The Foresight Foundation is currently running a gitcoin bounty of 0.15 ETH (around $500) - from their post:

 Within the Existential Hope community a word that is commonly used is “eucatastrophe”. It is derived from Greek and basically means “good surprise”. Originally coined by J.R.R Tolkien, and later described by Oxford-researchers Owen Cotton-Barratt and Toby Ord to suggest that ”an existential eucatastrophe is an event which causes there to be much more expected value after the event than before.”

However, when many people hear the word, it just sounds like someone pronouncing the word “catastrophe” in an odd way, so that’s where our minds tend to go.

Because of the unfortunate connotations of the word as it is currently, we want to collect a better term for “eucatastrophe”. Be it derived from greek, latin or any other language, that doesn't matter. What matters is that when people hear the word, they think of a big positive surprise and get excited about the future!

What is a better term for “eucatastrophe”?

Note that Owen Cotton-Barratt and Toby Ord were asked about this, and agreed that there was probably room for improvement, and suggested a thread on the EA Forum, which I unfortunately never posted - but Foresight was willing to put up a bounty. Also note that you should feel free to post ideas and discuss in comments, but to submit something eligible for the bounty, it needs to be posted as an entry to the gitcoin submission page. (I have submitted an entry, based on an idea by Ben Garfinkle and another suggestion by Toby, but if I win, the money will be donated. And no, this was not a project of Naming What We Can.)




Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since:

I could not figure out the interface in five minutes and gave up.

My suggestions would be existential windfall and existential bonanza.

Both of them are real words that I expect many people will know.

There is precedent for using the term windfall in AI governance to denote a large increase in revenue, which might make it slighly more confusing. But in any case they seem good words.

FWIW I also like eucatastrophe.  

Was the winner 'efflorescence' or 'peripeteia'?

Thanks for posting about this David! 

I work at Foresight Institute and I just wanted to let people who are interested in these sort of things know that we interviewed Christine Peterson (Foresight's founder) and asked her what she thought would be a potential Eucatastrophe, and she suggested "a dog that has died and been brought back to life from cryogenics", so we also have a bounty up on describing that (+ an art piece visualizing it) ! All the bounties + the podcast episode are linked from here: 

A "catastrophe" is a down (kata-) turn (strephein), so its opposite could be an "anastrophe" (an upturn).

The word "anastrophe" does already have a meaning in linguistics, but plenty of useful words have two meanings that can be distinguished based on context, so I expect this would be the case here.

This idea came up in a conversation at FHI, but I forget with whom...

I think "Windfall" fits the bill as a positive surprise and has the benefit of being an existing word (I'm probably not going to bother setting up a ETH wallet to submit it).

Some quick ideas:

Existential Jackpot
Existential Boon
Surprising Societal Boon
Unanticipated Societal Windfall
Major Unexpected Gains
Unexpected Supergains
White Swan Event [I just checked, that already has a different meaning.]

I think I like "existential boon" the most, though "boon" does not convey nearly the same strength of effect as catastrophe.

Just listened to your interview with Kevin Kelly (May 23, 2023) in which you discussed this contest. Seems it's already too late, but like RyanCarey below, I thought ANASTROPHE could be the logical positive counterpart to CATASTROPHE. Since, as they note, "anastrophe" already exists as a term in linguistics/rhetoric, here are some other alternatives based on ancient Greek :

PROSTROPHE : "a turning forward / towards the front" AGASTROPHE / AGASTOSTROPHE : "a turning to the good/noble/moral" ARISTROPHE / ARISTOSTROPHE : "a turning towards the best/noblest/most moral" HYPERSTROPHE : "a going above/beyond/over" PROSOSTROPHE : "a turning to the good/noble" EUSTROPHE : "a turning to the good"

In other discussions with foresight on their discord, it was noted that "-strophe" already was linguistically linked to bad outcomes, and changing that seemed implausible, so a different term was likely better.

To quote Dennis Krause, in Jan 2022: "I stumbled upon 'anastrophe' in the german wikipedia, which is more or less =eucatastrophe. But I also think that *strophe always reminds people of catastrophe, because it is the most common." (This echoed Joy, here.)

Curated and popular this week
Relevant opportunities