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.
For example, this list is much too long!
If all lives are of equal value, then that should include future people, too! In the case that we don’t destroy ourselves, we will eventually expand to the stars, and population should flourish exponentially. The vast majority of humans that ever could exist live in the future. Shouldn’t they get a vote? Shouldn’t we be working to protect them?
Excellent book about this: The Precipice: Existential Risk and the Future of Humanity. (This is an Amazon affiliate link so I’m required to say, “As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.”) I think this book is great. Although personally think the audiobook is a better medium for this.
Posted 2020 October 30, last updated 2021 February 3.
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