Mass extinction, ‘Great Dying’ could happen again, scientists warn

The largest extinction event in Earth's history was caused by global warming – and our planet may be in for another enormous wipeout, scientists warn. Continued climate change could lead to a repeat of the Great Dying, which killed off 96 percent of life on Earth around 250 million years ago. Long before the dawn … Continue reading “Mass extinction, ‘Great Dying’ could happen again, scientists warn”

The largest extinction event in Earth's history was caused by global warming – and our planet may be in for another enormous wipeout, scientists warn.

Continued climate change could lead to a repeat of the Great Dying, which killed off 96 percent of life on Earth around 250 million years ago.

Long before the dawn of the dinosaurs, Earth was populated with plants and animals that were mostly obliterated after a series of massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia.

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The mass extinction, triggered 252 million years ago, essentially set life on our planet back to square one, and was followed by a period spanning millions of years in which life had to multiply and evolve once more.

Now researchers have shown that the Great Dying, which killed 96 percent of Earth's ocean creatures, was caused by global warming.

As volcanoes belched greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, Earth's oceans heated up, and its warming waters could no longer hold enough oxygen for life to survive.

Scientists at the University of Washington warned that man-made climate change could trigger a similar event within the next few hundred years.

"Under a business-as-usual emissions scenarios, by 2100 warming in the upper ocean will have approached 20 percent of warming in the late Permian, and by the year 2300 it will reach between 35 and 50 percent," said study author Justin Penn.

"This study highlights the potential for a mass extinction arising from a similar mechanism under anthropogenic climate change."

The Washington team ran computer models to simulate the effects of the Great Dying on Earth's ancient oceans.

They showed that sulfur and other greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere starved Earth's oceans of 80 percent of their oxygen.

This is because as the oceans heated up, creatures and plants used up more oxygen as their metabolism increased.

About half the oceans' seafloor, mostly at deeper depths, became completely oxygen-free and uninhabitable to almost all life on Earth.

The situation in the late Permian – increasing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that create warmer temperatures on Earth – is similar to today, researchers warned.

"This is the first time that we have made a mechanistic prediction about what caused the extinction that can be directly tested with the fossil record," Mr. Penn said.

"It allows us to make predictions about the causes of extinction in the future."

This story originally appeared in The Sun.

‘Collapse of civilization’ predicted at UN climate summit

You're probably used to hearing Sir David Attenborough's sonorous, British voice describe the miracles of pufferfish courtship and blooming stink flowers in nature documentaries like "Planet Earth" and "Blue Planet." But today (Dec. 3), the naturalist and filmmaker delivered a far more somber monologue at the United Nations Climate Summit in Katowice, Poland.

"Right now, we're facing a man-made disaster of global scale," Attenborough told delegates from almost 200 nations. "Our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change. If we don't take action, the collapse of our civilizations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon."

Attenborough was chosen to speak at the summit as part of the U.N.'s new "people's seat" initiative, which encouraged citizens of the world to share their personal messages and videos explaining how climate change has already affected their lives. Several of these messages were shared as part of Attenborough's speech today; they included footage of people standing in front of the ashen remains of their homes, which had been incinerated by wildfires. [6 Spectacular Species Named for David Attenborough]

"The world's people have spoken," Attenborough said. "Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now."

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  • This meeting of the U.N. was convened so that leaders of the world could negotiate ways to turn their pledges made at the 2015 Paris climate accord into a reality. Per the Paris accord, 184 countries agreed to implement emissions-reduction policies to help limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels over the next century. Most of the world's nations are not on track to meet this goal; in fact, a global temperature rise of 4 degrees C (7.2 degrees F) seems far more likely right now.

    According to a recent U.N. climate report, even limiting warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) this century could result in serious consequences for the planet's cities and ecosystems. Those effects include increased flooding and severe weather around the world, the destruction of up to 90 percent of the ocean's coral reefs, mass animal extinctions, and food shortages brought on by regular droughts. A recent U.S. climate assessment, released quietly over Thanksgiving weekend by President Donald Trump's White House, affirmed these findings and the impending danger of climate change.

    "Leaders of the world, you must lead," Attenborough concluded. "The continuation of our civilizations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands."

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    Originally published on Live Science.

    Elon Musk thinks humans will have to merge with machines to overcome their ‘existential threat’

    Elon Musk has sounded the warning alarm again regarding artificial intelligence, telling Axios that humans must merge with machines or risk becoming an endangered species.

    Musk said that the goal of his new artificial intelligence company, Nueralink, is to help humanity "achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence and to achieve a democratization of intelligence such that it's not monopolistically held by governments and large corporations." In doing so, Musk thinks it could help even the playing field with digital intelligence, which he believes "will exceed biological intelligence by a substantial margin," calling it "obvious."

    The 47-year-old tech exec added that humanity is way behind in understanding the fear of whether AI will destroy humanity, akin to "children in a playground."

    ELON MUSK JOINS OTHER EXPERTS IN CALL FOR GLOBAL BAN ON KILLER ROBOTS

    He was asked if humans could be relegated to a lower status or on small pockets of the Earth due to the rise of machines, Musk did not hesitate to say yes. "When a species of primate, homo sapiens, became much smarter than other primates, it pushed all the other ones into a very small habitat," Musk said. "So there are very few mountain gorillas and orangutans and chimpanzees — monkeys in general."

    Musk gave examples of artificial intelligence harming humanity, including asassin drones that could look for a person using the face ID chips in smartphones or even propaganda to "influence elections."

    "My faith in humanity has been a little shaken this year," Musk said in the interview.

    This is not the first time Musk has sounded the alarms on artificial intelligence.

    In 2015, Musk, along with other luminaries including deceased physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and a number of other professors, AI experts, robot makers and programmers, wrote an open letter that called for research to be done on how AI will affect society, both the potential benefits and pitfalls.

