Today, the world comes to an end. Well, in theaters, anyway. 2012 has us thinking about the apocalypse ’round these parts (so uplifting, we know), and that led us to wondering about all the crazy technology that’s all around us — technology that at one point or another caused widespread fear that it was all over. It’s happened several times, yet we’re still here. (Pics)
Make sure to knock on some wood before you click Continue, because here’s six technologies that haven’t ended the world — yet.
1. NUCLEAR WEAPONS
The mushroom cloud is probably the most iconic symbol of humankind’s potential self-destruction. The first nuke was used offensively back in 1945, and the thought of that kind of power has gripped the world ever since. The Cold War and its insanely logical “Balance of Terror” stalemate are over, but there are still enough nuclear weapons in existence to wipe out civilization as we know it.
The Matrix. Terminator. Battlestar Galactica. (Well, the Cylons made a serious effort, anyway.) If cinema is any indication, we’re basically begging for a war against the machines. Still, unless its name is Asimo, real-life ‘bots are lucky if one can even stand up. At the same time, a robot doesn’t need a human shape to be deadly — consider all the drones and combat ‘bots we’ve got fighting overseas right now. Each generation gets more autonomous and more deadly. Could this be a slippery slope?
3. GENETIC ENGINEERING
The idea of genetic engineering sets off all kinds of fantasies: an army of super-soldiers, a takeover by giant ants, the act of cloning destroying what’s inherently human. Hell, even giant roosters, as you can see above. What offsets these fears is the promise of diseases being cured, longer lifespans and greater control over our bodies in general. Only time will tell if it’s worth it.
Speaking of genetic engineering, remember StarLink corn? Back in ’01 the biotechnology industry was inserting toxin-producing genes into corn genomes, which was thought of a good way to combat pests. The flipside was that it could also inflame new allergies in humans, or worse, though it was never intended for human consumption. It became a media disaster when StarLink corn made its way onto dinner tables, and even into Taco Bell. The idea of a biotech disaster became more real, then, as it could lead to a destruction of our food supply or even super-resistant pests and weeds that could do the same.
5. PARTICLE ACCELERATORS
Particle accelerators are on everyone’s mind thanks to the Large Hadron Collider operated by CERN. And why not? We hear they’re trying to create miniature black holes and such (well, if they ever get it working). Even though scientists everywhere have discounted the possibility of those black holes being dangerous, there’s no question that the energies these accelerators unleash are vast. They’re designed to probe the most basic elements of creation — it’s not inconceivable that they might find something unexpected. And potentially devastating.
Ever heard of a “gray goo” attack? If you’ve read Prey by Michael Crichton, then you’re in the know: it’s a swarm of nanobots that roam around and deconstruct everything down to a molecular level, turning it into sludge. Crichton’s nanobots were actively homicidal, though even a “dumb” swarm could accomplish the same. We’re nowhere near worrying about this yet, but nanotechnology is growing in leaps and bounds, so who knows?
BONUS: Area 51
Truth is, Area 51 is probably nowhere near as fascinating as we all give it credit for — and yet, it inspires awe in almost everyone and hysteria in some. It’s representative of why some folks wear proverbial tin hats. Still, whatever it’s hiding, it hasn’t managed to ruin everything. No aliens flying forth to take over the world. No zombies spilling out of it. No spiderpigs. Well, yet.