Doomsday Clock maintains risk
In a reminder of global perils, the Doomsday Clock remains at 90 seconds to midnight.
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has announced this year appears to be mirroring last year's proximity to global catastrophe.
The Clock, a metaphorical symbol of humanity's closeness to self-annihilation, was first set in 1947 by scientific leaders and architects of the atomic bomb, including Albert Einstein and J Robert Oppenheimer. It serves as a stark warning of the dangers posed by advanced technologies, including nuclear weapons and climate change.
The members of Bulletin’s the Science and Security Board say nuclear risk, climate change, biological threats and disruptive technologies all pose interlinked and compounding existential threats.
Experts from various fields have voiced their concerns and insights on the update to the Clock.
Associate Professor Vitomir Kovanović from UniSA - an expert in AI and learning - says the Doomsday Clock is a constant reminder of the potential consequences inappropriate use of technologies can have on humanity and the Earth.
He warns against “the danger of over-relying on technology and the resulting lack of competence, especially for those making important decisions”.
“While AI can supplement and enhance human capabilities, it also provides opportunities for unprecedented cost-cutting by using a less-skilled workforce armed with AI tools,” he says.
“For example, rather than investing in high-quality education, we will instead rely on future professionals to get their insights from AI systems, cutting the costs spent on education.”
“The potential consequences can be catastrophic when AI makes a (rare) mistake.”
Dr Tilman A Ruff, from the University of Melbourne, describes the current situation as “teetering near the edge of unprecedented danger”.
“Nuclear-armed states building nuclear weapons and delivery systems designed to last till the end of this century belies their obligation to negotiate a world freed from nuclear weapons. They are barely even talking about talks,” he says.
“We face a three-way arms race between China, Russia and the US, exacerbated by accelerating military uses of artificial intelligence. The only thing the figleaf of nuclear deterrence is reliably deterring is nuclear disarmament.”
Dr Kristin Alford, a futurist at the University of South Australia, views the Doomsday Clock as a measurement of failure, but also as an opportunity to inspire change through imagination and active hope.
“The accelerated countdown of the Doomsday Clock is a potent reminder that our current systems are no longer serving us,” Dr Alford says.
“Yet it also acts as a useful reminder that the systems we operate within have changed in the past and that these will change in the future. We have the ability to imagine alternatives and create change.
“We know that in our work engaging with young people, that dystopic visions are ultimately unsustainable. It’s important to recognise reality, but this needs to be the start of a longer conversation.
“A conversation that inspires people to identify different futures, create alternative pathways and empower people collectively to enable large scale change.”
Optimistically, the Doomsday Clock not only signals a call to action but also a beacon of hope, reminding the world that every second is a chance to steer its collective future towards a safer, more sustainable horizon.