    "We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial: our AI systems must do what we want them to do," the letter states.

    Last year, he called AI the "biggest risk we face as a civilization." In a July 15, 2017 speech at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island, Musk said the government needs to proactively regulate AI before there is no turning back.

    “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said in comments obtained by tech website Recode. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

    Musk added that regulation of AI needs to be done now because of the bureaucratic nature of it.

    ELON MUSK SAYS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL BEAT HUMANS AT 'EVERYTHING' BY 2030

    “It [regulation] takes forever," Musk said. "That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

    In September 2017, Musk went even further, going so far as to say that AI could be the cause of World War III.

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

    Elon Musk thinks humans will have to merge with machines to overcome their ‘existential threat’

    Elon Musk has sounded the warning alarm again regarding artificial intelligence, telling Axios that humans must merge with machines or risk becoming an endangered species.

    Musk said that the goal of his new artificial intelligence company, Nueralink, is to help humanity "achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence and to achieve a democratization of intelligence such that it's not monopolistically held by governments and large corporations." In doing so, Musk thinks it could help even the playing field with digital intelligence, which he believes "will exceed biological intelligence by a substantial margin," calling it "obvious."

    The 47-year-old tech exec added that humanity is way behind in understanding the fear of whether AI will destroy humanity, akin to "children in a playground."

    ELON MUSK JOINS OTHER EXPERTS IN CALL FOR GLOBAL BAN ON KILLER ROBOTS

    He was asked if humans could be relegated to a lower status or on small pockets of the Earth due to the rise of machines, Musk did not hesitate to say yes. "When a species of primate, homo sapiens, became much smarter than other primates, it pushed all the other ones into a very small habitat," Musk said. "So there are very few mountain gorillas and orangutans and chimpanzees — monkeys in general."

    Musk gave examples of artificial intelligence harming humanity, including asassin drones that could look for a person using the face ID chips in smartphones or even propaganda to "influence elections."

    "My faith in humanity has been a little shaken this year," Musk said in the interview.

    This is not the first time Musk has sounded the alarms on artificial intelligence.

    In 2015, Musk, along with other luminaries including deceased physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and a number of other professors, AI experts, robot makers and programmers, wrote an open letter that called for research to be done on how AI will affect society, both the potential benefits and pitfalls.

    "We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial: our AI systems must do what we want them to do," the letter states.

    Last year, he called AI the "biggest risk we face as a civilization." In a July 15, 2017 speech at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island, Musk said the government needs to proactively regulate AI before there is no turning back.

    “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said in comments obtained by tech website Recode. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

    Musk added that regulation of AI needs to be done now because of the bureaucratic nature of it.

    ELON MUSK SAYS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL BEAT HUMANS AT 'EVERYTHING' BY 2030

    “It [regulation] takes forever," Musk said. "That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

    In September 2017, Musk went even further, going so far as to say that AI could be the cause of World War III.

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia

    Elon Musk thinks humans will have to merge with machines to overcome their ‘existential threat’

    Elon Musk has sounded the warning alarm again regarding artificial intelligence, telling Axios that humans must merge with machines or risk becoming an endangered species.

    Musk said that the goal of his new artificial intelligence company, Nueralink, is to help humanity "achieve a symbiosis with artificial intelligence and to achieve a democratization of intelligence such that it's not monopolistically held by governments and large corporations." In doing so, Musk thinks it could help even the playing field with digital intelligence, which he believes "will exceed biological intelligence by a substantial margin," calling it "obvious."

    The 47-year-old tech exec added that humanity is way behind in understanding the fear of whether AI will destroy humanity, akin to "children in a playground."

    ELON MUSK JOINS OTHER EXPERTS IN CALL FOR GLOBAL BAN ON KILLER ROBOTS

    He was asked if humans could be relegated to a lower status or on small pockets of the Earth due to the rise of machines, Musk did not hesitate to say yes. "When a species of primate, homo sapiens, became much smarter than other primates, it pushed all the other ones into a very small habitat," Musk said. "So there are very few mountain gorillas and orangutans and chimpanzees — monkeys in general."

    Musk gave examples of artificial intelligence harming humanity, including asassin drones that could look for a person using the face ID chips in smartphones or even propaganda to "influence elections."

    "My faith in humanity has been a little shaken this year," Musk said in the interview.

    This is not the first time Musk has sounded the alarms on artificial intelligence.

    In 2015, Musk, along with other luminaries including deceased physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and a number of other professors, AI experts, robot makers and programmers, wrote an open letter that called for research to be done on how AI will affect society, both the potential benefits and pitfalls.

    "We recommend expanded research aimed at ensuring that increasingly capable AI systems are robust and beneficial: our AI systems must do what we want them to do," the letter states.

    Last year, he called AI the "biggest risk we face as a civilization." In a July 15, 2017 speech at the National Governors Association Summer Meeting in Rhode Island, Musk said the government needs to proactively regulate AI before there is no turning back.

    “Until people see robots going down the street killing people, they don’t know how to react because it seems so ethereal,” he said in comments obtained by tech website Recode. “AI is a rare case where I think we need to be proactive in regulation instead of reactive. Because I think by the time we are reactive in AI regulation, it’s too late.”

    Musk added that regulation of AI needs to be done now because of the bureaucratic nature of it.

    ELON MUSK SAYS ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL BEAT HUMANS AT 'EVERYTHING' BY 2030

    “It [regulation] takes forever," Musk said. "That, in the past, has been bad but not something which represented a fundamental risk to the existence of civilization. AI is a fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization.”

    In September 2017, Musk went even further, going so far as to say that AI could be the cause of World War III.

    Follow Chris Ciaccia on Twitter @Chris_Ciaccia