The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk’s April 2015 Lecture, with Dr Toby Ord.
How will humanity go extinct? Is it more likely to be from natural causes such as an asteroid impact or anthropogenic causes such as a nuclear war? Using the fossil record, we can place a rough upper bound on the probability of human extinction from natural causes: all natural causes put together have less than a 1% chance of causing human extinction each century, and probably less than 0.1%. In contrast, it is very difficult to put upper or lower bounds on the chance of extinction from anthropogenic causes. In this talk, Dr Toby Ord advance an argument that anthropogenic causes currently produce ten or more times as much extinction risk as the natural causes, and shows how this suggests that we should prioritise the reduction of anthropogenic extinction risks over natural ones.
Toby Ord is a Research Fellow at the Future of Humanity Institute, Oxford University & Oxford Martin School. He works on theoretical and practical questions concerning population ethics, global priorities, existential risk and new technologies, and recently contributed a report on Managing Existential Risk from Emerging Tehnologies to the Chief Scientific Advisor’s annual report for the UK government. Dr Ord’s concern for current and future generations also led him to found the orgnanisation Giving What We Can.