Christian Long

Martin Rees: Is This Our Final Century?

In TED Talks on April 19, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Reflection by BENEDIKT K.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Martin Rees: Is This Our Final Century?

Human progress has rapidly increased its own rate over the last few hundred years. Where it previously took hundreds of thousands of years to come up with the concept of agriculture, its now takes but a year to make major, groundbreaking discoveries in science, and about as long for a nations economy to collapse in a spectacular fashion. It is evident by now that human progress cannot be held up anymore, nor can any individual keep himself out of the debate of what to do with this progress, it, quite simply put, determines the fate of all of us. if there is a global catastrophe, be it economic as now, nuclear, or of any other sort, there cannot be a single individual that keeps himself out of the debate, without being decided for.

The potential of the human being to do good is unquestionable. Be it in religious facilities or from a government, in many nations the sick and homeless are being cared for, or at least there is an honest attempt to establish a system where this is true. But we cannot ignore the human potential for evil either. Nuclear bombs, genocides of entire people, or wars over resources are all examples of evil, the obstruction of one beings rights by another.

However, the two cannot be separated without loosing both, as Martin Rees points out. Every medal has a backside, every decision leads to something unforeseen in a world where nothing is not connected to eevrything else. Whether the good elements outweigh the bad is up to the individual. Is the threat of nuclear War and nuclear terrorism worth the peace forced by nukes and the scientific advancements made due to the discovery of fission? Are the benefits that a healthcare plan woth its cost?

Martin Rees asks these questions for science, but really they are applicable to all of human society. Nothing we do is without long term, unforeseen effects. But we need people who attempt to regulate these changes and put a check on them. As much as I would personally like an unregulated system, the rapid development that humanity undergoes today is too unstable a concoction to not control. But I do not like the idea of some office position made to regulate scientists, to control the ideas they may find. The obligation of regulation is up to every individual, primarily the scientists themselves; not to the government, but to the people that are concerned with it. And not within a single nation either, but within the community of humans that the world represents.

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