Nick Bostrom is director of the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University. He organized a 2008 conference for scientists to gather to discuss catastrophic risks. Those are potential events that could threaten the existence the whole human species.
Nick Bostrom: Nuclear proliferation, biological weapons, pandemic disease, despotism, various forms of social and economic collapse scenarios rank high on the list of near to mid-term potential catastrophes.
Humans have experienced global catastrophes in the past, Bostrom said. But modern technology has brought new potential risks.
Nick Bostrom: We have risks that arise from powerful new technologies that we might develop, such as advanced nanotechnology and superintelligent machines.
He said the events of this century could determine the survival of our species.
Nick Bostrom: This critical transition period might pose the biggest existential risk for humanity that we’ve ever faced, because we are developing very powerful technologies that we have no experience with. And it’s unclear at this point whether we have the wisdom to use these technologies to our advantage rather than our destruction.
If you’re concerned about surviving a global catastrophe, Bostrom’s best advice is to stay healthy. After all, it’s still survival of the fittest.
EarthSky asked Bostrom to name the least likely global catastrophic risk. He responded, “That’s the planet-eating space goat – a big goat that eats up our planet.”
Our thanks to:
The Future of Humanity Institute
Learning to love science. As a producer for EarthSky, Lindsay Patterson interviews some of the world's most fascinating scientists. Through EarthSky, her work content is syndicated on some of the world's top media websites, including USAToday.com and Reuters.com. Patterson is also charged with helping to stay in steady communication with the thousands of scientists who contribute to EarthSky's work of making the voice of science heard in a noisy world. She graduated from Colorado College with a degree in creative writing, and a keen interest in all forms of journalism and media.