NEW YORK (Reuters) - Scientists at the World Economic Forum predicted on Friday a grim future replete with unprecedented biological threats, global warming and the possible takeover of humans by robots.
"Extreme pessimism seems to me to be the only rational stance," said Sir Martin Rees, Britain's Astronomer Royal, at a session devoted to the future threats and opportunities presented by scientific advances.
He was especially concerned about the development of new biological weapons that could easily fall into the hands of dissonant groups or individuals and cause widespread devastation.
Even if governments tried to regulate and limit the spread of dangerous technologies, Rees said such efforts would probably be little better than current attempts to control the international drugs trade.
A foretaste of what might lie ahead was provided by the anthrax panic that gripped the United States last year after several letters carrying the deadly germ agent were sent to political leaders and media figures through the mail. The perpetrator has not been found.
The forum, which brings together politicians, business leaders, academics and intellectuals, has presented a number of sessions devoted to science. However, few politicians have attended them, preferring to devote themselves to discussions of foreign policy.
At a session on climate change on Thursday, Robert Watson who chairs an international panel on the issue said the earth's climate would warm by at least 1.4 degrees centigrade in the next century even if urgent action was taken right now to stem emissions of carbon dioxide. If insufficient action was taken, warming could be as great as 5.8 degrees.
He predicted more droughts in some areas and floods in others, more intense cyclones and massive social and economic disruption especially in poor countries.
Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University in England said that while rich nations could and would protect themselves against flooding by building sea defenses, a nation like Bangladesh could expect ever more frequent and severe flood disasters.
Howard Ris, President of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said climate change could well lead to future conflict as nations found themselves confronted with unmanageable new challenges.
"Climate change will become a security issue," he said. "Hundreds of millions of people will find themselves fighting new threats to survival."
Another threat posed by science revolves around the development of artificial intelligence which could eventually blur the distinction between humans and robots.
Rodney Brooks of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said: "It is not too far-fetched to see a situation where we put implants into our brains before too long."
Brooks said humans would become more like robots as they implanted more and more technology into their bodies, while robots would be based on biological material and become semi-human in their own right.
Robots were already taking a greater role in warfare and might soon be capable of making their own battlefield decisions without human control, he said.
And there came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth...
Small and very deadly, micro flying machines are being designed to swarm the battlefields of the future.
According to the Bible an unprecedented war will occur in the future. It will be fought on land and sea, in the heavens above, and in the earth below, in the physical and spiritual worlds. It will include "Michael and his angels [fighting] against the dragon; and the dragon [fighting] and his angels" (Rev. 12:7).
Heretics will join the battle, calling upon "idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and of wood" (Rev. 9:20) to convene their evil powers against the Christian God. They will unite with "unclean spirits....to gather them to the battle of that great day....[to] a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon ["Mount Megiddo"]" (Rev. 16:13-14;16).
The fowl of the air will "eat the flesh of the mighty" and hybrid locusts will sting the enemies of God until the omnipotent Christ utterly repels the forces of darkness and destroys the New World Army.
At least that's the way fundamentalist Christians believe it will happen.
When reading about the war mentioned above I find particular interest in Revelation 9:1-11 where it speaks of synthesized insectoids and arthropods emerging from the bottomless pit to join the End-time battle.
Down through time myriad preachers have terrified sinners with tales of these demonic locusts bursting upward from out of the abyss and torturing unfortunate earthlings during a future time of great tribulation. But is that really what the prophet saw?
Some scholars believe what 'John the Revelator' actually beheld was future technologies, and that he simply referred to them in terms he understood; i.e. a military helicopter was perceived as some kind of giant locust whose wings sounded like "many horses running to battle" (Rev. 9:9).
A report by Jim Wilson in the February edition of Popular Mechanics presents evidence which may support this interpretation of the Book of Revelation. It may also shed light on a different, much older Biblical subject, 'the lord of the flies.'
"Ron Fearing has the future of warfare at the tip of his finger," writes Wilson. "It isn't pressing on the trigger of a laser death ray or button of a doomsday device. It's holding a stubby-winged mechanical bug."
"Flies are one of the most stable and maneuverable of all flying animals," he goes on to quote Fearing as saying. "They are the jet fighters of the animal world."
Evidently the Pentagon agrees and is working with engineers and biologists to create a lethal arsenal of micro-mechanical fighting bugs that combine insect aerodynamics with GPS navigation and molecular electronics.
Micro air vehicles (MAVs) represent one of the most fantastic opportunities for military surveillance and weapons delivery. "When perfected," Wilson points out, "Fearing's stainless steel and Mylar robot flies will be able to flap their way into the most secret places on Earth--the bunkers where Saddam Hussein plans his genocidal campaigns, and where Chinese spymasters plot their raids on America's nuclear weapons laboratories."
Consider these scenarios from Popular Mechanics:
>Alan H. Epstein, of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), recently described....GPS-guided MAVs landing on structurally critical points along bridges deep in enemy territory. Each MAV would carry a small piece of shaped-charge plastique. Responding to a command transmitted from half a world away, the MAVs would explode in sequence, bringing down the bridge with only one-hundredth of the amount of explosives required by a pinpoint-accurate smart bomb.
Some military strategists envision swarms of robot flies fluttering onto battlefields. Scout flies, equipped with miniature cameras, would do the work of reconnaissance teams by eavesdropping on tactical communications and sending back real-time videos of enemy positions. Sniper flies would seek out field commanders, recognizing them by the iris patterns of their eyes....Then, they would become the 21st century incarnation of the tribesman's poison dart as they hurled themselves into the carotid arteries of their targets.
Meanwhile, titanium-tipped robot flies too small to register on radar screens would gather in the weeds at the end of enemy runways. Then, rising as a swarm, they would allow themselves to be sucked into jet engine air intakes. The MAVs' titanium bodies would fracture the whirling turbine blades and send a rain of red-hot fragments through thousands of pounds of jet fuel and ammunition.
While such stratagems obviously appeal to the highest levels of US military intelligence, theologians will be troubled by glaring similarities between MAV technology and fundamentalists predictions of an end-time spiral by mankind into a cataclysmic war where locust-sized weapons are "given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power" (Rev. 9:3).
When one considers the exponential achievements of modern science and humanity's newfound interest in playing god, the inevitability of soul-free soldier-clones keeping eye on a biometric chip-implanted humanity with the help of GPS controlled micro air vehicles...well, it just kind of takes the fun out of wondering where our once-idyllic world is headed.
On the other hand, fundamentalists Christians may have been right all along. Perhaps our pretentious sciences are forcing Armageddon!
The Bible--a book that has been repeatedly proven to possess astounding mathematical codex's and incomprehensibly accurate predictions states that Jesus Christ will return at a future time and will defeat a well-equipped Antichrist army made up of soldiers that kill without conscience. Could these be clones?
The Bible also depicts flying locust-weapons. Are these micro air vehicles developed by the military?
We also note the 'MAVs' of Revelation 9 torment those who receive the Mark of the Beast. Are we looking at GPS enabled biometric chip implants?
Either way it's interesting to note that while the locust hoards of Revelation 9 are presided over by Abaddon and may have been created in human laboratories, the flying weapons of the Apocalypse do whatever Jesus commands, as every member of humanity ultimately will.