Those of us who experienced The Andromeda Strain, Soylent Green, and a host of other Charlton Heston movies can probably appreciate this article from The Atlantic. I say that and mean it because people who didn't see those end of the world apocalypse movies don't really understand how mankind can end itself, overnight, accidentally, without even trying. Frank Herbert wrote a scary book about this and leaves people like Atwood in the shade when they imagine a future horror that could be.
We now have people who are seriously talking about engineering a genetic kill specific to a particular predator that they dislike, a lot. They propose to kill it to death in a small place using a tool like the black plague and nothing bad ever happens when fools or governments use weapons of mass destruction to kill a housefly problem.
I was reading the latest research on global extinction events. It turns out the planet did it. All the nonsense about asteroids killing the dinosaurs, or smoking....is piffle. It looks like vulcanism did it and it did it again and again and again and I just wish global warmists would step into a busy street and look up. I'm so tired of them and the rest of people who confidently predict that if we just adopt a little bit of socialism and send just a handful of deserving scum to the gulag, life will be perfect and go on forever and ever..
Right now, at this moment, we have the power and the tech to make a gene that can be unleashed on the planet, spread around it in days and can be tailored to kill very specific entities. I'm a specific entity. The world won't even know what hit it. It will be the Spanish influenza on steroids but pointed at very specific targets.
I can think, offhand, of a dozen organizations that would do it in a heartbeat and I know people who could make it happen. If you read, have a look at John Ringo's books on zombies. I'll give you the money quote from the endnotes.
The same can be said of biotechnology. I recall a friend who worked in the Tropical and Emerging Diseases Lab, a Class Four Facility (highest contagion) located on the UGA campus and associated with the CDC who's team was attempting in the early Millenia to build a virus following the prescription of the first person to do so from scratch. They tried time and time again to replicate it and were unable.
In 2005, five years later, a Newsweek reporter, buying materials from EBAy, did the same thing, literally, in his kitchen. (With Spanish Flu no less. He was later fired as was the editor who approved the story since they LAID OUT THE ENTIRE RECIPE!)
That is how fast biotech advances. Moore's Law, to some extent or another, applies to all emerging technologies. One day it takes a genius, the next day anybody with the right IQ and background finds it to be child's play.
Second point: A few years ago, at a bio conference in London, a researcher proudly stood up and showed that his lab had proven they could create an infection that would infect a vast swath of population (choose species, genus, phylum or family) but only kill ONE INDIVIDUAL based upon that individual's DNA.
When he asked for questions one member of the audience stood up and proclaimed:
"We've known that in (university research center) for the last five years but we were never STUPID enough to speak about it in PUBLIC!" At which point things became shouty.
By the same token, one can create a pathogen that will infect a vast population, but only target certain races. And, yes, there are clear markers to target race for values of race. It's a term of art in biology, not a term of politics. Westphailians, for example, have distinct genetic markers. Now, Westphalians are MOSTLY still found in Westphalia but the markers are found in a huge population elsewhere (especially the US.) But Negroid? Easy. Han Chinese. Very easy. Jewish. (Racially.) Blonde. (See Live Free Or Die) Etc. 'Northern European' (white) is just as easy. Choose your target or immune population. But be careful. You may not understand your population a well as you think. (The 'crazy' president of Iran is genetically turk but most of his supporters are fars which is a variant of Northern European.)We are beginning to play with fire and those leading the charge introduced one killer after another into a gene pool with no natural predators except those enormous salt water crocodiles which the birds could see coming a million miles away.
You just know human extinction is going to be done by some dorks that just wanted to make a better world. Which, you know, brings Serenity to mind.