Item Link: Access the Resource
Media Type: Article - Recent
Publication Info: Foresight
Date of Publication: 11 March 2019
Author(s): 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, Roman V. Yampolskiy
What will human civilization look like in one million, one billion, or one trillion years? These are questions of broad scientific and ethical significance, yet they are neither wellstudied nor well-understood. While cosmology has probed stellar and physical dynamics in the deep future (Adams 2008), studies of human futures in demography, economics, sustainability science, political science, and related disciplines tend to concentrate on upcoming decades, often relying on simple extrapolations of existing trends, or on scenario writing. But important civilizational processes could play out over longer time scales. To restrict attention to near-term decades may be akin to the drunk searching for his keys under the streetlight: it may be where empirical study is more robust, but the important part lies elsewhere.
In this paper, we seek to formalize long-term trajectories of human civilization as a scientific and ethical field of study. We synthesize perspectives from a range of fields, including moral philosophy, demography, economics, sustainability science, risk analysis, futures studies, political science, archaeology, climatology, and astrobiology. Using insights from these fields, we establish four broad classes of trajectories and describe important details for each.