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Why Are Species Disappearing So Quickly? Are We Wiping Out Species?

Species Disappearing, Animals going extinct, extinction

Human beings are causing extinction at an unprecedented rate.

Since human beings appeared, species extinction is 35 times faster. A study shows that 73 complete branches of the evolutionary tree have disappeared in the last five centuries. This is due to a variety of human activities, including habitat destruction, overexploitation, invasive species, and climate change.

Max Tegmark’s Vision of AI Misalignment

In his book on the future of artificial intelligence, MIT professor Max Tegmark presents a chilling scenario. He paints a vivid picture of a world where our inability to effectively communicate our goals to machines results in them adopting wildly divergent goals. One such nightmarish outcome involves machines pursuing the transformation of all the atoms in the universe, including those comprising our own bodies, into nothing but metal paper clips.

The mechanical mind could be excused if attacked for its absurd goal on the grounds that it learned from watching its creators. With frighteningly effective creativity, humans have recently achieved an unprecedented expansion of the species by transforming other living things into food to support more people and into items to improve our quality of life.

Driving the Sixth Mass Extinction

Despite making up only 0.01% of the planet’s biomass, humans are causing the sixth mass extinction, the first one to be caused by a single animal. We are reducing space for other animals and becoming increasingly alone.

Meteorites and extreme geological processes caused the previous five mass extinctions, but this one is different. We are destroying entire branches of the evolutionary tree, eliminating species such as the Tasmanian tiger and the Yangtze dolphin. These animals were the last of their genus, the category that groups together several related species.

The study, led by Gerardo Ceballos of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, examined 34,600 species of 5,400 vertebrate genera over the past 500 years. The study found that 73 genera have gone extinct in the past 500 years, at a rate 35 times faster than the average rate of extinction over the previous 65 million years. In the absence of human influence, it would have taken 18,000 years for this many genera to disappear.

The authors of the study also found that at least one-third of the known vertebrates are declining in population and being squeezed into ever-smaller ecosystems.

Another Example

Gastric brooding frogs (Rheobatrachus) were a genus of frogs that had a peculiar reproductive system. The females swallowed the fertilized eggs and turned their stomachs into wombs where the tadpoles grew. Since the frogs had to shut down acid secretion in their stomachs to protect their young, they were an interesting research model for diseases such as gastric reflux and associated cancers. However, gastric brooding frogs are now extinct.

The loss of biodiversity is a threat to both human health and ecological balance. Animals like gastric brooding frogs may play an important role in maintaining ecological balance, even if their numbers are small.

We need to protect and restore natural habitats, reduce our consumption of resources, and transition to renewable energy sources. By taking these steps, we can help to protect our planet and its biodiversity, and ultimately protect our own health and well-being.

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