Words

I firmly believe that before many centuries hence, science will be the master of man. The engines he will have invented will be beyond his strength to control. Some day science may have the existence of mankind in its power, and the human race commit suicide, by blowing up the world.—Henry Adams, Letter to Charles Francis Adams, Jr. (April 11, 1862)

We Earth Men have a talent for ruining big, beautiful things.—Ray Bradbury, The Martian Chronicles (1950)

We are as gods and HAVE to get good at it.—Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Discipline (2009)

Thus far the chief purpose of our military establishment has been to win wars. From now on its chief purpose must be to avert them. It can have almost no other useful purpose.—Bernard Brodie, The Absolute Weapon (1946)

If we have learned one thing from the history of invention and discovery, it is that, in the long run—and often in the short one—the most daring prophecies often seem laughably conservative.—Arthur C. Clarke, The Exploration Of Space (1951)

We are living in a period of the world’s history when the mingling of thousands of kinds of organisms from different parts of the world is setting up terrific dislocations in nature.—Charles S. Elton, The Ecology of Invasions by Animals and Plants (1958)

Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion”, and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.—I.J. Good, “Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine”

The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and thus we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.—Albert Einstein, Telegram (as quoted in “Atomic Education Urged by Einstein,” The New York Times, May 25, 1946)

The new Pandora’s boxes of genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics are almost open, yet we seem hardly to have noticed. Ideas can’t be put back in a box; unlike uranium or plutonium, they don’t need to be mined and refined, and they can be freely copied.—Bill Joy, “Why the Future Doesn’t Need Us” in Wired (2000)

Our progress in the use of science has been great, but our progress in ordering our relations small.—John F. Kennedy, White House Memo on the Twentieth Anniversary of the First Man-Made Nuclear Chain Reaction (1962)

Our problems are manmade—therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings.—John F. Kennedy, Speech at American University in Washington (1963)

So let us not be blind to our differences, but let us also direct attention to our common interests and the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.—John F. Kennedy, Speech at American University in Washington (1963)

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.—John F. Kennedy, Speech at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt (1963)

Assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not—if we look into the future—the permanent problem of the human race.—John Maynard Keynes, “Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren” (1930)

Let me suggest first that if we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective. No individual can live alone, and as long as we try, the more we are going to have war in this world. Now the judgment of God is upon us, and we must either learn to live together as brothers or we are all going to perish together as fools.—Martin Luther King, Jr., “A Christmas Sermon” (December 24, 1967)

It may seem impossible to imagine that a technologically advanced society could choose, in essence, to destroy itself, but that is what we are now in the process of doing.—Elizabeth Kolbert, Field Notes from a Catastrophe (2006)

There are no passengers on spaceship Earth. We are all crew.—Marshall McLuhan (1965)

A superintelligent AI might thus become quickly superior to humanity in harvesting resources, manufacturing, scientific discovery, social aptitude, and strategic action, among other abilities. We might not be in a position to negotiate with it or its descendants, just as chimpanzees are not in a position to negotiate with humans.—Luke Muehlhauser and Nick Bostrom, “Why We Need Friendly AI” (2014)

The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space—each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.—Randall Munroe, XKCD (May 2, 2011)

“The very spark that marks us as a species—our thoughts, our imagination, our language, our tool-making, our ability to set ourselves apart from nature and bend it to our will—those very things also give us the capacity for unmatched destruction.”—Barack Obama, Remarks at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial (May 27, 2016)

We live during the hinge of history. Given the scientific and technological discoveries of the last two centuries, the world has never changed as fast. We shall soon have even greater powers to transform, not only our surroundings, but ourselves and our successors. If we act wisely in the next few centuries, humanity will survive its most dangerous and decisive period. Our descendants, could, if necessary, go elsewhere, spreading throughout this galaxy.— Derek Parfit, On What Matters (2011)

You have to watch out for engineers: it starts with the sewing machine, but it ends with the atomic bomb.—Marcel Pagnol, Critique des critiques (1949)

There are no such things as limits to growth, because there are no limits on the human capacity for intelligence, imagination, and wonder.—Ronald Reagan, Remarks at the University of South Carolina’s Convocation Ceremonies (1983)

Preservation of our environment is not a liberal or conservative challenge, it’s common sense.—Ronald Reagan, State of the Union Address (1984)

Cannot swords be turned to plowshares? Can we and all nations not live in peace? In our obsession with antagonisms of the moment, we often forget how much unites all the members of humanity. Perhaps we need some outside, universal threat to make us recognize this common bond. I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world. And yet, I ask you, is not an alien force already among us? What could be more alien to the universal aspirations of our peoples than war and the threat of war?—Ronald Reagan, Address to the 42nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly (September 21, 1987)

What happens here on Earth, in this century, could conceivably make the difference between a near eternity filled with ever more complex and subtle forms of life and one filled with nothing but base matter.—Martin Rees, Just Six Numbers (2000)

There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge, and wisdom. Shall we, instead, choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal as human beings to human beings: Remember your humanity, and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot there lies before you the risk of universal death.—Bertrand Russell, “The Russell-Einstein Manifesto” (1955)

Love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way, and if we are to live together and not die together we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.—Bertrand Russell, Interview on Face to Face (1959)

The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand.—Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (1994)

The possibilities of history are far more various than the human intellect is designed to conceive.—Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Speech at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum (November 27, 2006)

Because we find new lodes, invent better production methods, and discover new substitutes the ultimate constraint upon our capacity to enjoy unlimited raw materials at an acceptable price is knowledge.—Julian Simon, “Resources, Population, and Environment” in Science (1980)

We are the most dangerous species of life on the planet, and every other species, even the earth itself, has cause to fear our power to exterminate. But we are also the only species, which, when it chooses to do so, will go to great effort to save what it might destroy.—Wallace Stegner, This Is Dinosaur (1955)

The human race’s prospects of survival were considerably better when we were defenceless against tigers than they are today, when we have become defenceless against ourselves.—Arnold Toynbee, Speech to the World Food Congress, (1963)

A planet is the cradle of mind, but one cannot live in the cradle forever.—Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Letter (1911)

I have told my sons that they are not under any circumstances to take part in massacres, and that the news of massacres of enemies is not to fill them with glee. I have also told them not to work for companies which massacre machinery, and to express contempt for people who think we need machinery like that.—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five (1969)

The world of the future will be an ever more demanding struggle against the limitations of our intelligence, not a comfortable hammock in which we can lie down to be waited upon by our robot slaves.—Norbert Wiener, God & Golem, Inc. (1966)

The AI does not hate you, nor does it love you, but you are made of atoms which it can use for something else.—Eliezer Yudkowsky, “Artificial Intelligence as a Positive and Negative Factor in Global Risk” (2008)

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