What is the likelihood that civilizational collapse would directly lead to human extinction (within decades)?

Thanks for great piece! One thing which may increase the extinction risk is that after the collapse, the remaining economy will be based not on agriculture and manufacturing, but on scavenging remains of previous civilisation. The problem with such economy is that it constantly shrinking and also does not help to learn useful skills, but instead helps local warlords arise and fight over leftovers. (Example: the economy of the post Soviet Union countries declined partly because it was more profitable to sell a factory for metal than to use it for manufacturing of goods.)

This problem will be also fuelled by "dangerous leftovers": in any moment, the access to weapons will be easy than to manufacturing capabilities. If most humans will extinct, enormous amounts of powerful weapons will still be available for decades, mostly firearms. Dangerous leftovers will include pieces of what has caused the catastrophe, for example, a biological agent or radioactive contamination.  In such situation, the remaining population will die more often than rise successful children. 

An example of dangerous leftovers are... dogs. If 99 per cent people went extinct, but all dogs remains, these feral dogs will eventually start hunting of survivors. 

ALLFED 2020 Highlights

Toby Ord estimated in the Precipice a one in a thousand probability of
existential risk this century due to climate change, largely due to
locking in a moist greenhouse effect. We would estimate the
feasibility of maintaining industrial civilization (with eventual
colonization of space) in this scenario. The physical space on
Antarctica is adequate for industrial civilization, but alternative
foods produced on other continents would likely be required, such as
foods grown in air-conditioned greenhouses, single-cell protein
powered by renewable hydrogen,  electrosynthesized vinegar, and foods
created by chemical synthesis. Though there would be significant time
to develop these solutions, the primary value of this research would
be the value of information on how much to prioritize climate change
as an existential risk.

It looks like for me that survival of the moisture greenhouse is possible in altitudes above 5000- 6000 meters. But the main question is if the temperature rise will be uniform. The town Rinconada is 5100 meters high and it has the median temperature of 2C. Meanwhile the hottest city on Earth, Basra, reaches 50C every summer everyday. So people in Rinconada could survive. 

Also, the median elevation of Himalaya is around 6000 meters, they have 595 000 sq km and 52 millions people. 

Meanwhile, the ice of Antarctica will probably take hundreds of years to melt after the start of the moisture greenhouse, and until it happens, the land there can't be used. Strong rains and rivers also prevent living on the ice surface (though there are regions of ice in Antarctica with -60 C stable temperature and they could survive). 

More realistic moist greenhouse will result in stronger polar warming and weaker equatorial warming because of the polar amplification of the greenhouse effect. This means that the equatorial region will get additional 20-30 C warming and poles will get more than that (like +60). This again favours Himalaya as the survival place. 

What worries me is that there will be no stop from moist greenhouse to runaway global warming, as some regions of Earth could get close +100C in this scenario (like Persian Gulf) and the water may start boil there, creating never ending positive feedback loop.

The Fermi Paradox has not been dissolved

I think that estimating fl should take into account the possibility of interstellar panspermia. Life appearing once could be disseminated through the whole galaxy in a few billion years via interstellar comets. 

This creates strong observation selection effect: the galaxies where panspermia is possible will create billion times more observers than non-panspermia galaxies, and we are certainly in such a galaxy. So, fl is likely to be 1. 

How to Survive the End of the Universe

Interestingly, if no God exists, then all possible things should exist, and thus there is no end for our universe. To limit the number of actually existing things, we need some supernatural force, which allows only some worlds to exist, but which is not part of any of these worlds.

A New X-Risk Factor: Brain-Computer Interfaces

Easily available BCI may fuel a possible epidemic of wireheading, which may result in civilisational decline.

Will Three Gorges Dam Collapse And Kill Millions?

I read in Tweeter (so it is not very good source) that one of the problem of the 3GD is cavitation inside discharge tubes. Cavitation is happening when the speed of the waterflow is above 10 meter per second and water creates "vacuum bubbles" which later collapse and create shockwaves which are able to destroy even strongest materials. The discharge channels are inside the body of the dam as we can see on photos and if there will be a problem, they will affect the dam from inside without overtoping. Obviously, such channels could be closed but this will slow water release and increase chances of the use of the emergency spillway. Such spillway itself could be fragile (like in the case of Oroville dam) and could undermine the dam if damaged.

X-risks to all life v. to humans

If they evolve, say, from cats, they will share the same type-values: power, sex, love to children as all mammals. By token-values will be different as they will like not human children but kittens etc. An advance non-human civilization may be more similar to ours than we-now to Ancient Egyptian, as it would have more rational world models.

X-risks to all life v. to humans

The article may reflect my immoralist view point that in almost all circumstances it is better to be alive than not.

Future torture is useless and thus unlikely. Let's look on humanity: as we mature, we tend to care more about other species that lived on Earth and of minority cultures. Torture for fun or for experiment is only for those who don't know how to get information or pleasure in other ways. It is unlikely that advance civilization will deliberately torture humans. Even if resurrected humans will not have full agency, they may have much better live than most people on Earth have now.

Reconstruction of the past is universally interesting. We have a mammoth resurrection project, a lot of archeological studies, Sentinel uncontacted tribe preservation program, etc - so we find a lot of value in studying past, preserving and reconstructing it, and I think it is natural for advanced civilizations.

The x-risks information will be vital for them before they get superintelligence (but humans could be resurrected after it). Imagine that Apollo program would find some data storage on the Moon: it will be one of the biggest scientific discoveries of all times. Some information could be useful for end-of-20th-century humanity, like estimation of the probability of natural pandemics or nuclear wars.

Past data is useful. Future civilization on Earth will get a lot of scientific data from other fields of knowledge: biology, geology, even some math problems may be solved by us which they still not solved. Moreover, they will get access to enormous amount of art, which may have fun value (or not).

The resurrection (on good conditions) here is a part of an acasual deal from our side, similar to Parfit's hitchhiker. They may not take their side of the deal, so there is a risk. Or they may do it much later, after they advance to interstellar civilization and will know that there is a minimal risk and cost for them. For example, if they give 0.0001 of all their resources to us, but colonise a whole galaxy, it is still 10 million stars under human control, or bilion bilions of human beings: much better than extinction.

TL;DR: if there is any value at human existence, it is reasonable to desire resurrection of humanity (under no-torture conditions) + they will get x-risks useful information on earlier stage (end-20th-century equivalent) than they will actually resurrect us (they may do it much later, only if this information was useful, thus closing the deal).

X-risks to all life v. to humans

We could survive by preserving data about humanity (on the Moon or other places), which will be found by the next civilisation on Earth, and they will recreate humans (based on our DNA) and our culture.

What's the big deal about hypersonic missiles?

May be they are also less detectable, so early warning systems will not catch them on early stages?

Load More