A day after listening to Ray Kurzweil at Learning Without Frontiers 2012 I had the immense pleasure of listening to Martin Rees at the same conference. As Lord Puttnam said in his introductory remarks, Martin Rees is one of the most remarkable men, not just in the UK, but in the world. (You can hear some of what Lord Rees covered by checking out his TED talk.)
The focus of Rees’ talk was on science teaching and science education (since the conference was about the future of learning), but he commented on Kurzweil’s talk of the previous day. Rees pointed out that one of the corollaries of an exponentially increasing level of technology is that individuals will soon have access to technologies that could destroy civilisation. If the world is a village, what happens if the village idiots get their hands on biological weapons that could wipe us all out? We might never get the chance to see whether Kurzweil’s Singularity will happen.
Again, I don’t see these Doomsday scenarios as being a satisfying solution to the Fermi paradox. But it’s a depressing thought that such scenarios might cause one particular technological species, namely us, from making our presence felt in the universe.