The threat of an “engineered pandemic” many times larger than the global level covid outbreak Experts warn that the threat of nuclear war needs to be treated with the same urgency.
The Center for Long-Term Resilience has warned in a dire report that biological warfare, a virus leak from a laboratory and out-of-control artificial intelligence pose an extreme threat to the very existence of humanity. Yet they are being ignored by policy makers in the UK and around the world.
report title future proof, calls on the government to seize the “once-in-generation opportunity” to learn lessons from COVID-19 and prepare for these and other extreme risks.
It says the “tragic events” of the pandemic have highlighted the need for the UK to change its preparedness against biological threats. And it warns that the risk of bio-engineering diseases by humans – either by accident or by design – is increasing “in step with the rapid march of biotechnological advances”.
Synthetic biology and the like development gene-editing technology This means the tools for engineering dangerous viruses are more accessible than ever.
gain-of-function research, where scientists engineer viruses to be more deadly or more contagious to measure how close they are to a naturally occurring disease, is already being carried out in some laboratories around the world under strict protocols. Used to be. And there are concerns that, if it falls into the wrong hands, such technology could be misused with disastrous consequences.
“This threat is of greater concern than naturally occurring epidemics in this century and therefore requires equal attention,” the report said.
The warning comes amid concerns that Kovid may have escaped from a laboratory in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the disease first emerged in 2019.
These fears, once confined to the darkest corners of the internet, were given US President Joe Biden boosted credibility last month, when he ordered intelligence agencies to investigate the origins of the pandemic.
Toby Ord, one of the report’s authors and senior research fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University, believes there is a one in six chance that a catastrophic event will occur in the next century.
However, he added: “I’m actually very optimistic about our future. I think things can get a lot better because we will work hard to make that happen.”
“But there are dangers that could derail this and the global pandemic has reminded us that humanity is still vulnerable to things that can really set us off.”
He said engineered pandemics and AI developed at human-level intelligence or higher and that “that doesn’t align with human values” pose the greatest risk.
Researchers say nuclear war and climate change also threaten humanity on a similar scale, but are already on the radar of governments and academia.
Mr Ord said the Biological Weapons Convention, which effectively bans biological warfare, is “less and less powerful”.
“The annual budget is less than a typical McDonald’s and that’s partly because it hasn’t been given the powers to actually inspect and do it. It needs to be brought in line with other treaties and it should be brought to a level playing field for nuclear weapons.” should be regarded as a threat.”
The report states that emergency planning tends to focus on the most recent crisis rather than looking ahead – hence why government pandemic plan One was based on the influenza virus, not the threat of a coronavirus or any other type of disease.
Angus Mercer, a co-author of the report and chief executive of the Center for Long-Term Resilience, said the COVID pandemic provided a unique opportunity to consider risk in a different way.
“It would be a great shame if the sum total of the medium-term policy response to COVID was focused entirely on naturally occurring pathogens,” he said.
He continued: “We draw parallels in the report with the world after World War II. We built international institutions, we established the NHS, we built national insurance.
“What are we going to do after this tragic event, to ensure that we protect our security not only from what we have faced in the past but what we may face in the future?” he said.
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