Every January, a group of experts uses midnight with a symbolic value to indicate how close it is to the total annihilation of the planet and, according to a group of experts, today more than ever, humanity is in danger.
The Doomsday Clock was set at 90 seconds to midnight, representing a “continuous and unprecedented level of risk,” according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that sets the clock.
Last year, the clock had also been set at that time, primarily to reflect the danger posed by the war between Russia and Ukraine.
As for the threats affecting the planet, some continue and others have multiplied in the last year, such as the weakening of nuclear arms reduction agreements, the climate crisis and the fact that 2023 was the hottest year ever recorded. , new genetic engineering technologies, artificial intelligence and the danger of misinformation.
The scientists responsible for the clock pointed out that the decision not to change it compared to last year should not be a cause for complacency.
“Make no mistake: resetting the clock when it is 90 seconds to midnight does not indicate that the world is stable. Quite the opposite,” warned Rachel Bronson, president and CEO of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.
Furthermore, he noted: “It is urgent for governments and communities around the world to act. The Bulletin remains hopeful (and inspired) to see the younger generations leading the change.”
On the other hand, scientists also gave encouraging news, since there has been some progress in the response to climate change, and the world is moving in the right direction. But overall, the crisis continues to threaten the future of humanity.
They also noted that, although concern about artificial intelligence has increased, even leading experts have failed to discern whether it poses a truly existential risk. In fact, it would only pose a real danger to humans if it were connected to a physical system. And if it could control nuclear weapons, for example, it would be a nuclear problem rather than an artificial intelligence problem.
Herbert Lin, a member of the time-setting council and a researcher at Stanford University, noted that many countries have recognized the need to control artificial intelligence. Some have taken steps to address the governance issues necessary to limit the risks involved, although its use for warfare and other dangers continues to attract interest.
The Bulletin recognized the possibility of feeling helplessness and depression in the face of such dangers and, in a statement, they noted: “It is in the interest of all inhabitants of the Earth to reduce the probabilities of a global catastrophe caused by nuclear weapons, climate change, advances in the biological sciences, revolutionary technologies and the widespread corruption of the global information ecosystem.”
However, they also stated that such was “the nature and magnitude [de las amenazas] that no nation or leader can control them… The task of leaders and nations is to work together under the premise that shared threats demand common action.”
And they added: “As a first step, and despite their deep disagreements, three of the main world powers (the United States, China and Russia) should begin a serious dialogue about each of the global threats exposed here. At the highest level, these three countries need to take responsibility for the existential danger the world faces right now. They have the ability to bring the world back from the brink of catastrophe. They should do so, clearly and boldly, and without delay.”
The count was established in 1947 with the participation of scientists who had worked on the Manhattan Project to design and build the first atomic bomb, and was created to simply demonstrate the danger that nuclear war poses to the Earth and humanity.
The clock was first set at seven minutes before midnight, but its hands have moved back and forth over the years, based on threats to the planet.
In 2020, it stood at 100 seconds to midnight and remained unchanged for the next three years. In 2023, it was located at 90 seconds and has remained there since then.
While originally intended to warn of the risk of nuclear armageddon, the Doomsday Clock has evolved to take into account the likelihood of other emerging threats, such as climate change and advances in biotechnology and artificial intelligence.
The Bulletin is an independent, not-for-profit organization, led by some of the world’s most eminent scientists.
Article prepared with additional agency reports.
Translation of Noelia Hubert