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The Great pontificators worry about "The Null Prophecy"
On Monday, September 11, 2017 at 9:06:04 AM UTC-7, hanson wrote:
Nobel laureates cite top dangers to human survival -- overlook gravest one,
the "The Null Prophecy"
Fifty Nobel Prize winners recently listed  what they believe are the
greatest risks to humankind. What I find significant is that most of them
unwittingly pointed the finger at the unintended consequences of our science
Unibomber beat them to it, he was of course, a cracker.
Of the top 11 dangers the Nobel laureates flag, fully seven implicate
humanity's wayward innovations: environmental degradation caused by people;
nuclear warfare; drug-resistant disease-producing organisms; the
proliferation of fake news via the internet; artificial intelligence;
powerful habit-forming drugs; and Facebook's potential widespread invasion
Being a physicist, I hasten to note this is not how it was supposed to turn
As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, I was captivated by Disney's
Tomorrowland. The monorail. Flight to the Moon. General Electric's Carousel
of Progress. The message being hyped to the theme park's wide-eyed attendees
was clear and simple: science was the savior of the world; it was going to
make life easier, safer and better for everybody.
In many ways, science has delivered on the promise. I can now step into a
plane and within hours be anywhere in the world. The lifespans of many
people have increased dramatically because of improved sanitation and
medical care. Automated space-borne envoys and sentries have treated us to
stunning, close-up photos of our cosmic neighborhood and help protect us
from space weather. And on and on.
Yet in my lifetime that very same scientific prowess has unsealed a legion
of Pandora's boxes with consequences that now threaten our very existence.
For instance, iatrogenesis - any affliction caused by medical treatment gone
awry - is now the third-leading cause of death in the United States, after
heart disease and cancer. For victims, a state-of-the-art medical cure
proved to be worse than the disease.
Clearly, science is both a blessing and a curse. But which will win out?
It's a deep, pressing question I pose in my new thriller, "The Null
Prophecy." More importantly, it's a question each of us needs to take
seriously, as we plunge headlong into an immediate future defined by science's
latest novelties: the web, robots spyware, and genetic engineering.
Disturbingly, the question does not appear to have occurred to the Nobel
Prize winners. Worse, despite everything, they still cling to the quaint,
self-serving notion that scientists know best.
"Science is needed to address these problems and also to educate the public
to create the political will to solve these problems," says one laureate.
"The blatant disregard for scientific opinion is going to lead to a
worldwide crisis," predicts another one.
What are some of the reasons ordinary people might dare to question the
authority of scientists?
"We are usually from wealthy backgrounds," says molecular biologist Peter
Agre, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2003. "We have investments,
tidy homes and read books - they do not respect that."
So, let us get this straight. According to these bright lights the only
solution to the existential dangers science has helped to create is . more
unbridled, unquestioned science.
For me, that remarkably arrogant mindset is, in fact, the greatest threat to
humankind. And I'm not alone in thinking so.
Scientist and author Sir Arthur C. Clarke said it this way: "It has yet to
be proven that intelligence has any survival value."
Or as the Book of Proverbs warns: "Pride goes before destruction, a haughty
spirit before a fall."
Article by Michael Guillen Ph.D., former Science Editor for ABC News,
taught physics at Harvard. His novel, "The Null Prophecy," was published in
 Do great minds think alike? The THE/Lindau Nobel Laureates Survey
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