Saturday, November 19, 2011

Prolonging the Human Race

Discussion on 11/20/11, led by Kyle

As we all know, our days here on Earth are numbered. The big question is: How much longer will we be able to inhabit the Earth until it's no longer inhabitable or even destroyed? Our goal, as a species, is to reproduce and propagate; while this may be reasonable for the time being, there are still other circumstances that either just recently had light shed on their dangers or haven't been addressed at all. From the words of Nick Bostrom these are referred to as Existential Risks, defined as: "One where an adverse outcome would either annihilate Earth-originating intelligent life or permanently and drastically curtail its potential." More specifically, these risks can be anything from nanobots consuming the earth to the shutting off of our supercomputer that controls the universe (if we would exist in such a universe).

So really our question becomes: What can we do to ensure the survival of our species if such disasters might occur? Here are some of points that we will examine in the discussion:

  1. Who cares? If there's a good possibility we won't be around to experience these Existential Risks then should we take action now?
  2. Are all existential risks the same? In other words, should they all be treated with equal concern?
  3. How do we know we can overcome such risks? More importantly we will look more in depth at our likelihood of being unsuccessful if such a risk were to jeopardize mankind.
  4. Specifically, what is most important for ensuring mankind's survival for a substantial amount of time after an Existential catastrophe?