torsdag 9 augusti 2018

In the long run

It is important to consider the future of humanity not just in terms of what the world will be like in 2030 or 2050, but also in the (much) longer run. The paper Long-term trajectories of human civilization, which grew out of discussions during the GoCAS guest researcher program Existential risk to humanity in Gothenburg last fall and which is out now, does precisely this. I am proud to be coauthor of it.1 First author is Seth Baum, who initiated the discussion that eventually lead to this paper. Seth is an American risk researcher and futurologist, and director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute. To readers of this blog he may be familiar from his public appearances in Sweden in 2014 and 2017. The Global Catastrophic Risk Institute has a press release in connection with the paper:
    Society today needs greater attention to the long-term fate of human civilization. Important present-day decisions can affect what happens millions, billions, or trillions of years into the future. The long-term effects may be the most important factor for present-day decisions and must be taken into account. An international group of 14 scholars calls for the dedicated study of “long-term trajectories of human civilization” in order to understand long-term outcomes and inform decision-making. This new approach is presented in the academic journal Foresight, where the scholars have made an initial evaluation of potential long-term trajectories and their present-day societal importance.

    “Human civilization could end up going in radically different directions, for better or for worse. What we do today could affect the outcome. It is vital that we understand possible long-term trajectories and set policy accordingly. The stakes are quite literally astronomical,” says lead author Dr. Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, a non-profit think tank in the US.


    The scholars find that status quo trajectories are unlikely to persist over the long-term. Whether humanity succumbs to catastrophe or achieves a more positive trajectory depends on what people do today.

    “In order to succeed it is important to have a plan. Long-term success of humanity depends on our ability to foresee problems and to plan accordingly,” says co-author Roman Yampolskiy, Associate Professor of Computer Engineering and Computer Science at University of Louisville. “Unfortunately, very little research looks at the long-term prospects for human civilization. In this work, we identify some likely challenges to long-term human flourishing and analyze their potential impact. This is an important step toward successfully navigating such challenges and ensuring a thriving future for humanity.”

    The scholars emphasize the enormous scales of the long-term future. Depending on one’s ethical perspective, the long-term trajectories of human civilization can be a crucial factor in present-day decision-making.

    “The future is potentially exceedingly vast and long,” says co-author Anders Sandberg, Senior Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute at University of Oxford. “We are in a sense at the dawn of history, which is a surprisingly powerful position. Our choices – or lack of decisions – will strongly shape which trajectory humanity will follow. Understanding what possible trajectories there are and what value they hold is the first step towards formulating strategies for our species.”

Read the full press release here, and the paper here.


1) Here is the full (and, I daresay, fairly impressive) author list: Seth D. Baum, Stuart Armstrong, Timoteus Ekenstedt, Olle Häggström, Robin Hanson, Karin Kuhlemann, Matthijs M. Maas, James D. Miller, Markus Salmela, Anders Sandberg, Kaj Sotala, Phil Torres, Alexey Turchin and Roman V. Yampolskiy.

5 kommentarer:

  1. Nu har jag skummat igenom texten. Det är kul att det finns kompetent folk som sysslar med sådant här. Det vore önskvärt att det fanns akademiska institutioner som i hög grad ägnar sig åt sådant här och erbjuder utbildningsvägar för studenter. Ämnet riskerar förvisso att bli ohanterligt brett. Inte minst frågorna om motivation, värderingar, etik och ideologi kan bli väldigt konsumerande och man kan givetvis ha mycket svårt att enas om synsätt.

    Klokt värderingstänkande kan vara kritiskt för mänskligheten, men än mer behöver vi förstås konkreta lösningar på sådant som klimatförändringar, sinande naturresurser och automatisering.

  2. Nu kan man ju köpa subventionerade elcyklar. Är inte det den långsiktiga lösningen på problematiken?

  3. Den globala uppvärmningen gör att allt fler av atmosfärens molekyler uppnår flykthastigheten. Jag har aldrig sett eller hört att just detta skulle vara ett problem. Men atmosfären försvinner trots allt i en högre takt än "normalt".
    I ett riktigt långt perspektiv kanske detta fenomen kunde vara viktigt att uppmärksamma. Vad anser du, Olle?

    1. Tack!
      Ett lugnande besked för oss som avser att bli riktigt gamla.