The End Of The World with Josh Clark
We humans could have a bright future ahead of us that lasts billions of years. But we have to survive the next 200 years first. Join Josh Clark of Stuff You Should Know for a 10-episode deep dive that explores the future of humanity and finds dangers we have never encountered before lurking just ahead.

EP06: Biotechnology

November 21, 201859 min
Natural viruses and bacteria can be deadly enough; the 1918 Spanish Flu killed 50 million people in four months. But risky new research, carried out in an unknown number of labs around the world, are creating even more dangerous humanmade pathogens. (Original score by Point Lobo.) Perhaps the most immediate existential threat comes from risky biological experiments being carried out around the world. After the Anthrax Letters scare in 2001, an advanced type of biocontainment laboratory, the BSL-4 lab, began to mushroom across the globe, where the deadliest and most contagious pathogens are studied. Research in these new labs is creating novel, human-made pathogens that are more lethal than anything ever formed in nature. Because these new pathogens are being developed during a time where humanity is more connected than we’ve ever been before, an accidental release of one of them could drive humanity to extinction. But considering the stakes, there is an astounding lack of oversight of the fields of molecular biology, synthetic biology and virology. And because of the rise of corporate interests in the fields and the competition among groups from different universities and nations, no one is entirely certain just how many of these labs there are in the world. This is a problem, because each risky experiment potentially poses a new existential threat. Perhaps most unsettling of all, the biotech field has an unsettling track record of recklessness and accidents that some in the biosecurity field expect will result in catastrophe. It’s just a matter of time. Interviewees: Beth Willis, former chair, Containment Laboratory Community Advisory Committee; Dr Lynn Klotz, senior fellow at the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation.Learn more about advertising on the HowStuffWorks podcasts at to learn about your ad choices when listening to podcasts, visit