Taming the monsters of tomorrow

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Science  12 Jan 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6372, pp. 152-155
DOI: 10.1126/science.359.6372.152

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In Mary Shelley's novel, the scientist Victor Frankenstein fears that creating a female companion to his unhappy monster could lead to a "race of devils" that could drive humanity extinct. Today, some scientists worry about scientific advances in the real world that could kill all of humanity, or at least end civilization as we know it. Some two dozen researchers at three academic centers are studying these "existential risks"—including labmade viruses, armies of nanobots, and artificial intelligence—and what can be done about them. But critics say their scenarios are far-fetched and distract from real existential dangers, including climate change and nuclear war.