Wednesday, March 13, 2019

#55 - Baum on the Long-Term Future of Human Civilisation


In this episode I talk to Seth Baum. Seth is an interdisciplinary researcher working across a wide range of fields in natural and social science, engineering, philosophy, and policy. His primary research focus is global catastrophic risk. He also works in astrobiology. He is the Co-Founder (with Tony Barrett) and Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. He is also a Research Affiliate of the University of Cambridge Centre for the Study of Existential Risk. We talk about the importance of studying the long-term future of human civilisation, and map out four possible trajectories for the long-term future.

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Show Notes

  • 0:00 - Introduction
  • 1:39 - Why did Seth write about the long-term future of human civilisation?
  • 5:15 - Why should we care about the long-term future? What is the long-term future?
  • 13:12 - How can we scientifically and ethically study the long-term future?
  • 16:04 - Is it all too speculative?
  • 20:48 - Four possible futures, briefly sketched: (i) status quo; (ii) catastrophe; (iii) technological transformation; and (iv) astronomical
  • 23:08 - The Status Quo Trajectory - Keeping things as they are
  • 28:45 - Should we want to maintain the status quo?
  • 33:50 - The Catastrophe Trajectory - Awaiting the likely collapse of civilisation
  • 38:58 - How could we restore civilisation post-collapse? Should we be working on this now?
  • 44:00 - Are we under-investing in research into post-collapse restoration?
  • 49:00 - The Technological Transformation Trajectory - Radical change through technology
  • 52:35 - How desirable is radical technological change?
  • 56:00 - The Astronomical Trajectory - Colonising the solar system and beyond
  • 58:40 - Is the colonisation of space the best hope for humankind?
  • 1:07:22 - How should the study of the long-term future proceed from here?

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