Well, sort of.
As technology advances, the power of the individual grows. We are getting to the point where individuals will soon control enough power to destroy the world.
Back in the early 1980s, author Frank Herbert wrote a book, The White Plague. In this book, a scientist exacts revenge for the murder of his wife in a car bombing by engineering a plague that attacks only women, and is 100% lethal to its victims.
At the time, he researched the cost of setting up a gene splicing lab in his home, and found that one could be built for around $100K (1980 dollars). It was also very easy; no one asked for any ID when "Doctor Herbert" called for information about buying lab equipment.
Now we find it's even easier to make new organisms which could, in principle, be very nasty.
The first such warning comes from technology writer Paul Boutin, who recently set out to discover just how easy it would be for an amateur to create a dangerous biological weapon. The answer — as the title to his piece, "Biowar for Dummies" suggests — is "pretty easy, really." Instead of lethal genes, he inserted genes for fluorescence. Boutin writes:I hadn't set foot in a lab since high school. Could I learn to build a bioweapon? What would I need? What would it cost? Could I set up shop without raising suspicions? And, most important[ly], would it work? . . .Eventually, we fumble our way to a plastic dish full of translucent goop. If I'd been working on smallpox—and really committed to my cause—this would have been the part where I'd inject a lab animal with the stuff to see if it got sick. Then I'd give myself a dose and head off on a days-long, multi-airport, transnational suicide run. But it was just yeast. Set on top of a black light, it glowed an eerie bright blue, like a Jimi Hendrix poster. My creation ... lived.Boutin's a smart guy, but he's no Dr. Evil. If he can get this far, others (more skilled, more committed, more, um, evil) can go farther, faster.
Scary and deadly is bad enough, but the "freaky and science-fictional" threat is worse, if perhaps more subtle: Pathogens tailored for particular ethnic groups. Diseases that only attack children. Psychotropic pathogens that affect people's minds — grossly, via schizophrenia or tranquilization, or subtly, by imbuing love for Big Brother. As Pontin notes, this kind of thing isn't currently within the capabilities of terrorists or small groups, but it's something we can expect from nation-states. We've never seen a technological revolution that somebody didn't try to weaponize...
And while we're at it, disaster can happen, even with the best of intentions.
The Star Trek episode "Miri" featured a planet where children were living for hundreds of years, only to die when they hit puberty. It turned out the cause was a plague which had been engineered some centuries before, as part of a life-extension project. It worked, but it had serious drawbacks.
As long as it takes a major government to build a doomsday device, we're fairly safe. When technology enables any man on the street to build one, we're not.