Le risque du tout pour le tout

CAMBRIDGE – Ceux d’entre nous qui ont la chance de vivre dans un pays développé ont souvent tendance à s’inquiéter de divers dangers mineurs, voire improbables : crainte de la présence d’agents cancérigènes dans les aliments, peur du crash d’avion, etc. Pourtant, nous sommes, à bien d’autres égards, beaucoup moins en sécurité que nous le pensons. Nous vivons dans le déni de scénarios bien plus graves, dont la survenance, même d’un seul, pourrait engendrer des conséquences catastrophiques.

On a beaucoup écrit au sujet des chocs écologiques que pourraient entraîner les besoins d’une population humaine croissante sur la biosphère ainsi que sur les tensions sociales et politiques qui pourraient découler de la rareté des ressources, ou des changements climatiques. L’inquiétude est encore plus grande quant aux risques que présentent les nouvelles et puissantes cyber, bio et nanotechnologies : le risque existe de voir une poignée d’individus, par erreur ou dans une démarche terroriste, déclencher une désintégration sociétale si rapidement que les gouvernements n’auraient pas la capacité de faire face.

L’ère de l’ « Anthropocène, » dans laquelle les principales menaces pour la planète proviennent de l’activité humaine et non de la nature, est devenue particulièrement risquée avec le déploiement en masse des armes thermonucléaires. Au cours de la Guerre froide, fausses alertes et erreurs de calculs se produisaient constamment du côté des deux superpuissances, dont plusieurs risquèrent sérieusement de déclencher une apocalypse nucléaire.

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