How likely is it that a single person or group could kill off the human race?

Or a large percentage thereof?

Its fairly common on relevant threads for people of a misanthropic bent to state that they would be a lot happier if humanity or almost all humans were wiped out. Well maybe not happier but certainly view it as a potentially good thing.

I find this attitude a little disturbing and hope that nobody in a position of power is of like-mind.

How likely or possible is it that if someone was inclined to take things a step further from mere rhetoric they could put their plans into effect, I’m envisaging a scenario like that in a fairly recent movie, which shall not be named in case someone hasn’t seen it, where a scientist releases a supervirulent disease and kills off pretty much everyone.

Should this remain in the realms of fist-shaking scenary-chewing supervillianary or is it an actual possibility?


btw this thread is not a challenge! :wink:

Read The White Plague, by Frank Herbert. In that story, one guy does it.

Well, the nuclear chain of command is under fairly close control, but…

North Korea sells a nuclear weapon to someone, who sells it to Hamas, who use it against Tel Aviv… Israel responds… The balloon goes up… A billion die by fire…

An Indian/Pakistani nuclear war might also spread…

Bioterrorism is also cheerful ground for rampant speculation…

Could one person start a major war? I think, yes: a political assassination, or an act of terror, timed to coincide with some other major controversy or public disturbance, could spiral out of control. It isn’t greatly likely – the fact that we’re still here suggests that there are at least some safeguards!

I agree. The nukes are still there. I don’t think one person or a small group of people could be confident that they could wipe out most of humanity but it is certainly possible. What if some small group took control of Russian ICBM’s somehow and launched a couple at Manhattan and Washington D.C.? The Cold War is over but those things travel incredibly quickly and there is only one carefully scripted response to that. It is full-out nuclear war and the U.S. is perfectly ready to carry out that out even today and that will start a huge chain reaction worldwide.

I stay right next to Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado Springs, Co every year for vacation. They certainly act like they are prepared to respond to any nuclear threats to the U.S. mainland instantly even today.

No. Nothing short of a planet killing asteroid could get us all.

Even if some Lex Luthor, or Doctor Doom if you will, combined all out nuclear war with super-volcano detonation, shutting down major ocean currents, melting the ice caps, a pandemic, zombies, terminators, and dogs and cats living together – we’d be here.

One percent of 7 billion is 70 million. Anthropologist think that during the dawn of modern man, our species hit a population bottle neck of perhaps as few as 10,000 individuals – and we still ate and humped our way out of that one. I don’t think anything short of a planet-wide firestorm could get us under 10k. And if that happens, the soundtrack will be killer.

Even with nukes and Bio weapons, it would be nearly impossible to take down all of the Laps, Inuit, Bedouins, Navajos, Mongol and Amazonian tribes.

Biological engineering…nanotech…

It might be possible. If it happens, it will most likely happen by accident.

I caught a blog a few months ago…can’t find it now, and I have absolutely no idea how accurate it is. But the basic idea was that a research group for a major chemical producer was genetically tailoring a bacterium.

This was a modification of a bacterium that is commonly found in soils around the world, and what it does, as I understand it, is break down soils and release nitrogen which is then taken up by plant roots. It apparently exists in a commensal relationship with plants.

The modified bacterium was to produce alcohol as part of its workings on material it was breaking down. This was seen as a win-win situation. The bacteria could be bred and used to assist in large scale composting, and the alcohol that was produced could be collected and used for fuel. So at once, we get fertilizer and fuel. Great idea, right?

Well, goes the blog message, testing of this bacterium using some sort of sterile soil tests (I didn’t get this…made little sense to me…) led to conclusions by the gov’t that this bacterium was safe and did not pose an environmental hazard.

However, some intrepid soul ran tests with this bacterium in soil that included live plants, and in every test all the plants died. Seems that the bacterium would happily displace the unmodified variety on and around plant roots, and the alcohol it produced then poisoned the plants.

The blogger then indulged in some heavy breathing and went on about how, had this bacterium been released for the intended purpose, it would inevitably have killed all plant life on Earth.

So, is this true? Accurately stated? Representing events that really occurred? I have no idea. I recall thinking at the time that the site appeared credible and the information provided was at least plausible. However, I’m a physicist, not a geneticist or any kind of plant biologist. I know in general terms what the state of the art is in genetic engineering, but I certainly don’t know in detail. I’m also somewhat skeptical about the claim that any single bacterium could kill everything, but I can’t say for sure that this is not credible.

So, if it happens, it’ll happen something like that. In our incredible wisdom, we’ll build something that we don’t think is dangerous, and it’ll get away from us, and it’ll kill us.

Is it possible? Probably.