I don't know about you, but the zombie apocalypse is my 'go to' topic when arguing the eventual fate of the human race. Sure it's more likely we're going to be killed by tsunamis's, meteors, cosmic rays and super volcanoes, but there's nothing I can do about those eventualities so I just roll with them. The zombie apocalypse on the other hand, is a scenario where I think I've got an 85% chance of surviving in Mad Max mode for a few weeks at least. I'll probably succumb to the hoard when I run out of bullets, hell I may even go out like Will Smith heroically grenade in hand (unlikely as I'd happily sacrifice someone else for my own survival) but at the very least, I'll be around long enough to see the world fall into utter chaos. Which leads me to this next point, in all likely scenarios, the zombie apocalypse is probably going to be our fault. And if we're honest, most other scenarios involving the fate of humanity being taken to the brink are probably going to be our fault as well.
Now to my knowledge, there doesn't exist an Umbrella Corporation as in the Resident Evil franchise (that doesn't mean there may not be one of the same name harmlessly making umbrellas) but there are a good few companies today which are continually pushing the limits/boundaries of science, and continually operating in the hazy grey area of what's generally considered right or wrong. So with this in mind, today I took it upon myself to devise a list of "real world" companies which will most likely develop by accident (or purposefully...) the cause of our own demise.
Hands up if you've heard about Xenotransplantation? It's completely understandable if you haven't and your mind instantly thought about a body swap with a certain warrior princess; that may or may not have happened to someone else out there... (cough.) But this potentially lifesaving, and coincidentally doom unleashing, technology is perhaps one of the most controversial sciences today. Incidentally, it's how the fine people at Living Cell Technologies put bread on the table.
"That's right horse, Imma kill you first.."
For starters, and as the Greek meaning infers, xenotransplantation is the transplantation of living cells, tissues, or organs from one species to another. Now when I think of inter species transplantation, my mind instantly flashes to images of Man Bear Pig mauling swathes of frightened citizens, crazed by its inability to quench its bloodlust... And that certainly could be apocalyptic. But I’ll be honest; the reality is a bit of a letdown.
You see, the whole process was devised as a potential solution to the global problem of organ shortage. It may surprise you to know 60% of patients waiting for organ replacement die while waiting. And it’s a problem that isn’t improving as annoying things like constantly improving car safety and specialized emergency medicine have drastically reduced the numbers of potential donors. Furthermore, even if an organ can be successfully sourced, there is no guarantee the recipients body won’t reject it in a hyperacute rejection.
Cue the creepy mad science of xenotransplantation. Tissue grown by animals, probably from a pig or baboon, could be genetically altered with human genes to trick a patient’s immune system into accepting it as a part of its own body. Ding, problem solved! But not really, as this in of itself raises some serious ethical issues. Issues such as; the biological integrity of mutant animal, how much human DNA must something have until it’s human, harming species such as baboons our closest DNA match which are endangered – the list seriously goes on. And it is a heavy, heavy issue. But I’m more worried about being killed in an apocalypse so moving on. On to the terrifying world of ENDOGENOUS RETRO VIRUSES! DUN DUN DUN DUNNNN.
Endogenous Retro Viruses you say? That doesn’t sound like a good time! And you’re right as ERV’s are remnants of ancient viral infections found in your genome. Or more to the point, found in the DNA of all mammalian species. In essence, they’re the genetic information for viruses human kind has long since overcome. So what say hypothetically you introduce hybrid tissue from a pig into the body – well then you run the risk of Porcine Endogenous Retroviruses – or PERVs. It is entirely possible that an ancient virus long since overcome by pigs could make the leap to humans all with the help of a little gene splicing and organ replacement. Now to date, no endogenous retroviruses have been demonstrated in the lab – yet. But when humans unlock the ancient key to our very own genetic Pandora’s box – you'll have just enough strength to laugh at the acronym PERV one last time.
