#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.

You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on a variety of different platforms, including iTunes, Stitcher, Overcast, Podbay, Player FM and more. The RSS feed is available here.

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?


Relevant Links



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