Governments issuing orders to shelter in place and restricting movement, the continued threat of both domestic and foreign terrorism when a nation is caught in the vice grip of a pandemic, nuclear dirty bombs and rogue nations, cyber-warfare forcing a grid-down or financial collapse, and artificial intelligence rendering human thought irrelevant to its calculations are all threats to our future safety. They’re manmade threats that increase in their catastrophic effects because of the already omnipresent threat we are realizing of the pandemic. Is an apocalyptic end of days merely a combination of threats we should already be aware of and working as a global society to eliminate?
Barring global cooperation and what seems like an uncontrollable slide into further decay, how can we prepare to survive and thrive in a post-man-made catastrophe world?
In part 1 of this 2-part blog series, we looked at disasters that are likely to occur naturally because we live on this planet. Threats like hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and pandemics are catastrophes that happen naturally, and we can’t prevent or avoid them. We also included natural threats that may be intensified because of humans like climate change and food shortages.
The last threat discussed in part 1 was civil unrest and civil war, which introduced you to man-made threats. These man-made threats are the items we’ll discuss for part 2 of this blog series. We will look at the probable man-made threats that we possibly face in the immediate future. Knowing these probable disasters will help us greatly in our preparation. We will know what we need to prepare for and what priorities we need to focus on to increase our odds of survival.
So, let’s continue with the next point in this 10-part series.
One of the main roles of democratic governments is to protect their citizens at all times. We talked about civil unrest in part 1 and how a government’s natural response to curb it is declaring martial law. Though that response might, under some circumstances, be necessary, some governments tend to overreach their authority and implement draconian policies for the sake of “protecting its citizens.” This is not unusual and the world’s history has many examples of government overreach. One example is the USA Patriot Act, which expanded the government’s ability to invade privacy, override due process, and punish dissent, as a response following the 9/11 attacks. But the supposed temporary measure is still largely in effect to this day, almost 2 decades after that terrorist attack.
This Coronavirus pandemic is raising concerns about government overreach. An article from Public Radio International said that “under such circumstances, history has shown there is a very fine line between protecting citizens and eroding their civil rights — and that line can be exploited in times of great uncertainty.” One example given in the article was when the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu, ordered the country’s security service to use cellphone data to identify citizens that need to be quarantined. Mass surveillance is being proposed and implemented in many countries to track and identify infected people. In March 2020, the U.S. government sought the help of tech giants in Silicon Valley including Facebook, Microsoft, Cisco, Twitter, and IBM. The government asked for assistance in tracking the outbreak and to prevent the dissemination of false information. The White House wanted assistance to stop the spread of conspiracy theories and harmful hoaxes by obtaining intelligence on citizens before potential hoaxes went viral. Though it is important to keep track of the virus to stop it from spreading and keeping misinformation in check, this is still a bit concerning since it gives the government an ability to censor and control information, misinformation, and propaganda.
Many experts believe that implementing stricter policies during a pandemic is necessary. This is especially true if citizens are too stubborn to follow even basic precautionary protocols. However, there should still be a fine line between what’s appropriate and what’s overreaching. In some ways, when the citizenry protests against even basic government measures or spreads willingly or unwillingly conspiracy theories, they open the door for governments to step in and regulate the masses further. This always leads to government overreach. This threatens your security as the government’s attempt to minimize the threat of its own citizenry.
Terrorism is another man-made threat that we are probably going to face in the immediate future. But this threat is not new. Terrorism had been a problem for our society for hundreds of years already. From the Guy Fawkes Gun Powder Plot of 1605 to Carlos Jackal, to the atrocities of 9/11, and the Boston bombing, the world has frequently suffered at the hands of those who would desire to inflict terror on an innocent population, and this is going to continue. from lives lost, terrorist attacks also bring the possibility of government overreach. As previously discussed, the USA Patriot Act was a result of the 9/11 attacks. Terrorists could also cause more damage if they were to target critical areas like our power grids and food supplies. This could compound the threat further, resulting in a higher and more prolonged death toll.