According to the online phobia dictionary, there isn't a specific definition for fear induced by a robot apocalypse. But that doesn't mean there shouldn't be one. Boston Dynamics describes itself as an "engineering company that specializes in building dynamic robots and software for human simulation." That's right, they are basically in the business of building the terminator. Now at this point you may be asking why? Particularly after seeing the Terminator franchise - sure extinction proves a good enough reason to invent time travel and Christian Bale saves us in the end, but the body count seemed just a tiny bit too high for my liking. What's even creepier is the prototypes they're producing even look like terminators. Don't believe me?
What you're looking at is called Petman, an anthropomorphic robot capable of jogging, jumping, crawling and doing a few thousand pushups. But with most things of an apocalyptic nature, it get's even worse. Not only are Boston Dynamics making robots that mimic humans - they're even taking inspiration from the animal kingdom. What's that you say?
Now that may not look that terrifying, it is after all a cumbersome robot which seems to be happy enough trotting along and jumping around at a gentle speed. What about now?
What you're looking is Boston Dynamics newest death machine called the Cheetah which, with its ability to run and jump at 28.3 mph, is more than capable of out running a human (as a side note it also looks creepily like Ravage from Transformers 2.) So when you and your loved ones find yourselves fleeing hordes of self aware metal cheetahs - thank Boston Dynamics.
Now Monsanto is renowned the world over for literally being "the most evil company in the world." In fact when you Google the name Monsanto, you actually get a search return of "Monsanto Evil." With a dark past that includes numerous chemical spills, corporate espionage, developing some of the worlds most dangerous substances like Agent Orange and DDT, whilst also having a hand in the Manhattan Project, it's no surprise people are always a little suspicious of anything and everything Monsanto does. In fact, it is almost a little difficult to pin point a significant field in which Monsanto may kill us all as they've got a pretty good track record and a few options to work with. That said, in recent times at least, Monsanto has been radically pushing the development and widespread use of genetically engineered super crops.
In 1982, Monsanto scientists became the first to genetically modify a plant cell. A short while later, Monsanto conducted the first of their controversial field experiments testing genetically engineered crops. This development allowed Monsanto, by the late 1990’s, to make a transition from death reigning chemical giant, to the all encompassing multinational biotech giant we know today.
"Nothing like a hard day on the farm!"
Part of Monsanto's success has come in the form of herbicide (or more to the point Roundup, Monsanto's international best seller) resistant crops. The logic being, if you need to control weeds etc for maximum crop growth, plant Monsanto branded seeds, carpet bomb the whole area with Monsanto branded Roundup, now collect the only living thing left, your very own indestructible mutant crop. At this point you could be thinking "now that's just good farming." But consider this diabolical scenario for a moment: in an effort to maximize market share and dependence on predetermined products, a multinational company intentionally releases genetically enhanced mutant crops designed to kill off indigenous or native species into a given country. Sound a bit too far fetched? Well sadly it's not as farmers in Mexico have found out in this documentary.
Still a little confused as to where I'm going with this rant? Well much as I'd like to think that Monsanto will genetically enhance a mutant plant in the vein of Bellsprout (or Victreebel if you found Leaf Stone) that will sweep the lands vine whipping us all into oblivion, the truth of the matter is it comes down to bees. Yes that's right bees.
Now I’m not going to make the foolish mistake of quoting the famous, but ultimately unverifiable, Einstein four year apocalyptic bee prediction. All it takes is a simple Google search to see the massive amount of data, both scientific and speculative, on global bee extinctions to grasp that it’s a pretty big deal. After all, having nearly half of all human food sources die out through a lack of pollination is not ideal.
That said, it is a touchy issue as some argue bee numbers, and subsequent crop yields, have ebbed and flowed for centuries. The last decade however, has been exceptional and a new phenomenon has been has been termed for what has become an exponential decline in bee numbers – Colony Collapse Disorder.
Colony Collapse Disorder has perplexed the scientific community for a long time; indeed for the most part climate change was thought to be the main culprit. Until recently. You see researchers in Poland have found a very strong link to colony decline and Monsanto GM crops. So serious is the allegation, the European Union has looked to ban all Monsanto GM crops full stop.
So if global famine eventuates, and the world turns against itself in a battle for scarce resources, keep an eye out for Monsanto brand emergency rations as they have the track record and just might be diabolical enough to give it a whirl.