- There is no denying that advances in science and technology have brought us prosperity and improved our lives tremendously [...] but there is a flip side: some of the advances that may lie ahead of us can actually make us worse off, a lot worse.1
- There is a widely held conception that progress in science and technology is our salvation, and the more of it, the better. This seems to be a default assumption, not only among the general public, but also in the research community including university administration and reseach funding agencies, all the way up to government ministries. I believe the assumption to be wrong, and very dangerous. There is no denying that that advances in science and technology have brought us prosperity and improved our lives tremendously, or that further advances have the potential to bring glorious further benefits, but there is a flip side: some of the advances that may lie ahead of us can actually make us worse off, a lot worse, and, in the extreme case, cause the extinction of the human race.
We urgently need to find ways to push scientific and technological progress in directions that are likely to bring us good, and away from those directions that spell doom. This cannot be done if we stick to the erroneous view that all such progress is good for us. The first thing we need is to be able to distinguish those advances whose potential is mostly in the direction of prosperity and human flourishing from those whose potential is more in the direction of destruction and doom, and we need to find safe ways to handle those technologies that come with elements of both. Our ability to do so today is very limited, and my ambition with this book is to draw attention to the problem, so that we can work together to improve the situation, and avoid running blindfolded and at full speed into a dangerous future.