play with fireWe all “play God” or “play with fire” at some point. What we do affects people’s lives, even their chances of longevity. But are these things really so bad?

Had your ancestors chosen not to play with fire, life might not be nearly so comfortable or warm now. Expressions like “you play with fire” or “you play God” come into play prominently in my futurist areas of interest. It happens typically when scientists or inventors are doing something destined to change the lives of millions. The terms are quite fitting, but I smile when they are used. To me, to “play with fire” represents something good when it comes to science.

Humans are different from animals. Perhaps most significantly, we are the only ones who “play with fire”, the only species capable of destroying itself. There is a very realistic possibility that it could come to this eventually. But that very same destructive tendency is also the reason for humanity’s greatest accomplishments. Space rockets, combustion, knowledge of chemistry and physics.

A scare once existed among a small few that the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) might create a black hole or some other peril understood only among quantum physicists and cosmologists. There were an even smaller few who would have told you it is worth the risk.

Technological civilization is a tightrope. We who promote it so earnestly are well aware of its risks. Worse for those who want to panic and try to backtrack, we are already too far along the tightrope to stop or to falter now. Humanity has to continue its course of discovery and development, even if it produces nightmarish risks. We are not animals anymore and there is no turning back.

Scientists already know how the genome works. There are some people among environmentalist circles who shall want to panic about this – “leave Mother Nature alone!” No. What has been discovered has been discovered. No one can rewind.

If an area of science isn’t properly understood and its possibilities tested – if the controversial breakthroughs in areas like artificial life or artificial intelligence are not exhaustively pursued, they will just stay on the shelf. Then, they will be continued during some more chaotic – and less ethical – period in history. Let these great scientists continue to expand the zones of knowledge and all possibilities now, and continue the path we have been on.

Better yet, kindle some bright ideas from my short book Catalyst about more on this subject. If you are too impatient to listen, read.

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