Chris Lakin

Extinction Risk

We humans stand a real chance of destroying ourselves—or at least setting back civilization permanently—in the next few centuries.

I think it would be more accurate (and more useful) to err on the side of believing that there’s a >40% chance of this.

When I first thought about this probability deeply, I found that I had implicitly assumed that the chance was less than 5%, but now I think my assumption was way off.

To believe anything else about how our species might die is to be ever-optimistic, until we can no longer exist to be optimistic. (Expect the worst, and then prepare for it.)

The vast majority of extinction risk comes from either hazards that we can or do directly inflict on ourselves, or otherwise from hazards that we failed to prepare for.

Either way, our fault.


We could be doing a lot more to protect our species from ourselves.


Posted 2020 October 30, last updated 2021 February 3.

Get notified when new essays are posted.