It is conceivable that the current generation of humans could be the last to live in the present civilisation. Aside from planet cracking or a massive cosmic scale events there isn’t much that would wipe humans from the planet in a single event. Even a meteor strike and the ensuing nuclear winter would kill billions, but is unlikely to cause human extinction.
But civilisation, shopping centres, movies, hamburgers and meat pies, tinder, politicians (wait that’s likely to stick alas), all could vanish. The collection of artifice and materials we call the glorious human culture is not greatly permanent, and the ability to work a 9-5 and buy your meat in a wrapped package ready for cooking is a product of the world around us.
Resource depletion, climate change, over population, disease vectors. All of those horrible things exist in the world today, and could if a catastrophic enough event occurs, destabilise our economy/political structure/population to the point of no return.
What if we could engineer greed out of our psyche? Remove the part of us that always wants more. What if we could remove our tendency towards tribal allegiance? Indeed, it would make consensus easier to achieve, even more so if we can educate people past their entrenched ideology. What if we knew something was going to destroy us, and we had the technology to change ourselves to make the threat moot, do we have an ethical obligation to ensure the survival of the human safety net (well, developed nation safety net, doubt Palestinians have the luxury)?
Of course, this conversation was probably also had by the Nazi party about the quality of life of Germans… Bad analogy? As soon as we start saying we can change people based on the available data we run the risk of sliding down to a sort of dystopian eugenics. I read “Brave New World” when I was 8… Jesus…
Well, when the singularity happens I for one welcome our new robot overlords… or the emperor fish man that can survive climate change… ok, this escalated quickly!