-of-function research”. There are two common acronyms for “gain-of-function research”: “GoF research”, and “GoFR”.

GoF research is very common in the world, whereby companies modify viruses to make them:

  • more contagious/transmissible so they spread faster and easier,
  • more virulent, for more severe symptoms,
  • change how they infect a host, such as to evade immunity and vaccinations, and/or
  • make a virus which infects one species (such as birds) able to infect another species (such as humans, or laboratory animals such as mice or rabbits for testing).

Why do companies perform GoF research? The main reason is to develop vaccines and therapies for possible future mutated viruses, and to better understand viruses. However, there may be other motivations, too. Of course, some governments may want to be prepared with bioweapons and treatments to prepare against adversaries. There is an arms race part of biotechnology.

There is additional important technology and terminology, too, in this field:

Synthetic Biology is similar to genetics, but instead of only altering existing natural DNA, synthetic biology also includes the creation from scratch of new DNA which does not occur naturally, i.e., is entirely alien to Earth’s biosphere, usually by using known genes as the building blocks, but can be artificially created genes as well. This can be a LEGO-like building process. This is potentially a far greater threat to life on Earth than tinkering with naturally occurring genetics, e.g., by potentially creating alien pathgens which humans and other life on Earth has no natural resistance to.

"Synthetic biology" is similar to both "genetics" and "nanotechnology". In public discussions, the three terms have been mixed up.

Synthetic Biology on Wikipedia: "What separates synthetic biology from genetic engineering is that rather than altering an already existent DNA strand, synthetic biology puts these 'blocks' together from scratch to build an entirely new strand of DNA which is then placed into an empty living cell. These new cells can be 'built' to perform a number of functions that could greatly benefit humanity. These operations do not exist in nature. ... Biosafety and biosecurity concerns are the understandable response to this new science and technology ..." (reference: “Syn-Bio-Wiki”)

This technology is well advanced, and we may nearing the threshold for a worldwide disaster.

The menu at the top of the page lists the pages of this website, shows you exactly where you are within, and suggests the next page to read.

Please note that you can rate this page at the bottom. Any feedback is appreciated. This is a lot of work and a huge challenge, so encouragement is appreciated.

This website is intended to be a brief summary. Much further details can be found in two other websites written and curated by the author of this publication: -- details on the best solution for survival of humankind, for a wide range of people, from newcomers needing an introduction to engineers looking for the state of the art. It includes a professional publications database, and tries to track who is doing what, for collaboration, coordination, and working efficiently to reach our goals. -- further details, where G.A.I.N. is an acronym for Genetics, Artificial Intelligence, and Nanotechnology, which are extinction threats we must try to prevent for the survival of humankind.

You can reach this website by any of the following:

If somebody types either "humanity" or "mankind" instead of "humankind", they will still be redirected to this Humankind URL, so it doesn't matter which of the three you type. While "humanity" is stated more often, sometimes habitually, I think "humankind" better applies to this context. I also agree with this analysis of usages of humankind and humanity. Nonetheless, you can put any of the three between "help" and "survive" and you'll still get this same website. (Of course, uppercase/lowercase doesn't matter.)

The author of the text of this website is Mark Evan Prado. Copyright © 2023 by Mark Evan Prado, All Rights Reserved. If you want a printable, PDF copy of this presentation, such as for printed distribution rather than an electronic link to this website, please send me a request. I am trying to keep it within a few dozen pages of size A4 or 8.5x11 inches, in reasonably large print, and in simple to understand language. I'm not doing this for money nor ego, I'm doing this to try to help humankind survive, i.e., not go extinct. It is our responsibility within this generation. Please contact me for any collaboration or uses.

If you have any requests or comments, you can also connect with me, Mark, at +66-811357977 (+66-8-1135-7977) and I am on WhatsApp and Line, plus other apps. I am in Thailand but you can send messages any day at any time.

In the purpose and meaning of life, we are parts of something astronomically greater than just ourselves individually. (The author sees individuality as just temporary, and has a panentheistic outlook on the Universe. That's somewhat typical for some of us physicists.) The author is easygoing and is trying to selflessly help create a sustainable collaboration of individuals, companies, governments, academic institutions, and other organizations for the survival of humankind.

As President John F. Kennedy ended his inaugural speech in 1961, I'll end this the same way:

"Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on Earth God's work must truly be our own." [End of speech. Bold and italicized emphasis added.]

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