Part 5: Existential Risk

“If we drop the baton, succumbing to an existential catastrophe, we would fail our ancestors in a multitude of ways. We would fail to achieve the dreams they hoped for; we would betray the trust they placed in us, their heirs; and we would fail in any duty we had to pay forward the work they did for us. To neglect existential risk might thus be to wrong not only the people of the future, but the people of the past.”

- Toby Ord

Human extinction would destroy our potential, ending all hope of a bright future.

If we want to do as much good as we can, and create better lives for our descendants, we should consider ways we could destroy ourselves — and figure out how to stop that from happening.

In this sequence, we'll define "existential risk"; examine why addressing these risks might be both important and neglected; and explore strategies for doing so.

Start reading | Part 6: Emerging Technologies

Organization Spotlight: Future of Humanity Institute

The Future of Humanity Institute (FHI) is a multidisciplinary research institute working on big picture questions for human civilisation and exploring what can be done now to ensure a flourishing long-term future.

Currently, Their four main research areas currently are:

  • Macrostrategy - investigating which crucial considerations are shaping what is at stake for the future of humanity
  • Governance of AI - examining how geopolitics, governance structure, and strategic trends will affect the development of advanced artificial intelligence
  • AI Safety - researching computer science techniques for building safer artificially intelligent systems
  • Biosecurity - working with institutions around the world to reduce risks from especially dangerous pathogens

Organization Spotlight: Nuclear Threat Initiative

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) works to prevent catastrophic attacks of a nuclear, biological, radiological, chemical or cyber nature. Alongside other projects, they work with heads of state, scientists, and educators to develop policies to reduce reliance on nuclear weapons, prevent their use, and end them as a threat.

Photo credit: Tim Rüßmann