Civilizational collapse

In Toby Ord's typology, unrecoverable civilizational collapses constitute one of the three main types of existential catastrophe (Ord 2020).

In Toby Ord's typology, unrecoverable civilizational collapses constitute one of the three main types of existential catastrophe.

Aird, Michael (2020b) Civilization re-emerging after a catastrophic collapse, Effective altruism forumAltruism Forum, June 27.

A civilizational collapse (sometimes referred to as social collapse or societal collapse) is a  drastic decrease in human population size, or in political, economic or social complexity, across essentially the entire world, for an extended period of time. Civilizational resilience is humanity's capacity to resist, or recover from, civilizational collapse.

A civilizational collapse (sometimes referred to as social collapse or societal collapse) is a rapid and significant decline drastic decrease in science and technology, culture andhuman population size, or in political, economic or social cohesion.complexity, across essentially the entire world, for an extended time. Civilizational resilience is humanity's capacity to resist, or recover from, civilizational collapse.

Wiblin, Robert & Keiran Harris (2019) Should we leave a helpful message for future civilizations, just in case humanity dies out?, 80,000 Hours, August 5.
An interview with Paul Christiano.

A civilizational collapse (sometimes referred to as social collapse or societal collapse) is a rapid and significant decline in science and technology, culture and social cohesion. Civilizational resilience is humanity's capacity to resist, or recover fromfrom, civilizational collapse.

Cotton-Barratt, Owen, Max Daniel & Anders Sandberg (2020) Defence in depth against human extinction: prevention, response, resilience, and why they all matter, Global Policy, vol. 11, pp. 271–282.

A civilizational collapse (sometimes referred to as social collapse or societal collapse) is a rapid and significant decline in science and technology, culture and social cohesion. Risks of civilizational collapse are sometimes called C-risks (Pawntoe4 2020). Civilizational resilience is humanity's capacity to recover from civilizational collapse.

Pawntoe4 (2020) On collapse risk (C-risk), Effective Altruism Forum, January 2.

Civilizational resilience is humanity's capacity to recover from civilizational collapse.

I expect many people would use that term to also include civilisation's capacity to withstand shocks without collapsing in the first place. To quickly check, I googled the term, chose one of the links at random, and indeed slide 5 has a more inclusive definition of resilience.

4Pablo4moThanks. I've edited the sentence. In the future, we may want to note explicitly that sometimes, especially in EA circles, 'resilience' is used narrowly to include only humanity's capacity to recover from, rather than to resist, civilizational collapse (or global catastrophes more generally). See footnote 2 in Cotton-Barratt, Daniel & Sandberg 2020.

I think we may as well cut the c-risk term, because:

  • I'm not aware of it being used anywhere other than that one post
  • "collapse risk" or "risk of collapse" aren't super long phrases anyway
  • We probably don't want to have an endlessly expanding list of letter-risk terms; stopping at x-risk, s-risk, and GCR seems fine to me
    • Having a large list of such terms (especially if introduced in blog posts and used only within our community) might seem kind-of gimmicky to people who we'd like to take what we say about collapse risk seriously
6Pablo4moFair enough—I removed it.

I think it'd be good to change the first sentence so that it acknowledges there are many different possible definitions, that we might want to call something "collapse" even if there's only a decline on some rather than all of those dimensions (e.g., massive loss of population and GDP, but with tech and political systems intact), and that population is another key dimension.

2Pablo4moHave you stumbled upon a definition or characterization of 'civilizational collapse' that we could adapt?
5MichaelA4moI looked into this briefly last year, and wrote [https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/TfRexamDYBqSwg7er/causal-diagrams-of-the-paths-to-existential-catastrophe] : That's still the definition I personally favour (though I wouldn't be surprised if someone could convince me to favour something else).
4Pablo4moGreat, I've updated the article with your proposal (I made minor changes; feel free to revise).