With terrorism likely to continue being a threat to us, just knowing it is going to be a continuous problem is not enough. We will need to have a plan to ensure our survival. The National Center for Disaster Preparedness conducted a series of studies and showed that 72% of Americans are anticipating future terror attacks. However, less than 50% have an emergency plan for themself and their families. After terrorist attacks like 9/11 and the Boston bombings, people are left wondering what they can do to keep their families safe. One of the main things you can do is to work together with your community. An article from the Metropolitan Police in the UK said that communities defeat terrorism. This means being vigilant in your neighborhood and reporting any suspicious activities or things out of the ordinary that you hear or see can help to keep you safe. People in stationary vehicles keeping an eye on a building or structure, people using recording equipment, including camera phones, and seen making notes or sketches of security details, or someone who is suspiciously paying close attention to specific entry and exit points, stairwells, hallways, or fire escapes could all be planning for future terrorist attacks. You should also know what your community’s emergency plans are in case a terrorist attack happens.
You should have an emergency communication plan with a relative or friend who lives far from your area, so they won’t be affected by the same disastrous event. You also need to establish a meeting place for you and your family in case you’re all separated and rendezvousing at home isn’t a possibility. Plan multiple escape routes out of your urban environment, should you need to escape your location. Find a place that is safe and be prepared to bug out to a rural location or to shelter in place.
In the nuclear age, the threat of nuclear war or nuclear bombs will always be present. Even if countries are hesitant to use their nuclear arsenal because of the Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) theory and the automation of nuclear counter-strikes, their nuclear arsenal can still be a problem if the country falls apart or they become overly corrupt or autocratic. Collapsing countries are also at risk of losing their nuclear inventory, and criminals might take advantage of the situation and steal nuclear weapons for use or resale. Aside from nuclear weapons, we are also in danger of dirty bombs. These are man-made bombs that combine conventional explosives, like dynamites, with radioactive materials. They are not as destructive as actual nuclear weapons, but they are very disruptive, especially if you consider their impact once it detonates. If dirty bombs were used to take down the World Trade Centers during the 9/11 attack, it would have killed thousands, and the dust smoke that engulfed the surrounding area would have been radioactive, affecting many more Americans for years into the future. The radioactive poisoning won’t kill immediately, but it can cause long-term health risks like cancer. The cost would also be more devastating since it would have to include cleaning up the radioactive materials. The affected area could also be uninhabitable for decades.
Though a dirty bomb can be disruptive, it doesn’t mean that there is nothing you can do to prepare for it. According to an article from Slate, one of the crucial things you need to do is to make sure you don’t panic. The chances of being exposed to a harmful dose of a radioactive substance are very slim, even in the worst-case scenario, if you remain calm. Panicking during this period will only make the situation worse. If you find yourself within the vicinity or in the immediate path of dust clouds from the explosion, stay indoors and close all windows and turn off air conditioners and cover ventilation systems. If you happen to get exposed, take a shower, and safely dispose of your clothes and shoes. It’s also crucial to have a battery-powered radio that you can use to listen for updates. You also need to know where the shelters are in your area. You never know when you need to evacuate your home and go to a shelter, so knowing ahead of time where it is will likely be critical. Again, you should prepare in advance a “bug out” bag for you and your family. And, as mentioned earlier, know all the possible escape routes you can go to in case there is a blockage or if one route is unpassable. A physical, paper map of your area and a compass will also be helpful in case you get lost.
Another threat that we are likely going to face in the immediate future is cyber-warfare. This doesn’t seem like much of an immediate problem since not having access to the internet might not seem too bad or getting individual credit cards hacked is more of an individual problem and a nuisance. But cyber-warfare is not just about losing internet connection or getting credit card information stolen. One form of dangerous cyber-warfare is using malicious software to destroy critical infrastructure or even nuclear processes. Hackers infiltrate a system and remain undiscovered by launching their malicious code in critical computer systems. Stuxnet was one such attack on nuclear fuel refining centrifuge systems. The code was designed to sabotage the centrifuge refining of uranium while showing normal operating conditions to the facility monitors. It has since been proven that Chernobyl, an explosion at a nuclear power plant over 30 years ago that has left large swathes of land uninhabitable to this day, was a result of one simple miscalculation and process in the plant’s operation. Another form of cyber-warfare is the Dedicated Denial of Service (DDoS) attack. In this type of attack, hackers overload and overwhelm a server so it won’t be able to respond to legitimate requests. A DDoS attack on our grid, could create blackouts across the country, and easily launch the country into chaos. I did an in-depth blog and video on how cyber-attacks can bring our nation to its knees. I also provided some tips on what you can do to prepare should those events happen. I’ll post a link to the blog in the description section and I encourage you to watch it to learn more about the dangers of cyber-warfare and how you can protect yourself from it.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The last threat of our top ten is often viewed as a future existential threat. However, this doesn’t mean that we should not learn more about it and prepare. This threat is Artificial Intelligence or A.I. As technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, more and more businesses are leaning towards automation. This means that they are leaving certain functions and responsibilities in the hands of Artificial Intelligence. One example is self-driving vehicles. Facebook is already using AI, as it ranks and censors posts. So, how is this a threat to us? An article from The Conversation describes AI as something that is “particularly good at any task that requires an enormous amount of repetitive processing.” If this sounds like the job that you are currently doing, then you should make your preparations since AI could start performing your responsibilities. Relying too much on AI is also dangerous since its programming is only as flawless as the people who programmed it.
