Pessimists, mark your calendars: July 17-20 comes the Global Catastrophic Risks Conference at the University of Oxford. The conference aims to open dialogue about the greatest threats to human survival now and into the future. It is curated by the Future of Humanity Institute, whose director is TEDster Nick Bostrom. Among the discussion topics:
+ Advances in nanotechnology leading to radically enhanced intelligences, environmental degradation and social disruption
+ Helpful breakthroughs in biotechnology being mismanaged, leading to the production of biological weapons
+ Objects from outer space colliding with Earth, causing horrendous damage on a continental or global scale
+ Cosmic expansion, entropy and the subsequent darkness that may envelop our universe over trillions of years
At TED in 2005, Bostrom outlined some of humanity’s biggest problems — including death (“most humans who have ever lived have died”) and total extinction — and pointed out that most of such risks are neglected in serious discussion. He recently published a paper in MIT’s Technology Review arguing that finding extraterrestrial life would not augur well for humanity.
(Announcement via Accelerating Future.)