We are excited to announce the Space Futures Initiative, which has a mission of conducting research, promoting education, and engaging in outreach to improve the long-term future in outer space.

We believe sharing longtermist ideas within the space community and researching scalable space governance frameworks are currently neglected areas. Conducting these activities requires engagement and input from the longtermist community, space policy community, space industry, scientific community, and beyond. The Space Futures Initiative aims to bring together students and academic researchers, produce valuable long-term space futures research, and collaborate with key stakeholders to discuss positive long-term space futures that benefit all of humanity. 

Our initial activities include the following:

  • Developing an initial research agenda and publishing  research papers to promote the discussion and sharing of ideas about space futures
  • Creating discussion groups and student research opportunities at Harvard and MIT on space governance and space futures
  • Supporting academic research projects related to space technologiesspace governance, and space ethics

The ongoing proliferation of space activities has outpaced our ability to develop appropriate norms and governance structures for a sustainable future in outer space. Furthermore, emerging technologies might radically transform our long-term trajectory in space. As a result, right now is a crucial time to consider what positive outcomes in outer space look like.

The Space Futures Initiative is intended to be a collaboration among effective altruists, longtermists, astrophysicists, engineers, legal scholars, social scientists, philosophers, and others interested in long-term space futures. While our primary focus is conducting and disseminating research, we also interface with key stakeholders in dialogue on outer space, including the commercial sector and advocacy organizations. 

We are appreciative of our early supporters and excited about further collaboration with organizations including the Center for Space Governance and Simon Institute for Longterm Governance. Our directors are Madeleine Chang, Carson Ezell, and Olaf Willner. 

We are also excited to collaborate with more organizations and individuals interested in our mission. The following are specific ways in which you may be able to provide support or get involved:

  • Send us an academic research proposal related to space futures that you would be interested in pursuing further, or express interest in conducting research with us
  • Forward the above interest form to people who might be interested
  • Reach out if your organization is interested in collaboration
  • Connect us with researchers who can contribute to answering questions on our research agenda within other programs (e.g. CERISERICHERI, etc.) or think tanks (SWFCSETCSISOpen Lunar, etc.)
  • Let us know that you are willing to mentor an undergraduate or graduate student on a space governance/space futures research project
  • Express interest in hosting a space governance discussion group within your university or local EA group, using our upcoming curriculum or other space futures related materials
  • Send us ideas for new considerations within space futures that might merit further research, or criticisms of priorities within our current research agenda

Contact mad@spacefuturesinitiative.orgcarson@spacefuturesinitiative.org, or olaf@spacefuturesinitiative.org with any other ideas or feedback

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3 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 10:19 PM

I'm both excited to see this launch - and skeptical of whether there's any plausible model by which space governance becomes truly important before AGI arrives.

Hi Chris! I agree with you that there is a high probability that concrete space governance regulations before AGI might not be very important, especially in worst-case scenarios (although they might be very important due to their implications on society and impact on power dynamics before AGI), and only a portion of our research will focus on this. I do expect the values of leading space actors to become very important, and I expect some aspects of our space governance framework to remain after AGI—it seems beneficial to me to focus on developing scalable governance mechanisms to increase coordination between space actors post-AGI. Another possible goal of space governance measures could be to test possible governance mechanisms for AI governance—both space and AI are unprecedented in some sense and may require significant structural reforms to current institutions, and we may be able to get feedback on the effectiveness of some governance models (i.e. adaptive governance) through space governance prior to their application to AI governance. 

However, we are particularly interested in exploring long-term space futures in post-AGI scenarios. This may involve looking at possible governance or coordination mechanisms in the long-term (i.e. interstellar), but it mostly involves exploring the range of possible technologies, norms, and values and what their implications may be in a post-AGI world. The term space governance may not concretely describe this research because the role of outer space is rather as a concrete domain in which we can visualize and explicitly describe possible future scenarios, hence the term 'space futures'. For example, we can consider topics like digital minds, multi-polar scenarios, and the vulnerable world hypothesis in the space domain, and use the additional details that outer space provides to gain insights into the possible implications of the governance structures, norms, and technologies we develop.

Exciting work! Looking forward to reading that agenda and following your next steps.