But AI presents a far greater threat than just our livelihoods or the danger of over-reliance. One of the biggest threats that world-renowned billionaire and serial entrepreneur Elon Musk fears is Artificial Intelligence. “The danger of AI is much greater than the danger of nuclear warheads,” Musk said. He fears digital super-intelligence, which is when an AI that possesses intelligence that far surpasses that of the brightest and most gifted human minds thinks without the controls and constraints of humans. Many experts in the field dismiss Musk’s fears, but he argues that it’s fundamentally flawed to think that there won’t be an AI that is going to be smarter than any person on the planet. The issue with this is can that smartest machine be controlled? As the late astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said, “one can imagine such technology outsmarting financial markets, out-inventing human researchers, out-manipulating human leaders, and developing weapons we cannot even understand. Whereas the short-term impact of AI depends on who controls it, the long-term impact depends on whether it can be controlled at all.” This might all sound far-fetched, but as AI continues to improve and develop at a rapid rate, it’s not hard to imagine digital superintelligence happening soon. Some of the leading minds already view it as a threat, and that should be good enough for us to consider it as well. Many things that appear in movies become the horrors of the future. Is it unreasonable to think a Terminator movie’s Skynet may be in our future?
But there are ways to prep against AI. Realize that every skill you have, from baking to gardening to building water purification systems, builds your skillset against AI and increases your chances of survival should AI make a decision without calculating your life into it.
As we conclude this 2-part blog series, we tackled the man-made threats that we are likely to face in the immediate future. Starting with government overreach, which is something that is already happening in many parts of the world, including the U.S., due to the Coronavirus pandemic. As governments grapple to contain the virus, they have implemented drastic measures that hamper certain liberties and freedoms that people enjoy. Though they claim it is for the greater good, there is a fine line between protecting citizens and eroding civil rights. The second threat, terrorism, will likely continue to be an issue, and we must be always prepared for it. Another disaster that we need to prepare for is a nuclear threat. As we continue to live in the nuclear age, the possibility of a nuclear war or a dirty bomb attack is always going to be there. Knowing what to do before, during, and after a radioactive attack is very important to ensure you and your family’s survival.
Cyber-warfare is another immediate threat that we need to keep an eye on and prepare for. It’s not just about losing our internet connection or getting our credit card details stolen. Terrorist hackers could target critical infrastructures like power grids or water treatment facilities and cripple our nation. So, being prepared for these eventualities is crucial. The last man-made threat discussed that could be a huge problem in artificial intelligence. Though this is still considered an existential threat, AI is already here, and it is already starting to threaten certain livelihoods through automation. But its most dangerous threat is when AI becomes smarter than even the brightest humans on this planet. When this happens, it’s not hard to see AI not wanting to be controlled by humans and over-ruling any commands given to it.
As with all of the top ten threats discussed, there is likely a blog and video I have already recorded on this channel, so we have only scratched the surface here. I encourage you to take a look at the other blogs on my channel. The goal of this 2-part blog series is not to cause fear, but to provide information on what is likely to happen. This will help you make the proper preparations and increase your chances of surviving. If you found this blog informative and helpful, please feel free to like and share it with your friends, family, and community. If you have any comments, anything you would like to share, or any potential threat you would like to see more in-depth in a future blog, please feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
As always, please stay safe out there.